The Ancient Mystic Circle Saga
#2: Demon Fire
Lady Adellandra Dratianos,
Author of The Young Guardian Trilogy
BOOK I: The Lost and the Found
Part One: Happiness Disturbed
Claudia Woods, now named Richardson, was wide awake. It had been six months since she and her sisters were in any real danger. Claudia was now married to Craig Richardson, and he was well into learning how to be an Earthly Protector, a kind of protector over an Ancient Mystic. For six months, life was quiet for Claudia and her four sisters, Anna, Mary Ellen, Ariana and Luna. Anna was married to Jake Reading and one of the most prestigious families in Ray County. Her older brother Kevin was finally married to Craig’s older sister, Andrea. Mary Ellen was engaged to a man she’d only met months before, Michael Ashburn. The twins, Ariana and Luna, were already married with families of their own. It was the perfect world for the Ancient Mystics.
Only, Claudia was awake, thinking about something that had been on her mind for six months. She felt bad for not telling anyone, for she knew it was crucial for her sisters to know.
Six months ago, Claudia had a strange, foreboding vision.
Claudia’s visionary self was in a cemetery, letting her empathy lead the way.
She saw gravestones. Looking around, she saw each of those she knew by heart. Mark Grey, Diane Parker, Ariana 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 hath returned.”
The Maiden was the Dominionite Maiden, an evil cousin of Claudia’s that scared the hell out of every Ancient Mystic known. All except the all-mighty Young Guardian, her sister Ariana.
She had to warn the Young Guardian. Reluctantly, she called the Dream Chant and went to find her sister on patrol.
Young Guardian was on patrol, all right. She was fighting an old-Dominionite demon in the Dream Realm. Her sister must have sensed her presence, because she shouted.
“Claudia – help me with this thing!”
Ariana was using her magic to shield herself from the demon, but it wasn’t working. Instead, the demon had her shackled with its own red-fire magic.
Claudia panicked. “What should I do?”
She’d never fought demons in the Dream Realm before. She didn’t know how to react to seeing one, let alone fighting one.
Her sister cried out one word. “Water!”
She got an idea. Using magic she hadn’t known she’d had, Claudia Marie Woods-Richardson raised her arms and cried out a powerful spell.
“May the winds of change delight, may the sands of time take flight. May the fires you burn bright be extinguished by the ocean’s wet watery sprite!”
From her palms came a spray of water to soak the demon, forcing it to run and hide. Claudia went to her sister.
“Claud? A wet watery sprite?” Ariana was joking, but grateful her sister had come to her rescue.
Claudia shrugged. “Was that a Dominionite?”
“One of many left here, yes.” Ariana took her sister’s hand and was standing in moments. “I don’t mean to sound ungrateful little sister, but what are you doing here?”
“I came searching for you.”
“I have something to tell you.” Claudia started. She noticed Ariana’s white gown was soaked through. “Sorry for the shower.”
“No problem. It’s nothing a little fire magic won’t fix.” Ariana closed her eyes and crossed her arms over her chest.
Claudia watched as her entire body glowed red, both drying her clothes, making them sparkle again and warming the cool Dominionite air around her. She couldn’t help giggling.
“There.” Ariana grinned. “All better.”
“I wish I knew how to do that.”
“You do, you just don’t know it, yet.” Ariana assured her. “What did you want to tell me?”
Claudia’s eyes went directly to Ariana’s. She closed her mind-path off from her sister, so the Young Guardian couldn’t read her thoughts.
“Claudia?” Ariana placed a hand on her sister’s shoulders. “Is it about Craig?”
Claudia shook her head. “No, not about him. It’s not even about the baby we’re expecting in a few months.”
“What is it?” Ariana’s voice was concerned.
Claudia had to tell her older sister. The entire Realms of the Worlds were in danger from Sabrina.
“Sabrina?” Ariana’s voice was now confused. “What about her?”
So much for not letting her read my mind. Claudia thought to herself. Aloud, she said. “She’s Earthbound, hiding out in the same place Mark Grey is buried.”
“Hill View Cemetery.” Ariana supplied. “Thanks for telling me.”
“I’m afraid I may have told you too late.” Claudia announced before her sister could disappear to warn Lord Guardian O’Dell.
Ariana folded her arms. “Too late? Just how long have you kept this from us?”
“Six months.” Claudia squeaked. Before her sister could go on a tirade about how important it was to tell people things like this, she interrupted. “I had a good reason.”
“So, tell me your good reason.” Young Guardian wasn’t happy with her younger sister at the moment.
“Everyone was so happy after Aaron and Aimee rescued us from the Unknown. I didn’t want to ruin that.”
“It doesn’t –”
“I know, it doesn’t matter how happy we were, I should have told you sooner.”
“As soon as you knew.” Ariana nodded.
“I only knew it in a vision. I’m sorry for keeping it secret for so long.”
Ariana sighed. “Claudia, listen to me. You’re my sister, and I love you to bits, but you’re still an Ancient Mystic. It doesn’t matter now how you found out, or even that you didn’t tell us right away. All that does matter is we know, and from what you know, I’ll be able to find and Re-exile her.”
“What about the baby you’re expecting? Aren’t your powers on-hold in our world until he’s born?”
Ariana couldn’t help grinning. “How did you know the sex?”
“When I last felt him kick, I could sense it.”
“At least you use your Empathy.” Ariana remarked. “Wish I could convince Lu it was harmless.”
“Your powers?” Claudia was used to her sister getting off track, but she was relentless and plain ridiculous when it came to her beloved twin Luna.
“Right.” Ariana said. “My powers aren’t on-hold because I’m not Earthbound. I have full control over every power I have.”
“I’m just worried about the baby.” Claudia said. “What if Sabrina uses her powers against you and hurts my nephew?”
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there, okay?” Ariana supplied. “In the meantime, go home and relax. My niece needs her mother’s attentions more than I do.”
Ariana winked, knowing her sister was thinking the same thing she had been. “She told me. I promise, I won’t tell Craig.”
“Thanks, he doesn’t want to know anyway.”
“I know.” Ariana said.
Claudia could feel the air turn cold again. She shivered and watched as her older sister’s hand hit her temple.
“Ariana, what is it?” Claudia asked, panicking. Was this to be another demon for her to fight? She hoped not.
“Run. Now.” Ariana gasped, falling to her knees. She screamed, and both sisters could feel the evil essence in the air. “Go!”
Claudia could only listen and disappear.
Frightened, she woke up with a gasp.
“Claudia? What is it? Is it the baby?”
Craig had woken with her, throwing a comforting arm around her waist and pulling her closer to him. She was calm in moments, but her mind was reeling with thought.
“Remember when I had a vision in the backyard?” She whispered.
“Yeah.” Craig nuzzled her neck.
This got Craig’s attention. “Have you told anyone?”
She nodded her head, stray hairs making her new husband sneeze. She turned to meet his golden-brown eyes, kissing his nose. “I just told Ariana.” She moved to sit up.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Craig grinned lazily. He was half-asleep, she could tell.
“To tell the others.”
“Not tonight, you won’t.” Craig supplied, pulling her back to him. “Sleep now. With me.”
Claudia needed some thinking time, only Craig wasn’t exactly playing along. She needed to be alone. Hand on her enlarged belly, she got an idea. “Need I remind you I’ve got your baby on my bladder?”
Craig groaned. “Claud! Did you have to tell me the gory details?”
“Yes, will you let me go now?”
“Fine. As long as you come back to bed afterward.” Craig supplied.
“To sleep.” Craig warned.
Claudia kissed him before turning to the door. What Craig didn’t know was that she wouldn’t sleep another wink for the rest of the night.
Sibylline, Queen of the Epsilon, couldn’t help being worried for her daughters still left in the Dream Realm. Sure, they’ve been through the Crusades. They looked after their own parts of the Dream Realm, raising their own children, but something still wasn’t finished.
Sibylline was worried for good reason. She’d seen in her own Staff – the same Staff she’d let Lady Katherine borrow to test her power in the Crusades – what was to come. Sabrina and Damian fighting Katherine and Young Guardian’s sisters in the Abyss, the five of them outwitting the siblings, and even what happened with the Black-as-Night Crystal in Young Guardian’s hands. She saw something else now, of where the siblings disappeared when the spell was cast. Damian had gone back to the Unknown to warn his father, and Sabrina... Sabrina was another story.
If only there were some way...
To help them, save them from the evil Sabrina’s Magical grasp. Before it was too late.
She sighed, sitting at her throne, thinking it over. Lord Braken, her husband and daughters’ father, was in the village, greeting the followers. This left her alone to fend for herself in the huge Castle.
“My Lady Sibylline?” A sweet voice interrupted her thoughts. She looked up to see a young woman, with dark-brown hair and silver-blue eyes.
“May I be permitted to speak with you, one on one?” Sarabeth asked timidly.
Sibylline smiled. “Yes, of course. Come close, my Princess.”
Sarabeth slowly made her way to Sibylline’s side.
Queen Sibylline had to smile at the girl. Since her Outer Realm death a generation ago, Sarabeth had been ‘adopted’ by Sibylline and Lord Braken. She was the youngest daughter of Enchantra, once Earthbound to save her life and soul.
“What bothers you?” Sibylline asked.
“I was to ask the same as you, my Queen.” Sarabeth replied, not letting her eyes meet those of Sibylline. “Have you heard from your sisters lately?”
“Nay, not since the Crusades.” Sibylline said sadly.
How she missed her dear elder sisters, Enchantra and Challandra? Even the torment of Jezebel was enough for Sibylline’s mind to miss. Jezebel was her twin, after all.
“They have a new vengeance on their minds now.” Sarabeth said. “I have seen a vision myself.”
“What was yours?”
“Sabrina has come up missing.” Sarabeth replied. “No one in either of the Realms knows where she is. Not even Shannon and her Crusaders.”
Sibylline stared at her Princess. “How do you know this?”
Sarabeth bit her lip. “I have been to Shannon’s Dream Realm.”
Shannon was Sarabeth’s younger twin daughter. She was also the one responsible for getting the Young Guardian and her Earthly Protector together, thus forming the Crusaders.
Sibylline wasn’t exactly happy with the confession, but understood her reasons. “What have I told you about that, Sarabeth?”
“Not to do it.” Sarabeth supplied. “I apologize, but I had to see how my girls were fairing in the Outer Realm.” She spoke up, this time with more excitement in her voice. “Did you know Shannon is now married to Michael’s son, Nick? They now have a son of their own, naming him after Michael’s father, Martin. You should see him. I have a grandson!”
Sibylline laughed. “Princess Sarabeth, you made me smile for the first time today.”
Sarabeth was the one to stare at her. “What do you mean, my Lady?”
“Your very enthusiasm makes me smile.” Sibylline explained. “I only wish that for myself sometimes.”
Later, Sarabeth was locked in her own quarters by the castle guards.
She was restless as she paced her quarters. Something was happening, and there was no way of doing anything about it from here.
The Realm of the Epsilon was nearly cut of from the rest of the Dream Realm. The only link were the Ancient Mystic Mirrors in the Ancient Mystic Palace in the Province and in Sibylline’s own Mirror Room in the corner of the Epsilon Palace.
Sarabeth, Princess to Queen Sibylline and Lord Braken Hawk since her Outer Realm death almost thirty Earthbound years ago, wanted to help. She knew Sibylline had seen the same vision of hell-fire and Sabrina as she had. There was no question about it.
Unfortunately, she was bound by a spell to her quarters, left to wait in wonder.
Sarabeth took a deep breath and tried the door once again. It had been locked for a while now, and hopefully Sibylline and Braken’s combined Magics were weakened enough for her to escape. As she touched the knob, it stung her hand.
Why are you keeping me here, my Queen? Sarabeth sent the telepathic message to her aunt. I have done nothing wrong!
There was no response, so she sat on her bed, angry. She stared at the doorknob, which had the familiar red glow of the Dragon Magic surrounding it.
If it’s Dragon Magic they keep me here with, I shall only oblige with that of the Unicorn. Sarabeth thought to herself.
Though it had been nearly a generation since she’d used any of her more powerful Magics, Sarabeth stood and faced the door. She closed her eyes and outstretched her arms, concentrating on the Unicorn Magic’s green glow as she whispered the spell. She could feel its warmth heating her body, moving from her Ancient Mystic Force within to her arms. She opened her eyes once feeling it were safe to do so, watching the Unicorn Magic engulf the door. In moments, her Unicorn Magic was taking the Dragon Magic spell and making it disappear.
Once it had, she tried the knob again, successfully turning it without pain.
Sarabeth smiled as she made her way to the Palace’s Courtyard. Whatever she sensed had to be intense, intuition taking her here.
She found Queen Jezebel of the Grey Area and Queen Sibylline talking, but decided to stay silent. Being the two were twins, Sarabeth didn’t know who was who until the one sitting on the bench spoke.
“If it were under better circumstances, I would definitely say it were a pleasure to see you again, sister dear.” It was Sibylline herself.
Her sister Jezebel was standing above her, a kind of pink aura of Magic surrounding her. “I wish it were, Sibylline. Unfortunately, we are in danger.”
“I saw the vision of your daughter in my Crystal.” Sibylline stood “Do you have any idea where she might be?”
“I am afraid I do.” Jezebel sighed, shaking her head. “I saw her in my Crystal, Earthbound. Katherine came to me, telling me she and Sabrina fought, with my daughter disappearing.”
Sibylline nodded. “Aye. Both Sara and myself saw her in the Abyss.”
“Did you see what was in Young Guardian’s hands during the battle?” Jezebel prodded, watching her twin’s response.
Sibylline shook her head. “No, I cannot say I did.” She was curious. “What was it?”
“The Black-as-Night Crystal.” Jezebel announced.
Sarabeth gasped from her hiding spot, covering her mouth so they wouldn’t hear her.
She knew of the odd-shaped crystal’s evil powers. In the wrong hands, it would be disastrous.
Quick as she could, she raced to the Ancient Mystic Portal. Even if she was bound to her room for an Earthbound year, Sarabeth had to do it.
She couldn’t just stand there and do nothing. She had to warn everyone in the Dream Realm.
Sarabeth, once finding the Ancient Mystic Portal, placed both her hands on the Mirror’s glass, calling the spell. Before she knew it, she’d appeared back in the Dream Realm.
“Ow!” Sarabeth cried softly as she found herself crumpled on the floor of the Ancient Mystic Palace.
“Sarabeth!” She heard her mother Enchantra’s voice behind her, startled. Was she angry as well? “What are you doing here?”
“I, uh, came to visit, Mother.” Sarabeth stood and faced her, brushing the wrinkles out of her dress.
Enchantra wasn’t convinced. “Truth.” She said seriously.
“I truly wanted to visit, Mother.” Sarabeth pressed. “Do you not believe me?”
Enchantra shook her head. “I am willing to bet Sibylline does not know of your whereabouts.”
Sarabeth couldn’t meet her eyes. “No, Mother, she does not. I snuck through the Portal without her permission.”
“You know what she will find once she sees the Mirror?” Enchantra asked her.
Sarabeth nodded. “Aye, I know the white glow will give myself away, but I could not stay one moment more.”
“You must go back.” Enchantra repeated, folding her arms. She was insistent.
“It is too dangerous for you here.”
“It is even more dangerous in the Epsilon, for Queen Jezebel herself had come to Queen Sibylline.”
Enchantra was intrigued. “Why?”
“Sabrina is Earthbound. Jezebel saw it herself.” Sarabeth shuddered. “Please, Mother, I cannot go back now.”
Enchantra hugged her youngest daughter. “Very well, you can stay until you feel the need to return.” Sarabeth smiled.
“Thank you, Mother.”
“On one condition.” Enchantra kissed her forehead.
“I always behave Mother, you know that.” Sarabeth giggled. “I promise, though. I shall behave.”
With a hug to her mother, she left to find Lady Katherine and warn her.
After Sarabeth left the Palace, Enchantra went in search of her twin Challandra. The sisters usually did everything together, but Challandra hadn’t been around lately.
She found her sister in the greenhouse garden, rocking in a chair as she caressed the petals of a rose with her fingers.
“What bothers you, sister?” Enchantra inquired.
Challandra sighed. “Love. Seeing O’Dell around has me thinking of Byron.”
“Ah, I see.” Enchantra said. “You miss him.”
“I also miss my children.” Challandra replied. She put the rose on the table beside her. “I wonder how much they have grown since the Wars?”
“They were just babes when Orthos attacked and destroyed the Kingdom Castle.” Enchantra said. “Lord Byron was lucky to get himself and the children to safety in time.”
Challandra sighed, staring out the window.
“I cannot stand seeing you like this, Challie.” Enchantra supplied, moving to hug her sister from behind. “Cheer up, if not for me, for yourself.”
“I see you with O’Dell, Jezebel with Max, and even Young Guardian with Protector Derrick. All of you are happy with someone you love best of all.” Challandra replied. “What about me, Chantie? Am I not aloud to be happy?”
“Of course you are.” Enchantra said.
“Why am I so sad?”
“You know the reason, Challandra.” Enchantra replied.
“I just want to be happy.” Her sister whispered. “Like I was before the Wars.”
It took a moment for Enchantra to think of something to do about her.
“Go, find Byron and the children.” She said.
Challandra turned to meet her sister’s smile. “Really?” Enchantra grinned, nodding. “What about?”
“O’Dell and I can handle it, if the Young Ones should need us.” Enchantra assured her. “Your happiness is more important to me than your spells or herbs.”
Challandra hugged her twin. “Thank you, Chantie.”
As her sister disappeared, she said into the air. “You are welcome. Be happy!”
Enchantra was alone at last in the Palace. Dixilynne lived on her own with her Earthly Protector Theodore, who was known as the Apprentice. Dorianne, Dixilynne’s twin sister, still lived in the Outer Realm with her husband Paul, who was oblivious to the amount of power his wife carried. Sarabeth, direct with warning from the Epsilon, had left to find her cousin Katherine.
She thought of O’Dell, cooped up in his Chambers and grinned. She would never be alone as long as he was around.
Katherine Hawk-Stargazer sparred with her Young Guardian friend, teaching her the basics of sword-work.
“This isn’t as easy as it looks.” Ariana smiled at her feline friend.
“Nothing that requires work ever is.” Katherine remarked. “You should know that by now.”
“Sure I should, and do.” Ariana remarked. “I’m a mother, daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, wife, student and friend – and that’s just Earthbound!”
“That’s right.” Katherine supplied with a smile. “Here, you are the Young Guardian and the Goddess of Spirit, Akasha.”
“Either way, I’m tired by the end of the day.” Ariana grinned.
Katherine giggled. “I will take that as a hint. Let us rest for a while.”
“There’s an idea that’s behind its time.”
The two sat on a bench to rest, placing their practice swords beside them. Katherine watched as her friend rubbed her back, wincing.
“You really should be careful, Young Guardian.” Lady Katherine lectured her long-time friend. “If you take it too far, you will go into early labor.”
“I feel fine, Kat. Relax.” Ariana told her. “I need to stay in shape, even while I’m pregnant.”
“Pregnant or not, you still need to be careful.”
Ariana laughed. “Katherine! Please, relax. I’ve had four children so far, and I’ve either Crusaded or patrolled with each one. Look at how they turned out.”
“Let’s see. The Enchanted child was born when you were only a child yourself. Young Ones Mark and Andrew were born while you were Earthbound and Young Melody was born shortly before you fully learned the Dark Magic.” Katherine pointed out. “Am I missing anything?”
“No, nothing.” Ariana supplied. “Come on, Kat. Cut me some slack. I can take full care of myself and the new baby, so don’t fret so much, okay?”
“You yourself told me of your visions concerning my cousins.” Katherine replied. “I just want to make sure you are okay. We would not want you to be too stressed.”
“Stressed!” Ariana laughed. “I laugh in the face of stress. Huh-ha!”
Even Katherine had to giggle at that one. “Promise you will take it easy.”
Ariana nodded. “I promise. Now, about those powers of yours.”
Katherine cringed. Six months ago, Outer Realm time, she found she had two powers in her system dueling each other. Being both Ancient Mystic and Companion, she had each of their Magics in her blood. From her mother Sibylline, she was an Ancient Mystic. Her father Braken Hawk was a full Companion. Each Magics were trying to take over Katherine’s body, with the Dark Sides of each wanting to win. Only, it didn’t work.
She’d Banished her cousin Sabrina somewhere using both Magics at once, fainting on the spot. After her own husband Wolf Stargazer came to her rescue, he took her to the Ancient Mystic Palace. Since feeling her mother in pain, Katherine’s bi-breed daughter Celine followed him there. This is where they met with Enchantra, the eldest Ancient Mystic Sister who oversaw all her Companions, Crusaders, Ancient Mystics, and Creatures in the Dream Realm. She told Wolf what to do once she called the spell with Lord Guardian.
“What about them?”
“You have to learn, right?” Ariana asked.
“I can teach myself.”
Ariana scoffed. “That’s what I thought when I was a little girl, remember?”
“I remember. Not only did you learn it, you nearly blew up a lot of things in the process.”
Ariana groaned. “Must you remind me?”
Katherine laughed until she heard someone shouting from the distance.
“Kat! Young Guardian!”
Both looked to see who it was. It was Sarabeth, and she was running, skirts in both hands so she wouldn’t trip over them.
“Am I glad to see you!”
“What are you doing out of the Epsilon?” Ariana asked.
“Danger, Young Guardian. Can you not feel it in your world?”
“What am I supposed to feel?”
“Sabrina. She’s Earthbound.”
“You are joking.” Katherine was in disbelief.
Sarabeth shook her head at her cousin. “Never. That was why she wanted the Black-as-Night Crystal to herself.”
“Rest assured she won’t be using that gods-awful thing.” Ariana replied. “I took it back to the Gatekeeper. It’s safe and out of anyone’s hands.”
“You took it back?” Sarabeth asked. “How did you get it in the first place?”
“My sisters, Katherine and I fought Sabrina and Damian in the Abyss for it. I thought of a spell,”
“I helped.” Katherine put in.
“Yes, Kat, you helped.” Ariana sighed. “When I had us call the spell, I took it with me to the Outer Realm.”
“Why would you want to do that?”
“To learn about it.”
“How did your Earthly Protector feel about that?”
“It almost destroyed the entire family.” Ariana supplied, telling her story.
Five months ago, Ariana had taken the Black-as-Night Crystal to the Outer Realm with her. With help from a certain Dominionite Queen Gloriana, Ariana found out just what kind of power the Crystal had over her. She was mean to her twin sister, almost seducing her brother-in-law and even went as far as attacking her oldest daughter Kelly. The entire Reading family, with the help from the Schmidt twins, fought for her life. In the end, Ariana indeed did take the Crystal back. That wasn’t all. Orthos, the Dominionite Master, now Lord Master of the Unknown, did a terrible thing himself.
“We found Orthos wasn’t finished with us.” Ariana continued. “He set a powerful force against us, making both my husband Derrick and his brother Jake crazy.”
“Uncle set the Djinn on them. Protector Derrick knew to call on Young Guardian, but his brother Jake went mad.” Katherine supplied. “For the past six months, all has been peaceful, thank the Gods.”
“You mean, they just gave up?” Sarabeth asked. “Surely, it was not that easy!”
“That’s what I thought, Princess.” Ariana supplied. “I knew Sabrina was just hiding out, biding time, but what could I do about it? Especially after finding I was pregnant again.”
“Her fifth child!” Katherine cried. “If Sabrina gets word of it, she will take advantage.”
“She may have heard already.” Ariana said. “Claudia told me about her. I just wish I could do something.”
“I have an idea. Why do I not become Earthbound to help?”
“You can do that?” Sarabeth asked.
Katherine touched the Amulet around her neck. “Back in the Crusades, Mother gave this to me for such a purpose. It is the Ruby Amulet, with the Earthbound powers of Premonition.”
“You are an Ancient Mystic. You need no charm to become Earthbound.” Sarabeth pointed out.
“I did not know this at the time.” Katherine replied. “You do not mind watching over Celine while I am gone, do you, Sarabeth? If you do not have to go back anytime soon?”
“I would rather not go back right now.” Sarabeth supplied. “My Lady Queen is certain to be mad at me. I came here through the Mirror, without her permission.”
“Does Enchantra know you’re here?” Ariana asked.
“She greeted me at the Palace.” Sarabeth said. “For now, go. I will tell your husband and daughter where you are.”
“Too late, Princess.” Came the husky voice of Katherine’s canine husband Wolf. “I already know. I trust you will be careful, Katherine?”
“As always, my Sire.” Katherine kissed him. “If anything happens here, do not haste to send for me.”
“Just watch over our Young Guardian friend.” Wolf teased, winking at Ariana.
“We’ll help each other, you’ll see.” Ariana replied. “Come on, Kat. Time to shift and call the Outer Realm Spell.”
Sarabeth and Wolf waved goodbye as the women left their sight.
Evil in the Canine Wood
For some time afterward, Wolf Stargazer was edgy. There was something lurking in the Canine Valley; he could smell it. He knew it from the moment his Young Guardian friend appeared after her patrols. She wanted to learn sword-work, but he could tell she sensed the presence as well. As it was, Ariana had gone home to the Outer Realm, taking his wife with her.
At least they will be safe. Wolf announced in his mind, pacing the grounds of Stargazer Castle.
Sarabeth noticed his edginess as she watched him pace back and forth in his full wolf form. “If it worries you so much, check it out.”
He stopped pacing and changed form to half-human, half-wolf. “It does not worry me.”
“You were pacing for no reason?” Sarabeth asked. “Listen to an Ancient Mystic, canine. We have keen senses.”
“So do canines.” Wolf argued.
“Why do you not use them?” Sarabeth asked. “It is your land, not mine.”
Wolf growled. “It belongs to Lord Guardian.”
“I agree. It does belong to Father.” Sarabeth supplied. “He has trusted you to look after it for him. It is your duty to oversee the Canine Valley.”
Wolf turned away, changing form and leaving her side.
Sarabeth folded her arms and smiled. “I knew he would see it my way.”
Meanwhile, Wolf Stargazer hunted the entire Canine Valley, searching for something that would give him a clue. It smelled familiar, but he couldn’t see anything. It was only a feeling, emotions ran wild in his wolf form.
As he padded closer to the source of the smell, he searched. His eyes saw nothing in color, so he changed them only. Still, no clues. That’s when it hit.
His eyes saw a tree in the Canine Wood down on the ground. He loped up to it and sniffed around for clues. It was an Elder tree; one of the Goddess Dana’s favorites. Its leaves were brown and scorched, as if burned by fire. The branches were pure black, smelling of smoke. With his teeth, he took one of the smaller branches and broke it in half. Sure enough, it was blackened all the way through to the middle.
Wolf shook his head. There was no saving this Elder tree.
“Leave here, Wolfton.” He heard a female voice reply from behind him. It sounded airy and almost far-away.
When he turned, he saw the Goddess Dana herself. On her face was a sad frown. A tear trailed itself down her cheek.
Changing form, he bowed. “Why are you crying, Goddess?”
“Some vile creature has done a horrible thing to my Elder tree.” The Goddess gestured. “Did you not see?”
“I see it, my Goddess.” Wolf supplied. He shivered. “There is more here than meets the eye, is there not?”
“Yes.” The Goddess supplied softly. She raised her hands to the air. “There is a great evil surrounding us. Can you not feel it, or smell it on the wind?”
“Aye, Goddess.” Wolf turned back to the Elder tree. “I am sorry I cannot save it.”
“Go home, Wolfton Stargazer,” the Goddess told him. “Before the evil takes you, too.”
With that, she disappeared. He changed form again and raced back to Stargazer Castle.
Unfortunately, his thoughts of the evil would not be the only ones in his mind. He owed Katherine an explanation all along, he knew it. He was bound to her through love and magic. He had to tell her something; just not now.
I have to do something about these feelings. Wolf thought to himself, stopping in front of the Castle doors to change form.
“What did you find?”
“An Elder tree, struck down and scorched straight through.”
“The Goddess Dana came to me, Princess.” He supplied. “There is more to it than just a downed tree. I can feel it, smell it, hell, I can even taste it.”
“What can you do about it?” Sarabeth asked.
“Without knowing what the evil is, I can do naught but wait.” Wolf supplied.
“You will not!” Sarabeth cried. Wolf was amazed. She’d never spoken to him like that before. “You are the Sire of Canine Valley, a fine hunter of those who threaten this world, protector to all who reside in this realm and powerful Companion Crusader! You will not just wait it out!”
Wolf growled back. “There is naught to do, Sarabeth! What would you have me do? Tell Lord Guardian and have him worried over something that may be so trivial?”
“It is not trivial.” Sarabeth stated.
“It may be.” Wolf barked. “Why have Lord Guardian worried over nothing? How would that make me look?”
“You must do something, Sire!” Sarabeth announced. “You worry about how you look to my father? Worry about how you would look if you did nothing! What do you think would happen then? You would be laughed out of the Canine Valley! I know my father, Wolfton, more than you. He would lose his faith in you, never trusting you again.”
“Nay.” Wolf shook his head.
“Lord Guardian is kind and knowing.” Sarabeth continued softly, not hearing him. “You are a very loyal follower, able to handle many things this world throws at you.”
“What if I let him down?” Wolf asked, throwing the question into the air without thought.
Sarabeth heard him that time. There was something sad in the wolf Companion’s voice. She thought hard about her next words. “He would not have crowned you Sire of the Canine Valley if he did not think you could handle it.”
Wolf changed form and loped away, disappearing into the brush.
“Princess?” Celine was at her side in moments. She saw the tears running down Sarabeth’s face. “You are crying.”
Sarabeth took the pup-kit child into her arms, holding her tight. “Something is happening to Wolf, and I am at odds to stop it.”
“Do not worry, Sarabeth.” Celine supplied. “I am here.”
Sarabeth noticed how compassionate the child was and took advantage of it.
Katherine walked with her Young Guardian before they left for the Outer Realm.
“Something bothers you, my friend.” Ariana supplied, taking Katherine’s hand.
Katherine knew she couldn’t keep it from the Young Guardian. “Wolf. He is different lately.”
Ariana nodded. “Yeah. I sensed it, but didn’t have the chance to say anything.” She supplied. “How different?”
“He constantly acts like a Warrior.”
“That’s good, isn’t it?” Ariana asked, confused.
“You do not understand.” Katherine stopped in her tracks. “I fear he is turning Dominionite.”
“That’s not possible, is it?” Ariana asked. “He’s a Companion. Not only that, a Crusader. There’s no way he can turn now. He’s got a good heart, Katherine.”
Katherine stared at her friend. “You believe so?”
“I know so.” Ariana said with a smile. “Tell me. Why do you fear him turning?”
“His thoughts and actions are like those of a predator, silent and wary.” Katherine said. “By day, he is edgy, unable to keep still. By night, he is gone into the Canine Wood. He believes something is there, but cannot or will not tell me.”
“The Canine Wood has been overrun with tales lately.” Ariana pointed out. “Most of the canines are afraid to go in there. I don’t blame them. I try to stay out of the Wood myself.”
“They know something is up.” Katherine said. “Only a fortnight ago, a feline told me a story of how her entire set was lost in madness. She is afraid of the Valley now.”
“Calm down, Kat. It’ll be alright, I promise.” Ariana said. “The Princess is looking after Wolf as we speak, and Celine is old enough now to help, if possible. You know that.”
“There is something happening in the Wood, Young Guardian. I can smell in on the winds. I can nearly taste it in my every breath. I can even sense an evil presence whenever I go near the Wood.” Katherine said. “We must do something.”
“There’s nothing we can do now, Kat, but I will look into it. I promise.”
“But –” Katherine could feel the air shift around her, forcing her empathy to sense everything around her. She was instantly frightened when she saw Young Guardian’s silver-blue eyes turn deep, dark red.
“I’m only going to tell you this once.” She used her Young Guardian tone on her closest Companion friend. The tone she never used with her, ever. “Close your mind to this place while you’re with me. You will need a clear head in my world. You’ve done this before, and I expect nothing but the best from you now. Is that clear, Lady Katherine Hawk-Stargazer?”
Katherine was appalled at first, nodding to her friend’s demands. “Aye, Young Guardian.”
Ariana continued on her way, with Katherine following close behind. Kat knew her friend was right. She’d earned her title long ago for being right in many intense situations. Now that Kat agreed to help with the search for Sabrina in the Outer Realm, she knew she had to listen to her Young Guardian’s every words.
That didn’t mean she had to like them.
Lord Byron and the Resurrection Spell
Deep in the Barracks
Lord Byron paced his cellar, the home of his own salvation. To be stuck in such a dungeon for a century was hell and torture, but he knew of nothing else.
In the beginning of the Wars for Power, with his older twin brothers fighting against each other, and his other older brother Banishing himself for a woman, Lord Byron had fled. He took with him his four young children, who knew their mother, but hadn’t seen her since then. Though he and the children could shape-shift, Lord Byron was set against it.
“What distresses you, Father?” One of them now asked. He turned to see his second son, Raven, concerned for him.
“The time has come, my son.” Lord Byron replied. “We are now to be reborn into the Dream Realm society.”
“Why now?” His daughter Isabella asked, looking at her brother first.
She has grown so beautiful, he thought. So much like her mother Challandra.
He shook his head. No time for such thoughts. There is business to attend to.
“Our family needs us.” Was his simple reply. “Gather your things, children. Find Minx and Sky and follow me to Lord Guardian O’Dell’s Chambers.”
“What would Uncle O’Dell want with us?” Raven asked.
“So he may lead us to your mother.” Lord Byron told him. “Come along, we have not got all century.”
A few minutes later, his oldest son Minx and youngest son Sky had joined them.
“I cannot wait to see Sarabeth again.” Sky replied, clapping his hands. “It has been too long.”
“It sure has.” Lord Byron supplied.
Once out into the fresh Dream Realm air, he and the children took a deep breath, breathing in the cool air. They blinked their eyes open, readjusting to the light from the darkness they were so used to.
“Do you remember where to find her?” Isabella asked softly, touching the black braid that hung at her shoulders.
Lord Byron kissed her forehead. “Aye, my daughter. Follow me.”
The four children walked behind him as he led them to O’Dell’s own Chambers in the Province’s Kingdom. It took no time for them to find Lord Byron’s brother.
Now to talk to him.
“Stay here, children.” He announced, before going on.
Isabella took his hand. “I want to come too, Father! Please!”
Lord Byron shook his head. “Not this time, I am afraid.” He turned his head toward the Chamber doors. “I must face Lord Guardian alone.”
Lord Byron found him lying in his Unicorn form out by the garden. He cleared his throat, barely peeping out a soft. “My Lord Guardian?”
He watched as O’Dell lifted his head to see who had spoken. He dared to step closer, for fear of his brother’s anger.
“I have come to make amends.” He tried to explain.
Only then did O’Dell’s head turn to him. “Lord Byron?” He whispered, changing into a human-male before his brother’s eyes. “What brings you back here?”
“The love of Challandra, my Lord.” He explained. “The children and I have been in a secret hideaway for nearly a century. It would seem the Wars were over, and therefore time for us to return.”
O’Dell studied his brother’s sad face closely.
“The children miss her, and wish to be with her.” Lord Byron pressed. “I miss her as well. Can you show us where she is so we may reunite?”
“Are you sure about this, Lord Byron?”
“As sure as your love for Enchantra.” He pointed out. “If you still care for her as much as you did then.”
O’Dell nodded his head. “Aye, more so. Each time I see her face, my heart races with excitement.”
“It is the same for me with Challandra.” Lord Byron tried to explain.
“Where are the children now?”
“In front of your Castle Chambers, my Lord Guardian.”
“Lord Byron?” O’Dell grinned.
His eyes shot up. “Yes, My Lord?”
“Call me Brother.” O’Dell supplied. “Next, call for your children and hop aboard.”
O’Dell changed into a Unicorn-Pegasus once and pranced around for his brother to see.
All four children were in awe of their Uncle’s prowess.
“Why are we not allowed to shift as he is?” Minx wanted to know.
“For what purpose would we do so?” Lord Byron asked his son, which got him to think. “Climb aboard and hold on tight.” He pat O’Dell’s Unicorn-Pegasus neck, teasing, “If you fly as wild as you did back in the Wars, I must be careful.”
O’Dell laughed. “You have not changed a bit, my brother Lord Byron.”
For the first time in nearly a century, Lord Byron permitted himself to laugh with him.
Challandra peered out the window of the Ancient Mystic Palace. Somehow, something was going to happen to change her life forever. She glanced at the sky and saw the familiar Unicorn-Pegasus form of Lord Guardian O’Dell, her twin sister’s lover. As he drew closer, Challandra could see the form of a man – four men and a woman – on his back.
The eldest man sat in front of the others, and she recognized him immediately.
“What are you doing here?” She whispered to herself.
He hopped off O’Dell’s back and O’Dell shifted to his human-male self once again. Challandra stood by the door, waiting for the chimes to ring. Once they did, she could barely contain herself.
She flew open the door and stood – staring at the men and woman in front of her. She had to admit – the woman looked a lot like her in her youth. Could this be her young daughter?
“Mother?” The woman whispered.
Sure enough, it was, and Challandra had to hug her.
“My darling Isabella!” She pulled away from her daughter’s grasp to acknowledge the father of all four of her children.
Challandra and Lord Byron stood face-to-face, silent as O’Dell and the children stepped inside.
“Where is Enchantra?” O’Dell asked.
“With the Mirror.” Challandra replied, her eyes not leaving those of Lord Byron’s. “Children, make yourselves at home. Your father and I need to talk.”
“Yes, Mother.” They chorused, and shut the door behind them, leaving the two of them outside.
How obedient, She thought to herself, smiling.
“Challandra.” Lord Byron said, holding his hand out. “Do you still care for me?”
Challandra kept her smile. “Yes, Lord Byron. I do.” She took it, pulling him closer to her. “You have been hiding out for a long time, my lover.”
“How long has it been, if the Dream Realm knows no time?” He teased, kissing her hand.
“The Wars and Crusades have come and gone.” Challandra supplied. “The Young Guardian has been chosen, raised, and is now with the Enchanted Child.”
“You mean to tell me O’Dell’s visions were somewhat true?” He asked, sitting on a bench near the garden. “With the exception of his death, of course.”
“Of course.” She told him. “The Crusaders stopped Orthos, sending he, Sabrina, Jezebel and Damian to the Unknown. The Kit twins – whom you’ve never met, were taken care of by Orthos. Jezebel thought she was doing a world of good by raising the girls in secret with their Magics.”
“The Kit twins?” He laughed. “Well, it has been a long time.” He stared deep into her silver-blue eyes. “No matter how much time has passed, I will never stop loving you.”
“And I, you.” Challandra whispered, thinking of their past together.
That’s when their lips met in a quick, gentle kiss, ending with a tight hug.
“I have missed you so!” Challandra replied. “How long are you to stay?”
“As long as you wish.” Lord Byron couldn’t take his eyes or attention away from her.
“I hate to interrupt, but you have no place to go but the Barracks, do you?”
It was Enchantra’s voice, startling the two out of their romantic haze.
Challandra turned to scowl at her sister before she looked back at her lover. “Well?”
Byron shook his head. “Nay.”
Enchantra kept her smile. “O’Dell and I have discussed the matter at hand and he has agreed.”
“To what?” Lord Byron sounded too eager.
“Remember the abandoned Kingdom Castle?” Enchantra asked him. He nodded. “You will live in that, if you wish. Your children, too.” She turned to her sister. “You are welcome to join him, Challandra. That way, you shall be a family once again.”
Challandra and Lord Byron looked at each other, smiles on their faces. Enchantra just smiled when her sister turned to her once again. Challandra stood, with Lord Byron standing with her.
Lord Byron kissed Enchantra on the cheek. “Wonderful idea, Enchantra. Marvelous!”
“Yes, sister.” Challandra said, hugging her. “For the first time, I am enthused by your ideas!”
Enchantra laughed. “Well, what are you waiting for?”
“First, I believe he must explain why he is here in the first place.” O’Dell’s booming voice came from behind the trio.
“My brother, I thank you for the opportunity to live amongst the Companions.” Lord Byron shook his brother’s hand.
“I am glad you approve.” O’Dell grinned a tight grin. He nodded. “Tell her, Byron.”
Challandra looked to her long-time lover in interest.
Byron bowed his head, as if ashamed. “I have come with a premonition of the future-past.”
“The Young Minx has explained his own visions.” Enchantra supplied. “Sabrina is at it again; the Mirror even confirmed that. Jezebel had been here, telling me of her empathic feelings. Now, you Lord Byron, bringing your children with you, have come with visions of near-hellfire.”
“A temper that boils and bakes.” Challandra supplied, thinking of all Sabrina had done over the years during the Crusades. “That girl is powerful, in a very evil way.”
“The Dark Magic and its evil habits were the only things Sabrina has known about herself.” Enchantra said. She changed the subject. “Follow us inside, Brother. The children are inside waiting for you to join them.”
Lord Byron held his arm out. “Shall we?”
Challandra laughed, taking it. “We shall.”
It were Enchantra and O’Dell that hung back.
Enchantra smiled after her now-happy sister, O’Dell kissing her cheek.
“She is happy once again, is she not?” O’Dell asked in her ear.
“For now, yes. What of when they live together?” Enchantra asked him. “Will they bicker as they once did so long ago, or will they rule the Kingdom with royal airs?”
“Have faith, Chantie.” O’Dell kidded. “Your sister is cut from the same thread you are. She will rule with flair of her own, just as Sibylline and Jezebel do now.”
Enchantra sighed. “I suppose you are right, my love.” She looked up into his bright blue eyes, and the spark of his romantic touch thrilled her thoughts. “Let us join them inside.”
O’Dell smiled, leading his long-time love inside the Ancient Mystic Palace.
The young woman walked the long sidewalks of the Rich District. Paper in hand, she watched for the right address. She looked back down at the newspaper clipping, reading it again for the hundredth time.
Mark Samuel Grey, adopted brother to Caroline Parker, died today in the Hill View Cemetery at the age of eighteen. Loved ones left behind include the Readings and the Parkers, both of prominent families in the Rich District.
It was dated for eight years ago, and she kept it the entire time. Now that she had no one to turn to, she hoped to find the families her brother befriended, and learn more about him through them.
She looked up, taking a breath once she stopped in front of a massive house. She gulped, ready for anything. She walked up the stairs to the door and rang the bell.
When it opened, she saw a young man. He didn’t even look fourteen, if that.
“May I help you, miss?”
“My name is Juliet Grey. I was hoping to find someone who knew my brother, Mark.”
The young man was confused. “Wait here. I’ll get Mrs. Reading.”
When he returned, he brought with him a young pregnant woman. She had reddish-blond hair and strange-colored eyes. Silver frames accented the silver in them, and Juliet was amazed at her youthful beauty. Mrs. Reading didn’t look a day over nineteen.
“I’m Mrs. Reading.” She announced. “You claim to be Mark’s sister?”
“Yes, Ma’am. I am, or was.” Juliet supplied. “May I come inside?”
“Certainly.” Mrs. Reading led her to the dining room. “You’ll have to excuse me. This pregnancy is getting to me.” She turned to the boy who’d greeted Juliet at the door. “Bradley, why don’t you get our guest something to drink? Would you like that?”
Juliet nodded, smiling shyly. “Yes, thank you.”
“Sure thing, Mrs. R. You just sit tight and I’ll be right back.” Bradley left on that.
“That’s Bradley, my stepson. He’s a real gem, helping me with things around the house.” Mrs. Reading supplied.
“I see he cares about you.” Juliet replied. “Reminds me of Mark a bit.”
“How did you know Mark?”
“I’m his younger sister.” Juliet supplied. “How do you?”
“I was one of his adopted sisters.” Mrs. Reading said. “I was there when he died.” She cleared her throat. “So, why is it no one ever knew about you until now?”
“I was adopted into my true family, shortly after Mark was adopted to the Parkers. I was only five, but I knew I’d never see him again.” Juliet said.
Bradley came in with a mug of coffee for Juliet and hot chocolate for Mrs. Reading.
“Thank you Bradley.”
“No problem. I’ll get back to babysitting now. See you later.” Bradley replied, kissing her cheek.
Juliet had to smile. “He’s sweet.”
“Don’t be fooled by his boyish charms.” Mrs. Reading laughed. “He gets himself in trouble more often than any other boy I know, and that includes my twin sons.”
“You have children, besides him?”
“I have four total.” Mrs. Reading told her. “Kelly, my oldest, is thirteen. Mark and Andrew are six, and Melody, my youngest before this one, is three.”
“Must be quite a handful?”
“It is, but I have Derrick to help me.”
“Derrick? As in, Derrick Reading?”
“You know him?” Mrs. Reading asked. “He’s my husband.”
“I used to have a crush on him in the Academy.” Juliet remarked. “Always so quiet and soft-spoken. It was like he was a mystery.”
“He still is.” Mrs. Reading said. She stared at Juliet’s eyes. It made her uncomfortable at first, but then she relaxed. Her eyes narrowed. “How old are you, Juliet?”
“How long have you known about Mark’s death?”
“For eight years, since I found out about it in the papers.”
Mrs. Reading looked away, sipping her hot chocolate and thinking.
“Is there something wrong, Mrs. Reading?”
Mrs. Reading looked up again. “Call be Ariana. No, I was just thinking about him, that’s all. Sorry to zone out on you.”
“That’s okay.” Juliet said. “Do you know where he’s buried?”
“The Parker family plot in Hill View Cemetery.” Ariana said, absently. She stood up. “How would you like to visit his grave site? I could tell you his story.”
There were footsteps coming from the den.
“You’re not going there anytime soon, Ariana Moon.” The women heard a voice. It was Derrick, Ariana’s husband and loving Earthly Protector. He’d come in the kitchen to greet them. After kissing Ariana on the lips and rubbing her enlarged belly, he said. “There’s no telling what the stress will do to you.”
“I can handle myself, love, you know it.” Ariana remarked. “And anyway, I won’t be alone. Juliet will be with me.”
Juliet cleared her throat. “Yes, me.”
He turned to face her.
“Juliet Grey? Is that you?” Derrick asked, grinning. He turned back to his wife. “Did she happen to tell you she –”
“Used to have a crush on you? I do believe she mentioned it, yes.” Ariana was teasing him. “Too bad. He’s mine now, and I’m not giving him up for the world.”
The trio laughed.
“You can at least wait until the baby’s born, can’t you?”
“This can’t wait, Derrick.” Juliet said. “I have to know what happened to Mark.”
“You mean to tell me Mark really was your older brother?” Derrick was incredulous. “And here I thought he was joking.”
“He told you about her, and you didn’t tell me?” Ariana asked, breaking from his embrace and folding her arms.
“I thought he was joking, love, honest.” Derrick said, pecking her on the cheek. “He told me about his younger sister Juliet. I compared his Juliet to the girl I went to school with who had the same last name.” Seeing Ariana was getting impatient and frowning, he added. “Besides, it was you I longed for and dreamed about, not her.”
“Gee, thanks.” Juliet tried to interrupt.
The couple looked at each other before looking back at her and chorusing. “Long story.”
“Well, I have plenty of time to hear it.” Juliet remarked. “I promise to look out for her, Derrick. I just have to know what happened to him. You know, how he lived, who he loved, how he died?”
“For the sake of family, my Love.” Ariana supplied softly, taking his hand and brushing it on her belly.
After a moment, Derrick huffed. “Very well, go, but be careful. If I hear of you going into early labor, you’re going to be in the hospital for more than the birth.”
Juliet kissed Derrick’s cheek. “You don’t know how much this means to me.”
The Maiden walked along the many grave stones, watching and waiting. She didn’t know how she got here, or even how to get back, but one thing was certain.
Sabrina was pissed.
It would seem she was Earthbound; only, this time, with no powers. The last time she was Earthbound, she gathered Young Guardian’s own enemies together to destroy her. When that didn’t work, she destroyed one of the Crusaders. It was during the Crusades, and she had pieces of the Dominionite Crystal in her possession.
She wondered what she was doing here, and why at this particular place. It was the same Cemetery she, her Dominionite Warriors and the Crusaders fought. Caroline Parker, Mrs. Helen Gertrude, and the creature once known as Gregory Paul (Sabrina called him Grand Psycho when they were alone) joined together against the Crusaders. The fun part was using one of Young Guardian’s own Oracle Children against her.
Too bad for her it didn’t work. Too bad for her Grand Psycho was on the other side. Too bad the Dominionite Crystal was returned to Lord Maximaniac in the Grey Area. Those segments were the only things giving her power in the Outer Realm.
Now what was she going to do?
She paused when she saw the name on a grave stone.
Mark Samuel Grey.
The one Crusader whose soul was pure enough to become a Companion in the Dream Realm. His body may have died, but not his heart and soul.
Sabrina frowned at the thought. He got away with hardly a scratch to his body. What a shame? All that power from the necklace gone to waste.
She looked around the Parker’s family plot, finding the one love Mark had in life buried right beside him. Bonnie Marie Parker; soon to become Marie Grey, mother of Destiny Grey, who was named after Young Guardian’s own destiny. So the rumors said, anyway.
When Sabrina made her way to the Jacobs family plot, she saw one name that still haunts her thoughts. Melody.
The famed and acclaimed Melody Anne Jacobs. According to Jezebel, Melody and her twin sister Elisabeth switched places on Melody’s death bed. The twins made a pact; to learn everything about the Ancient Mystic Magic, since their own mother denied them the knowledge. Through that pact, according to legend, Melody was bound to be reincarnated. Sure enough, her next life was that of another younger Ancient Mystic twin. She was now Angela Jacobs-Pritchard’s daughter, twin to Matthew Crawford, daughter of Jack Crawford. This second incarnation of Melody was more powerful, and taught much more before she graduated from high school.
Sabrina got an idea. Especially when she saw Angela’s grave near Melody Jacobs’.
Maybe she could take those powers and use them for her own?
How would she do it?
She never got to answer the question inside her mind. Instead, she heard rustling of leaves and crunching of sticks under footsteps. Quickly, Sabrina ran to hide, listening in wonder.
To her surprise, it was the Young Guardian herself – and she was helpless and pregnant! Sabrina didn’t know who the woman was that led her by the arm, but she was interested to know once they stopped at one of the stones in the Parker family plot.
Sabrina smiled. It was Mark’s gravestone they stood at. She just stood silent in hiding, listening with interest.
“This is where we buried him.” Ariana was telling Juliet. Her voice was soft and her empathy turned off. She felt the vibes of something not quite right, but ignored it, paying attention instead to the memories in her mind.
“What was he like?” Juliet asked.
“We could ask him ourselves.” Ariana grinned.
She knew using Magic in this place would be tiring; it always had been; but Juliet had to know. Somehow, Mark’s sister wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and Ariana knew it.
Juliet was confused, looking at Ariana’s face. She was still smiling. “How? He’s dead.”
“You’ll see.” Ariana supplied. She let go of Juliet’s arm and raised her own to the skies. She called a spell into the night air.
“Resurractum Brotanius Portum!
“I call the Gods to me and mine
“Bring back the soul to be with thine
“Familia Resurractum Gratiotous!”
There was a rumble in the ground that Juliet could feel. The air cooled as a wind made her hair beat in her face. The skies lit up with lightening, scaring Juliet to bits. She held onto Ariana to dear life, frightened of what was to come.
She’d never experienced this kind of thing before. She’d read it in books but never in real life. Stuff like this just didn’t happen.
“Resurractum Brotanius Portum!”
Ariana’s voice boomed, echoing to the very reaches of the graveyard. Juliet held on, watching and waiting for something to happen, if anything.
“Watch and learn, Juliet Grey. You’re about to see just what magic is all about.” Ariana’s voice seemed to echo in the air.
It didn’t sound like her, not that Juliet really knew the difference. Heck, it didn’t even look like her. There was a certain glare in the older woman’s eyes that didn’t seem right.
“Watch the sight, Juliet. Listen with all your hearing. Outreach yourself in your mind and pay attention.” Ariana’s voice whispered. “Mark is waiting for you to speak to him.”
Sure enough, as Juliet turned her head away from Ariana’s, she saw a vision of a dark-haired, grey-eyed Mark Grey.
“M-Mark?” Juliet whimpered. Her eyes were wide, her face almost as white as her brother’s ghost.
Mark’s head nodded. “Yes, dear Juliet. It’s me.”
His voice was but an echoed whisper when he spoke.
Juliet looked to Ariana, who smiled at her like a mother to a child who was learning a lesson on her own. She turned back to Mark’s ghost.
“Why did you bring me here, Young Guardian?” Mark’s ghost asked. “I was having such fun with Marie and Destiny.”
“Marie and Destiny?” Juliet asked.
“My wife and daughter in the –.” Mark stopped in the middle of the sentence, looking to Ariana for approval. Once Ariana nodded her head with a smile, he continued. “Dream Realm. That’s where I live now.”
Juliet didn’t know what to say.
“Overwhelmed?” Ariana asked her. She looked to Mark’s floating body. “Tell her, Panther.”
“You brought me here as Mark and still call me Panther?” Mark smiled.
“Show her, tell her about the Crusades.”
“The Crusades, where Sabrina had Caroline kill me?” Mark scoffed. “The only reason I fought against that little wench was to protect you.”
“Now is not the time for hatred, Panther Grey.” Ariana replied. “Tell your living sister what happened to you. Give her peace.”
Mark looked at Ariana with a solemn gleam to his dark grey eyes. “What about you, my Young Guardian? Shall I give you peace as well?”
The winds around the trio changed, calming to a slight breeze. The air around Ariana changed from bright glowing-black to brilliant rainbow. Juliet felt calmer, more comfortable, though she didn’t know why.
She looked to her new friend. Ariana’s face was no longer smiling. Instead, she was staring at Mark’s face, her hand touching Juliet’s shoulder. She looked on the verge of tears.
“Please.” Ariana begged in a whisper. “For her.”
“Very well.” Mark said softly. “I was adopted by the Parkers, who were nice enough to bury me in their family plot. I grew up with an older sister and a younger one. The older one was named Bonnie Marie. I fell in love with her, but knew I couldn’t have her. The younger one was Caroline, a real spoiled brat. When Bonnie and Caroline fought one night, Bonnie raced out of the house, running away. She was never seen alive again. The entire family changed, especially me. I fell into a deep depression no one could get me out of.
“In two years, the only ones left were Mrs. Parker, Caroline and myself. I roomed across the hall from Bonnie’s old room. Caroline was at one end of the upstairs hall and Mrs. Parker was at the other. Young Guardian came to us two months to the two-year anniversary of Bonnie’s death. Mrs. Parker brought her to the mansion, too much in delusions to realize Ariana wasn’t hers.”
“Even though, he befriended me.” Ariana whispered. “I was lonely for the loss of love and happiness I’d once had in Shore Point. I was separated from my new family and best friends, left alone in the world with only my wits and the clothes on my back. I sensed the sadness at the Parker Mansion, making it my own. As a Crusader, I could see this family needed loving attention. Being sworn to keep my powers a secret, I did everything in my power to help them. In several months, I’d come to love Mark as not only a brother, but a friend.”
“One night, Ariana and I had a fight of our own about her best friend Aaron.” Mark continued. “Across the hall, I could hear her crying. I went to her, only to find she was sick. So sick, I had to rush her to the hospital. We found out the Maiden Sabrina was after her. Soon after, I was visited by her now-husband Derrick and her twin sister Luna. For the next few months, we were trying to fight the Dominionite Maiden. Aaron came along not two days later, claiming he felt her in danger.”
“He was right.” Ariana replied softly. “I was kidnapped by Sabrina’s brother Damian, taken to his dungeons in Dark Tower. It took all the Crusaders, Derrick, Aaron, Mark and Luna, along with two well-known Companions Katherine Hawk and Wolf Stargazer to rescue me.”
“We weren’t left alone for more than two weeks before Sabrina struck again. This time, she was in our world, and brought with her a very powerful gem. It was called the Dominionite Crystal and it was to give her powers while she was here in the Outer Realm.” Mark looked to his necklace. “Little did she know I now had certain powers of my own. I wasn’t about to let her get away with hurting Ariana Woods. I’d lost one sister to death, and I wasn’t about to lose another. The Crusaders met here, in this very cemetery, to fight Sabrina and her new Dominionite Warriors. I used what little power I had, defending Ariana and my new friends. Unfortunately, that power wasn’t enough. She had more of it, and proved it by commanding my own adopted sister Caroline to kill me.”
By this time, Ariana’s face was covered in tears. “I tried to save you, Mark. I’m sorry I failed you.”
“You didn’t fail me, Young Guardian.” Mark whispered. “Lord Guardian made me a Companion, didn’t he? Not to mention I reunited with Bonnie Marie, making her my love for eternity.”
“What happened with Sabrina?” Juliet was afraid to ask. The moment was too emotional to say much, but she had to know.
“Once we were in the Dream Realm, I had turned to a black panther, which is how I got my Companion name.” Mark supplied from his spot. “The Crusaders were taken to the Dream Realm’s Lava Lake. Sabrina used Imagery Magic to change the Lake to look exactly like the cemetery. Before Sabrina could do anything, Ariana used powerful magic to Exile her to the Unknown. Aaron used his own Unicorn Magic to Exile Sabrina’s brother Damian. We found we weren’t finished, yet. The Dominionite Master himself, Orthos, met us there. We were ready for him. Lord Guardian and his younger brother Lord Maximaniac were with us when we Exiled him to the Unknown to join his children.” Mark turned to Ariana. “You see, you didn’t fail me.”
Ariana nodded her head. “Ready to go home?”
Juliet nodded back. “Yes, Ma’am.”
“Step back so I can send him back.” Ariana supplied, wiping tears from her eyes. “I promise to visit you as soon as I can, Panther.”
“You don’t need to promise.” Mark smiled. “Take care of the young one.”
Ariana smiled back, agreeing.
Juliet stood back while Ariana’s arms went back to the air.
“I thank the Ancient Mystic Gods this night,
“For helping me with Magic bright,
“Return this one to whence he came,
At that, Ariana fainted. Juliet caught her as she fell. Another voice echoed the end of the spell from afar.
“Forastu Decantum Bane!”
Juliet looked to see another reddish-blond haired woman running up to them. Her hand was out and a brilliant orange Magic wind flew from her fingers, sending Mark’s ghost away. Juliet didn’t know what to say.
“I’m Ariana’s twin, Luna.” Luna huffed. “Let me help you get her home, the Magic way.”
“Huh?” Juliet was stunned.
Luna blinked. “Trust me. Hold my hand and close your eyes.”
Juliet did what she was told. In moments, she felt her body tingling, being yanked from one place to another.
Sabrina the Maiden of the Unknown, now Earthbound, smiled as she came out of her hiding spot.
“Brilliant move, Young Guardian.” She whispered into the night air. “Giving me the very spell to execute my newest plan.”
She went over the Mark’s grave, where just a hint of him remained.
That hint was still aware of everything that went on. When he saw Sabrina, he frowned.
“What are you planning, Maiden of Mayhem?”
“Only your resurrection.” Sabrina supplied with a laugh. “I believe you will love the happy little reunion with your family. Give me the necklace.”
Mark held onto it. “Not on your death.”
“Very funny. Hand it over.” Sabrina cried. “Or watch while your dear, departed sister Bonnie Marie is held under my control.”
That hit a spark in Mark’s eyes. Rather than see anyone, dead or living, under Sabrina’s control again, he took the necklace off and handed it to her.
“What do you plan on doing with it?” Mark asked.
“You will see.” Sabrina fingered the stone, opening the locket to find a picture of Young Guardian. “How sweet?” She looked at him, sticking her tongue out. “How disgusting?” She walked away, leaving Mark watching. His image shimmered, as if wanting to disappear.
“Looks like the spell did not work.” Sabrina crooned. “Perhaps our Young Guardian does not have a full grasp of her Dark Magic enough to perform it correctly?”
“Leave her out of it!” Mark cried. “Send me back to the Dream Realm where I belong.”
Sabrina shook her head. “I do not think so. I have a better idea.”
With the necklace around her neck, she called the same spell Ariana had when bringing Mark back. When she was done, five individuals stood beside her, pale as death but solid as life.
Mark, who was one of them, found Marie and held her. He also found his adopted parents, Jack and Diane Parker and stood to defend them.
“What a joyful reunion?” Sabrina sneered. She turned to the remaining two, members of her own family, but she didn’t know that. “Finally, Melody Anne. I have you right where I want you.”
“Sabrina!” Melody Jacobs’ voice peeped. “I’m supposed to be dead. How did you do this?”
“Yours is not to ask, merely to obey.”
The other Ancient Mystic named Angela Jacobs-Pritchard stood beside her. “You’ll not speak to my mother that way.”
“Silly woman. Melody was not your mother. Elisabeth was.” Sabrina spoke up, laughing.
“Take us back where we belong, or else.” Melody cried.
“Or else what?” Sabrina laughed. “You will use Magic on me? Hah! Surprise, you have no Magic. I have it all, right here.” She showed them the necklace. “Unless you –”
“What are you going to do with us?” Angela asked, frightened.
Sabrina laughed a laugh so shrilling, it frightened even the toughest of Crusaders.
“Whatever I want.”
Mark shared a look with Bonnie Marie and the two Ancient Mystics. Jack and Diane Parker were silent, holding onto each other. If Young Guardian and her sisters didn’t do something soon, all hell was going to break loose, right in the Outer Realm.
“We’re here, you can open your eyes now.” Luna announced.
Juliet opened them to find herself in a room on a bed. Luna began barking orders.
“Caleb, get Aimee. We need the Reviving Potion.” She told a little boy with brown hair and the same colored eyes as his mother.
“Gotcha Mom.” Caleb said.
“Anything I can do?” Came a male voice from the doorway.
“Cold washrag, Shane. Please.” Luna said.
“Coming right up.” Shane echoed.
“Hurry, she used a lot of Dark Magic out there.”
“Just go Shadow!” Luna barked.
Shane saluted and left the room.
“Excuse me.” Juliet tried.
“Not now.” Luna said curtly.
“What happened out there?” Juliet asked.
“She did something she ought not have.” Luna explained. “She doesn’t control her Dark Magic well when she’s normal, let alone when she’s pregnant. She shouldn’t have brought him back, even for a minute. That’s powerful Dark Magic.”
“Dark Magic?” Juliet whispered. “I’m confused.”
“We’ll explain later.” Luna said.
“Here’s the washrag, Lu.” Shane handed it to her.
Luna placed it on her sister’s forehead.
“Why did she use Dark Magic?” Shane asked.
Luna looked to Juliet. “Ask her.”
“Who are you?” Shane asked.
“I’m Juliet Grey. I came in search of my brother.”
“Mark was your brother?” Shane was incredulous. “You know he died, right?”
“I found them in the cemetery, talking to Mark’s ghost.” Luna commented.
“Yipes. Now we have to learn the Silver Magic.” Shane commented.
“More than ever.” Luna supplied.
“What’s wrong with her, Lu?” Came a female voice, rushing in the room.
“Dark Magic, deadly Dark Magic.” Luna supplied. “Do you have the Potion?”
“Got it right here.” The woman supplied, handing a vile of brown liquid to Luna. Her eyes were green and the bracelet on her wrist was glowing the same color. She caught Juliet staring. “It’s called Unicorn Magic. I can heal with it. Speaking of healing, when my sister wakes up, have her take that.”
Luna set it down on the stand next to the bed.
“What about after that, Aimee?” Shane asked, sitting next to Ariana’s silent body. “Will the baby be okay?”
“We’ll find out now, won’t we?” Aimee moved over Ariana’s body, placing a hand on her sister’s belly and closing her eyes. After a moment, she gasped.
“What is it? Is my nephew okay?” Luna asked.
“He will be, but he’ll have some abnormalities.”
“More than any Ancient Mystic?” Luna asked.
Aimee nodded. “I had a vision.”
“I’m developing my premonition, which comes with the Unicorn Magic.” Aimee supplied. “He’ll be one mixed-up Ancient Mystic with the Unicorn Magic being his strongest power.”
Aimee took the washrag from Ariana’s forehead when she saw the eyes fluttering open.
“Morning, sleepy-head.” Aimee remarked. “I’ve got a Potion for you.”
She helped Ariana sit up to digest it. At the first sip, she gagged.
“Gross, what’s in it?”
“Sorry, can’t tell you.” Aimee grinned. She wrapped an arm around her shoulder. “Drink it all. You’ll be back to normal in no time.”
“Will it effect the baby?”
“Nope. Just you.” Aimee remarked.
Ariana drank it down and even Luna frowned.
“Thanks for the empathy kick, sister dear.” Luna said sarcastically.
Ariana grinned. “I didn’t want to suffer the taste alone.” She looked to where Juliet was still sitting, patient and quiet. “You’re quiet, Juliet.”
“I don’t belong here. Maybe I should go?” Juliet remarked, standing.
“No, don’t go.” Ariana pressed, catching her arm. “You helped me and now I intend to help you.”
“Really.” Ariana turned to the small group that had gathered around her. “Juliet Grey, meet my twin sister Luna, nephew Caleb, brother-in-law Shane and almost-sister Aimee. Guys, this is Panther’s younger sister, Juliet. She needs a place to stay until she gets on her feet again.”
Juliet looked at her. “How did you know?”
“She’s telepathic.” Aimee supplied. “Annoying, isn’t it?”
Juliet felt comfortable around these people, though she hardly knew them.
“I’ll let you sleep it off here.” Luna said, standing. “I’ll even take her back to your house for a while. Derrick knows her, doesn’t he?”
“She showed up on my doorstep a couple hours ago.” Ariana explained to her twin. She yawned.
“Come on everyone, move it.” Luna playfully commanded, shooing everyone out. “Let the woman have her rest.”
Everyone left then, including Juliet.
The Resurrection Spell
Katherine Hawk-Stargazer, in her human form, looked after Ariana’s children. She sensed something wrong and headed to the nursery to find little Melody asleep in her bed. She looked normal, resting peacefully. The one thing that had Katherine’s empathy jumping was the way Melody’s eyes didn’t move underneath her lids.
“That’s strange.” Katherine whispered to herself. She touched the blanket that Melody was holding, only to get a vision.
“Derrick!” She gasped, stepping away from Melody’s bed.
Derrick came to her call.
“What’s wrong, Katherine?”
“It’s Melody, she’s...”
“What?” Derrick asked. He sat on the bed next to his daughter. “What’s wrong with her?”
“Can you not feel it?” Katherine asked, shocked. “Her soul is gone. Her body breathes, but her soul is gone.”
Derrick lifted his silent three-year-old daughter into his arms. “Can you heal her?”
“I would not know what to do.” Katherine whispered, sitting next to them. “Get her to the hospital. I will find Ariana and tell her.”
“Try the cemetery. She went there with Juliet Grey to visit Mark’s grave.” Derrick said, absently.
Katherine closed her eyes and tried to sense her friend. “She is already back, only she is ill. Luna is bringing Juliet back. We need to get Melody to the hospital, and quick.”
“For once, I agree, Katherine.” Derrick supplied, standing with Melody in his arms. “Who’ll watch the kids?”
“I will.” Came a timid voice. They looked up and saw Juliet, hands clasped at her waist and brown hair up in a ruffled bun.
“I don’t see why not, Derrick.” Came Luna’s voice from behind her.
With a sigh, Derrick, Luna and Katherine were on their way.
“Make yourself at home, I guess.” Derrick remarked as he passed Juliet. “Go introduce yourself to them. The twins are in the downstairs playroom with Angel and Kelly’s next door with Aaron and Bradley, studying.” He turned to the two of them. “Let’s roll. Luna, stay with Ariana, and Katherine, come to the hospital with me.”
“Got it.” They chorused.
Juliet sighed and made her way to the downstairs playroom to introduce herself to the twins, Mark and Andrew.
In the Dream Realm, Dixilynne Ryan was restless. She couldn’t sit still, thinking of what her cousin was up to.
“What are you doing, Sabrina?” Dixilynne whispered under her breath. “I wish I knew!”
Her husband Theodore found her pacing her Mirror Room, staring at her Crystal.
“What bothers you, my love?”
“Sabrina.” Dixilynne stopped pacing to face him. “She is Earthbound again. I just watched as she brought my nieces back to life.”
“From the dead?” Theodore wasn’t convinced. “How, if she doesn’t have any power there?”
“She does have power, I am afraid, only it’s not Ancient Mystic or even Dark Magic.” Dixilynne told him. Theodore looked interested so she went on. “She stole Panther Grey’s trinket. She even brought him, Bonnie Marie, and the Parkers back from the dead as well.”
“What does she plan on doing?” Theodore asked her.
Dixilynne shook her head. “That, I do not know, but I am going to Mother on it. Something tells me she knows more about this than anyone else.” She turned to her husband. “Stay here and guard the Palace. I will be back soon.”
With a kiss, she was gone.
When Dixilynne appeared in front of the Ancient Mystic Palace door, she sensed something out of place. Closing her eyes, she disappeared, reappearing in front of her mother. “Mother?” She asked Enchantra, who grinned. “What’s going on?”
Her mother had been in a different room, now leading Dixilynne to the excitement without saying a word.
When she followed her mother to the living room, she couldn’t believe her eyes. She rubbed them to make sure she wasn’t just seeing things.
Sure enough, right in front of her eyes stood her lost cousins, Minx, Raven, Sky, and Isabella. Behind them were her father O’Dell and her long-lost uncle Lord Byron.
“Minx -- it’s really you!” Dixilynne cried, feeling like a kid again. All thoughts of Sabrina were left behind as she embraced her favorite cousin. “I can’t believe my eyes!”
She and Minx, the eldest of Lord Byron’s and Challandra’s children, laughed.
“It has been way too long, cousin.” Minx said slyly. He turned away for a moment. “If it is alright, Father, may I take Dixie for a walk in the Wood?”
Lord Byron smiled at his son, nodding. “If Dixie does not mind, than I do not mind.” He said.
Minx grabbed Dixie’s hand, pulling her away from the Palace.
As soon as they were out of sight of their parents, Minx asked. “Sarabeth is with the Stargazers, but where is Dorianne?”
“Dori is still Earthbound.” Dixie told him softly, slowly remembering her Earthbound struggles. “What is Sarabeth doing out of the Epsilon?”
“Aunt says she felt it were too dangerous there.” Minx replied. “She is here instead, watching the Young Celine Stargazer while her mother is away.”
“Where’s Lady Katherine?” Dixilynne asked.
“Earthbound, so Uncle says.” Minx said. “Says she is helping the Young Guardian in the Outer Realm. What happened to you that you are here now? I thought you were Earthbound with them during the Wars?”
Dixie didn’t want to talk about it, ignoring her cousin’s question. She began to walk ahead of him.
“Dixie?” Minx was serious now, stopping her with just a tap on the shoulder. “Tell me, what bothers you?”
When she turned, she let him see the tears in her eyes. “I died shortly after the Wars for Power.”
“I am sorry to hear that.” Minx said sympathetically. He brightened up with a thought, asking her, “Hey – what of Teddy, and Mick? Whatever happened to them?”
Teddy was Dixie’s husband when she was Earthbound. His name was Theodore Ryan, and he fathered three children before dying in the Outer Realm. Mick was Michael McNathaniels, an old crush of hers whose son helped them in the first Crusade. He also died, by the hand of another cousin of Dixie’s, Sabrina. When she told Minx, he was sad.
“How did Sara die?” Minx asked.
“Orthos gave her a disease not even an Ancient Mystic can heal.” Dixie told him. “Cancer of the brain. When she died, I felt a part of me died as well. It was only when I found Theodore here that I knew it would be all right.”
Minx stopped in his tracks, making her stop as well. “Enough is enough.” He spouted.
“Minx!” Dixie had to smile at his enthusiasm.
“No more sad times. Only good ones to remember come our way, yes?” Minx climbed on a rock and took flight. “Fly with me! You do remember how, do you not?”
“Come down here, Minx!” Dixie laughed at him from below.
He didn’t listen.
“May all our worries and cares fly away from us, like birds on the wind!” Minx exclaimed, starting to do flips. He stopped midair after the third one. “Well, how long has it been since you have flown?”
She couldn’t remember the last time, but she knew it had been too long. She recalled the Flight Spell and rose into the air gracefully. She stopped in front of him in midair.
“There,” she pointed out with a grin, “are you satisfied?”
“Question is, are you?” Minx darted away after asking her the question.
“Minx, wait up!” She called, racing after him.
It sure was great to have Minx back again. She’d missed him. She didn’t even wonder what made his father and siblings come out of the Barracks.
Claudia and Anna were the ones to greet Derrick at the emergency room doors. After an hour of waiting and anticipating, Anna set Melody in a private room, hooked up to monitors and an IV before leaving them. Derrick paced the room, wondering.
“Will you stop pacing, Derrick?” Claudia asked. “She’s in good hands, honest.”
“I know, but I can’t help it. She’s my daughter.” He supplied, stopping next to the bed. “Is it just me, or does this seem fishy to you?”
“Well, she was taking a nap when Katherine sensed something wrong.” Derrick gestured to Katherine, who was standing on the other side of the bed, petting the child’s hair. “Ariana was gone to the cemetery with Juliet and I was away when Kat screamed for me. Neither of us was gone an hour when our daughter goes into a coma.”
“We do not know it is a true coma.” Katherine replied. “It is her soul that has vanished.”
“Tell me that’s not fishy to you, Claudia?” Derrick ignored her remark.
“Her soul’s vanished? How is she breathing then?” Claudia asked, confused. “Her heart’s beating and everything.”
“Her body functions remain the same. It is the soul, not the mind, that vanished.” Katherine tried to explain. “We have seen it once before, with Ariana. Do you not remember the Crusades?”
“Do you really think Sabrina would do that to Melody?” Derrick addressed her. “What would she have to gain?”
“The same as she did six months ago.” Katherine remarked. “We know not where my cousin is, so what can we do about her?”
Claudia looked at Derrick, biting her lip. “I have to confess something, and you’re not going to like me when I tell you.”
“Just tell us.” Derrick supplied.
“I had a vision six months ago. Sabrina’s Earthbound.”
“Do you know where?” Derrick asked. Even Katherine wondered.
Claudia shook her head. “No. One clue may be the location of the vision.”
“Where did the vision take place?”
“In the Hill View Cemetery. I saw the gravestones of the Parkers and my own family around me. A ghost warned me by saying ‘the Maiden hath returned,’” Claudia explained. “If that’s not creepy, I don’t know what is.”
“The only thing to do is go.”
“What about Ariana?” Katherine asked Derrick. “She is ill, I can feel her.”
“What happened to her?”
“Didn’t you feel it?” Derrick asked. “I think every Ancient Mystic would have felt the amount of Dark Magic she used. I know I did.”
“I did not feel it.” Katherine supplied. “Perhaps Luna?”
“Certainly Luna.” Claudia remarked. “Look, let me do my job here. I’ll watch over her for you, Derrick. You can look in on Ariana; see how she’s doing.”
Derrick looked from Katherine to Claudia. “Are you sure?”
“Positive. See to your Ancient Mystic love.” Claudia replied. “Katherine and I will look after Melody for you. Tell us what happened with Ariana, you got that?”
Derrick nodded. “Got it.”
In the Dream Realm’s Canine Wood, a young Companion named Destiny Grey played with her friends Celine Stargazer and Tiger White-Snow. They were playing hide-and-seek, with Destiny hiding in a tree, waiting for Celine to catch her.
A sharp pain went through her body, her heart the most, making her scream in agony. She curled in a ball, trying to keep silent, but it hurt too much to keep her mouth shut. “Celine!” Destiny screamed. “Help!”
Both Celine and her cousin Tiger came to Destiny’s aid.
“What’s wrong?” Celine called up the tree at her.
Destiny could do nothing but shake her head. She lost her balance, falling. Tiger was there to catch her. She fainted in his arms.
“Get her to Papa and the Princess.” Celine ordered.
With that, they raced back to Stargazer Castle. They found Sire Wolfton practicing his karate forms with a determined look on his face. Celine knew when he did this, something bad was going to happen, and he would fight it.
Right now, she had more important matters to attend to.
“Papa, Destiny is sick.” Celine called.
Wolf turned to his daughter to see his nephew holding an unconscious Destiny Grey. He summed the situation and commanded in a growl. “In the Castle. Now!”
“Aye, Sire!” Tiger called, following the Stargazers indoors.
Tiger set Destiny on a bed, staring in wonder.
Princess Sarabeth came out to see them. “What happened to her?”
“We do not know, Princess.” Celine replied.
“She called for help, and I felt her in pain.” Tiger supplied. “Please, help her.”
Sarabeth and Wolf looked at each other, silent in thought.
“You go to the Greys. Tell them what happened.” Sarabeth ordered Wolf. “Take the children with you.”
Wolf gathered his Warrior gear, silently telling Tiger to follow.
“Can I stay with you, Princess?” Tiger spoke up quickly.
“Certainly.” Sarabeth remarked. “Hurry Sire Wolfton. We haven’t much time.”
Without a Trace
Back in the Outer Realm, Luna was pacing her room, waiting for Ariana to wake up from her long nap. When her sister did wake, Luna went to her.
“How are you feeling now?” Luna asked.
Ariana slowly sat up with her sister’s help. “A little shaky and my head is aching. Too many images flying around in my head. Can you feel it?”
“I feel it.” Luna supplied. “Something happened while you were out.”
“Melody fell into an Ancient Mystic coma. Derrick and Katherine rushed her to the hospital.” Luna explained.
Ariana was aware in no time. “I’ve gotta get to her.” She struggled to sit at the edge of the bed. She felt a rush of dizziness wash over her. “Help me.”
Luna shook her head. “There’s nothing you or I can do right now but let Claudia and Anna do their jobs. Kat’s with them.”
“Not anymore.” Ariana remarked. “She sent me a telepathic message telling me she was going back to the Dream Realm.”
“I thought she was helping you?”
“She was, but something happened there she has to get back to. Don’t ask me what, for I don’t know.” Ariana said. “In the meantime, help me home. The kids must be worried about me by now.”
“Juliet explained everything, I’m sure.” Luna said. “Derrick had her watch them while you were here and he went to the hospital.”
“I’m patrolling.” Ariana’s tone was determined, taking on her Young Guardian role with ease and seriousness.
Luna shook her head. “Oh, no you don’t. You’re in no condition to patrol, or Crusade, so don’t even think about it.”
“Aluna, whatever has Katherine up and running has to be big. As the Young Guardian, I have to know what that is.” Ariana cried.
Luna sighed. “In that case, I’m coming with you.”
“This is something –”
“You have to do alone, I take it?” Luna finished. “I know this sounds like a broken record, twin of mine, but please, be careful. There’s more than your life at stake here. I want my nephew to come into this world kicking and screaming, not lifeless, do you understand me?”
Ariana had to respect her. “Loud and clear. Will you watch over me?”
Luna smiled. “Always.”
The sisters hugged before Ariana called the Dream Chant and was on her way.
Dixilynne wasn’t happy. How could her mother let her go with Minx when the very existence of the Outer Realm was in danger of Sabrina. She walked in the Mirror Room of the Palace to find Enchantra in front of the Mirror, talking to herself.
Enchantra stared into her Ancient Mystic’s Crystal. She frowned, not liking what she saw.
“So,” She whispered to herself, waving a hand over its image. “Sabrina thinks she can belittle us, does she? Well, we will see about that.”
She sensed someone watching from behind her and announced. “Come in, Dixilynne.”
“Mother?” Dixilynne started. “Why did you let me go with Minx? You knew Sabrina was up to no good and you still let me go.”
“Is that why you came out of hiding, my daughter?”
“Yes. I had a vision in my Crystal.” Dixilynne told her mother what she saw.
“Is that right?” Enchantra turned back to the Mirror. “Where did she get such power to do so in the Outer Realm?”
“Panther Grey’s trinket. The one Young Guardian gave him before he became a Companion.”
“Aye, I know which one you speak of.” Enchantra remarked. “Why would she do such a thing?”
“I was hoping you would know.” Dixilynne asked.
“My guess would be for the mere power.” Enchantra replied. “Tell me, do you know if Young Guardian heard of her whereabouts?”
“Sorry, I know nothing of that.” Dixilynne said. She glanced over her mother’s shoulder to the Mirror and saw an image. “Mother, look!”
Enchantra looked, and saw something very interesting indeed. “Young Melody lays in a coma in an Outer Realm hospital.” She stared into it more. “Destiny Grey lays out cold at Stargazer Castle. I can feel her presence fading. I wonder...” She waved her arms, changing the vision. “Where are Panther and Marie? How did Sabrina steal Panther’s trinket if they are in two different Realms? Why do I not see the Ancient Mystic wind around Young Melody?”
She gasped when the vision in front of her changed. “Just what I thought.”
“What is it, Mother?”
“Melody Applebee, the second incarnation of Melody Jacobs is in an Ancient Mystic coma as well.” Enchantra was lost in thought and Dixilynne was left staring in wonder.
“What are we to do?”
“We are left to wait, my daughter. Tis all I can tell you.”
Dixilynne left, mind set on helping with her evil cousin. She returned to her own Palace.
Time for the Apprentice and the Grand Shamus to get involved in the Outer Realm battle. Something told her it was about time for her Earthbound family of Ancient Mystics to truly learn the great Silver Magic within.
Sire Wolfton Stargazer loped to the Feline Village in his full wolf form. Celine carried his gear on her back, unable to shift to either wolf or cat forms.
“Tell me it is not much farther, Papa.”
“It is not.” Wolf growled back. “Stop complaining, child. Use your canine senses. Can you tell me what you feel?”
“A certain wrongness in the air. I can smell it.” Celine agreed. “Shall I ready your bow?”
“Nay, not yet.” Wolf supplied. “Time to go to the Feline Castle. We are almost there.”
They followed the beaten path that led to the Feline Castle where Panther lived. Wolf stopped, forcing Celine to stop as well. He sat, watching, listening, waiting.
Celine was curious, so she ran ahead.
“Celine, stop!” Wolf cried out. “It is not safe!”
She stopped in front of the house, looking back at her father. “I only want to look, Papa.”
“Wait for me. We will look together.” Wolf commanded, changing to his wolf-man form. “Hand me my weaponry, child.”
Celine did what she was told. Still she stared at the Feline Palace.
“Where are the Greys? I cannot sense them anywhere.”
“Neither can I.” Wolf whispered, baring his teeth at the place.
“That is because they are not here, Sire.” They heard a voice behind them. When they turned, they saw Katherine, standing by the door and crying.
Wolf ran to his wife. “You have returned! What is the matter? Why are you crying?”
“They have disappeared, my love.” Katherine said. “Once I felt a tug of yearning in my heart, I knew I had to return here. Their very presences are gone, as if someone brought them back to life.”
“Everything okay in the Outer Realm?” Celine asked.
Katherine shook her head, telling her husband and daughter what happened. First, with Young Guardian leaving for the cemetery, only to return sick. Next, with Derrick, and Young Melody being raced to the hospital in an Ancient Mystic coma. Finally, what brought her back home to the Dream Realm. Wolf told her what happened to Destiny Grey, concluding with. “Something tells me Sabrina is making trouble in the Outer Realm again.”
He held his little family close.
“We must go to the Mistresses on this one.” Katherine remarked softly.
“I agree.” Wolf supplied, turning to Celine. “Can you make it home by yourself?”
“I want to come with you Papa.”
“Celine, it is too dangerous.” Katherine remarked. “Go back to Stargazer Castle and stay there. We will return shortly.”
Celine hugged both her parents before disappearing.
“Why do you carry your gear?” Katherine asked him when they started on their way. “Did you sense something was going to happen?”
Wolf kissed her cheek. “Force of habit.”
Katherine laughed. “I will bet. Let’s go.”
Ariana made it to the Ancient Mystic Palace in no time. When she rang the hanging chime on the door, she was greeted by Enchantra.
“Do you sense it, Mistress?” Ariana asked as she walked inside.
“That I do.” Enchantra led her to the main room, setting her down. “Off your feet, Young Guardian.”
Ariana pulled away, huffing. “I mean no disrespect, but I wish everyone would stop coddling me like a baby. I can handle myself just fine, thank you.”
“I was only trying to help.” Enchantra supplied. She sensed someone behind her and looked up to see Lord Guardian. “O’Dell will tell you the same thing.”
“I appreciate it, really, but it’s getting annoying.” Ariana cried. “I came here for something more important. Why is my youngest daughter lying in a coma?”
O’Dell decided to speak up.
“It would seem Sabrina used Panther’s necklace to call the Resurrection Spell.” He said. “How was she able to get that necklace from him, short of coming here and getting it from him?”
“I suggest you tell us the truth.” Enchantra remarked softly.
Ariana looked from Enchantra to O’Dell. Neither were smiling. “I don’t know what came over me. I wanted to help Juliet Grey by having Mark answer her many questions. I called the spell and brought his essence back to life, just long enough to talk to us.” She explained. “I swear I called the Peacemaker Spell right after it, to return him here. Have you seen Panther?”
Enchantra shook her head. “Sabrina must have been listening, recalling the Spell when you left.”
“I don’t remember leaving.” Ariana said. “All I remember is waking up in Luna’s house, being coaxed to drink this gods-awful liquid Aimee brewed.”
“Who is this Juliet Grey?” O’Dell asked.
“Panther’s sister – Mark’s, rather.” Ariana explained. “She came to my doorstep not two hours ago, searching for someone who knew him.”
“Within hours of her visit, Sabrina called a deadly spell.” O’Dell remarked. “A spell that is never to be spoken. If it is, All the Realms of the Worlds will be in chaos. With it, Sabrina brought Earthbounds and Ancient Mystics back to the living.”
Ariana stared. “Who...?”
“Mark, Bonnie Marie, the Parkers, Angela and Melody.”
“Melody, as in Melody Jacobs?”
“The same.” O’Dell told her. “The only way to stop her is to call the Peacemaker Spell.”
“I did, but how did she reverse it?”
“She heard you call the Resurrection Spell.” Enchantra said.
“What happened here when Panther and Marie were brought back to life?”
“Just that. They were taken from the Feline Palace, leaving Destiny out cold.” Enchantra replied. “Even Melody Applebee felt the effects of the reanimation. She is in the hospital in a coma as well.”
“Is it an Ancient Mystic Coma, Mistress?” They heard Katherine’s voice speak up. The trio looked to see both Katherine and her canine husband Wolf.
“It would seem that way, Lady Katherine.” O’Dell announced.
“If I may speak freely, My Lord?”
“Proceed, Sire Wolf.”
“The Young Destiny is at my home, out cold. Tiger and Celine were playing when she fell ill.”
“She wasn’t the only one, Wolf.” Ariana supplied. “My daughter Melody lies in Philbrooke Hospital. Based on what you told me, we have to find Destiny, bring her to the Outer Realm and have her call the Peacemaker Spell.”
“Young Guardian, Destiny is not even an Ancient Mystic, to call such a powerful spell.” Wolf supplied. “How is she going to do so?”
“I don’t know, but we have to return all back to normal.” Ariana replied. “That’s all I know. I want my daughter back, and I’m sure we need to return peace in all the Realms of the Worlds.”
“Ariana Moon, I have never, in all my years knowing you, heard you speak in such a manner.” O’Dell said sternly.
“I’m your successor, my Lord.” Ariana said with a grin. “I must have learned it from somewhere.”
“Father, we have a problem.” They heard Sarabeth’s voice behind them. With her was Tiger White-Snow holding a hysterical Destiny Grey in his arms. As soon as Celine saw her parents, she went to embrace them.
“It is too terrible for words!” Destiny sobbed.
“We know. Your parents are gone.” O’Dell said.
“Where did they go, my Lord?” Destiny wiped tears from her cat-like face.
“They’re in my world, Destiny.” Ariana stood to take the girl in her arms. “There’s something we need you to do to get them back.”
Destiny stared at her Young Guardian. “I will do anything!”
“You need to become Earthbound.” Ariana said softly.
Destiny gasped. “I don’t know how!”
“We will teach you.” O’Dell remarked. “Or rather, Enchantra will teach you. Lady Katherine and Sire Wolf will follow me to my brother’s land. He is the Outer Realm expert.”
“Lord Max?” Katherine and Wolf both gave him looks of confusion.
O’Dell only smiled. “Not Max.” He turned to his youngest daughter. “Take the children to the White-Snows. I am sure Lady Kitten’s Claw misses her son.”
“Certainly, Father.” Sarabeth nodded.
“Why can I not go with Destiny?” Tiger White-Snow asked. He sounded frantic. “I fear for her safety, my Lord Guardian.”
Sarabeth grinned at her father, thinking to him. He loves her like a Protector.
Is that so? O’Dell looked at the kitten with fresh eyes. Tiger’s eyes begged his Lord Guardian to listen. “Very well then. You may stay with Destiny. As for you, my Companion followers; onward.”
“What about me, O’Dell?” Ariana asked.
“Return home and await their arrival. Have the other Crusaders ready to go, just in case.” O’Dell said. “You will not be joining them this time.”
“I can’t just sit still while they fight Sabrina!” Ariana cried.
Enchantra put a hand on Ariana’s shoulder. “You have fought each other for many years. It is now time for someone else to take command.”
“Are you suggesting Luna?”
“The Grand Magus is getting more powerful by the day, you know.” O’Dell supplied.
“She still fears her empathy. How can she fight if she can’t bear to use her magical senses?”
“It would be the perfect time for her to get over that fear, now, will it not?” Enchantra winked at O’Dell, who snuck away with the two Companion Crusaders Ariana cared about most.
Once wishing them farewell, Ariana was on her way home.
O’Dell changed from a human male to a unicorn as soon as he exited the Palace. Katherine and Wolf followed suit by turning to their full Companion forms. They followed him to the Ancient Mystic Kingdom, which neither had seen since the Wars for Power.
When O’Dell stopped in front of the Castle, he changed back to a human male.
“It has changed since the Wars, my Lord.” Wolf supplied softly, shifting back to his human-wolf form. “It seems brighter than it did back then.”
“You would know, Sire Wolf.” O’Dell smiled at his follower. “You helped destroy it.”
“He did not!” Katherine cried. “Did you, Wolf?”
“I am sorry to say I did.” Wolf replied. He looked at the castle. “Whoever lives in it now did a fine job of repairing the many damages. I am impressed.”
O’Dell laughed. “I knew you would be.” He turned to Katherine. “You were safely away from the Wars when we fought. Your beau here was the first one to break Orthos’ spell and rebel against him.”
“Good for you, Wolf.” Katherine hugged him. “Lead on, my Lord.”
“Why are you so worried?” Challandra asked Lord Byron. She watched as he paced the Throne Room, nervous. She never liked it when a Wizard brother paced; it made her nauseous, and this time was no different.
“Sabrina is at large, and Jezebel can do nothing to stop her.” Lord Byron replied.
“Why should we care?” Challandra asked. “She is stuck in the Unknown.”
Lord Byron stopped to glare at her. By that piercing look in his eyes, she could tell he was serious. “Not anymore.”
Challandra gasped. “How did she return?”
“It is all part of my vision.” He said. “This time, she targets our own instead of mere mortals.” He slumped down in the head chair at the round table. “We have all to fear, but not a plan to fight.”
“I believe we can help with that, Brother.” They heard O’Dell’s voice echo from the door.
“O’Dell, what is going on that has the entire Realm anxious?” Challandra demanded, getting in his face.
“Relax. All will be fine soon.” O’Dell supplied, stepping back. He faced his brother. “You know what has happened, I suppose?”
“Aye. I saw it.” Lord Byron remarked. “I suppose you have a plan, oh brilliant Lord Guardian?”
“Dare mock me, Brother.” O’Dell said with a grin. “I am only passing it on.”
“Young Guardian knows what to do.” Katherine supplied.
“Who are you, young Companion?”
“I am the Lady Katherine Hawk-Stargazer, Lady of Stargazer Castle and the entire Canine Valley.” Katherine curtseyed to the new Lord. Beside her, Wolf bowed. “This is my husband, Sire Wolfton Stargazer. We are two Companion Crusaders who fought in the Crusades, ridding the Dream Realm of Master Orthos and his Dominionites.”
Lord Byron was impressed. “How do you know this Young Guardian, whoever they may be?”
“Young Guardian is my successor, Ariana Moon Woods.” O’Dell explained. “When Orthos Banished these two Companions to the Outer Realm, Katherine befriended her. Wolf befriended another Companion, then Crusader, Mark Grey.”
“Was that not the Earthbound Maxwell Banished himself to?” Lord Byron asked his brother.
“The same. Once he died in the Outer Realm by Sabrina’s hand, Mark earned his Companion status.” O’Dell said. “Unfortunately, she has done some damage to the Young Panther.”
Wolf explained what happened to Destiny Grey, Panther’s daughter. After that, Katherine explained what happened in the Outer Realm with the young Melody Reading.
Challandra looked to the two Companion Crusaders with respect. “You were right to come to us.”
“I suggested it, for your benefit Challandra.” O’Dell remarked. “I figured you would want a hand in it, both of you.”
“What can we do?” Lord Byron asked.
“Become Earthbound with Destiny Grey.” O’Dell said. “Have her call the Peacemaker Spell when the Crusaders have gathered Sabrina and the – uh – revivals together.”
“Revivals?” Challandra asked.
“She brought Mark, Bonnie Marie, the Parkers and two Ancient Mystics back to life.” Katherine supplied, answering for her Lord Guardian.
“We both cannot go, O’Dell.” Challandra remarked.
“I was hoping you would allow Lord Byron to come with us.” O’Dell smiled.
After a moment of scowling, Challandra agreed. She kissed Lord Byron as he stood. “Be careful in the Outer Realm, my Lord husband.”
Back in the Outer Realm, Ariana explained her plan to Derrick.
“You won’t be fighting.” Derrick remarked.
“I’ve already been through this with O’Dell and Enchantra.” Ariana supplied. “I’m just to get the other Crusaders together to fight Sabrina.”
“In the Cemetery, though?” Derrick supplied. “Why there?”
“That’s where she’s hidden, isn’t it?” Ariana asked. “I won’t be there in person, but I’ll be damned if I’m not going to be there otherwise.”
“You will not astral project, no matter how much Magic you think you have.” Came Luna’s voice from the doorway. She nodded her hellos to them before going on. “Remember what it did to me?”
“That was because you don’t know how to handle it.” Ariana supplied. “And I won’t project, I’ll do something better.”
Luna stared at her twin. “What are you thinking?”
Luna was appalled. “No way! What about the baby?”
“Will everyone stop worrying about the baby?” Ariana cried. “It’s not as if Ethan’s my first child!”
This shut them up.
“Ethan?” Derrick asked. “What kind of name is that?”
“It happens to be Grandpa Woods’ name.” Luna supplied. “But Ethan?”
Ariana smiled. “I’m just experimenting. At any rate, you two should go. I’ll tell whoever O’Dell sends to me where to go.”
“What about the kids, and you?”
“I’ll be fine. Juliet is here, and I trust her.” Ariana replied.
“Can’t Aimee watch them?”
“She’ll be with you, and so will Aaron.”
“Even my three?” Luna asked.
“Have I ever steered you wrong before?” Ariana asked of her. “I trust Juliet enough to have her watch all the kids, with my help of course.”
“Let’s just hope this brilliant plan of yours works, big sister.”
“It will.” Ariana remarked, kissing Derrick and hugging Luna. “At least, I hope it will.”
“If it doesn’t, chaos in all Realms of the Worlds.” Luna supplied. “I don’t want to be there when that happens.”
“If.” Derrick cut in. “Let’s go. We’ve got some fish to fry and a spell to cast.”
Luna laughed with her sister. “Listen to him.”
“I think we’re finally rubbing off on him.” Ariana nudged her husband. “As you always tell me, be careful you guys.”
With that, Ariana left the bedroom to find Juliet and tell her what was going on. Within fifteen minutes, Caleb, Meredith, Logan, Angel and the twins, Mark Antony and Andrew were playing in the Reading’s backyard. Ariana sat reading a book at the pool-side and Juliet was at the picnic table, teaching the girls how to play ‘Go Fish.’
Ariana couldn’t help worrying, though. Her mind wasn’t on the story, it was on her youngest daughter, Melody, who was still in an Ancient Mystic coma in the hospital. Using Magic, she brought the cordless phone to her hands. She dialed Anna’s cell phone.
“Will you calm down?” Anna asked her after Ariana explained everything else that had happened. “The Crusaders will do fine without you. My guess is that they’re fighting her right now.”
“She’s been quiet all day. Her vitals are fine, breathing’s fine. Everything’s fine.” Anna remarked. “Don’t get too worked up over it, okay. Claud and I are watching her, day and night.”
“If all goes well, you won’t have to watch her much longer. Melody will be awake and home in no time.”
“That’s the ticket. Listen, little sister, get some rest. Have what’s-her-name watch the kids for you while the Crusaders are doing their jobs.” Anna playfully demanded.
“Her name is Juliet, and don’t worry about me.” Ariana looked over to Juliet, who was now playing with all the younger kids. “I’ll be fine.”
“I hope so, for your sake. I’ll check up on you later.” Anna said. “Oh, answer the door after we hang up. It’ll be for you.”
“Stop that.” Ariana laughed, knowing premonition was her sister’s strongest gift. “Talk to you later.”
As soon as they hung up, Ariana closed her eyes to sense who had arrived. She didn’t recognize them so she stood.
“Watch the kids for me, Juliet. There’s someone at the door.”
“How do you know?” Juliet asked. “Is it more of that creepy magic thing you did earlier?”
“No,” Ariana lied, “I just heard the doorbell.”
She left Juliet mumbling under her breath. “That’s funny. I didn’t hear it ring.”
Sure enough, there were three individuals fresh from the Dream Realm.
“Are you the ones O’Dell sent?” Ariana eyed the elder man curiously.
“May we come in?” The elder man asked.
Ariana sensed they meant no harm so she let them inside. The young boy stared at her, awed. The girl with violet eyes and braided black hair stared at her, twitching her nose.
“Tiger? Destiny?” Ariana asked once recognizing the young Companions. “Where did you get the power to become Earthbound?”
“Same as Sire Wolf Stargazer.” The elder man remarked. “Instead of the Ancient Mystics giving Companions each a trinket, it were myself.”
“Who are you?”
“Search my eyes and tell me what you see.” The man smiled.
All was still while Ariana stared into the strange man’s eyes. They were silver, the same as O’Dell’s, which told her one thing. “You’re a Wizard brother of O’Dell’s, aren’t you?”
“Being his successor, I would believe he taught you to respect the Elders.” He announced with a frown. “Call him by his title, for it is rude otherwise.”
Now Ariana frowned. “As a matter of fact –.”
“Young Guardian, please.” Tiger whined. His voice was still of a kitten’s.
“My parents?” Destiny finished for him. Her voice sounded more Earthbound than his, since she was half-human herself.
“Yes, Destiny. Your parents.” Ariana remarked with a sigh. “After he kindly gives me his title and name, I’d be more than happy to guide you.”
“Use your empathy, girl. What do you sense?” The man instructed.
Not wanting to argue, Ariana obeyed. She was curious at what she felt. “You have the energy of a cautious, yet playful Elder Originator. Why haven’t I met you before?”
“Before the Wars for Power, I fled to the Barracks, hiding myself and my four children from the battle.” He remarked. “I am Lord Byron; Lord of the Ancient Mystic Kingdom and the youngest of O’Dell’s brothers.”
“Why should I believe you?”
“He is the only one who can help me call the spell indefinitely!” Destiny cried, hugging Ariana the best she could. “Please, show us where Mommy and Daddy are.”
Feeling defeated, she wrote a note to Juliet and was on her way.
From the time they arrived at the Hill View Cemetery, the Crusaders had to fight Sabrina and her new zombies. It was hard, since Sabrina controlled each of them. She turned what O’Dell had called ‘revivals’ against their own families, using Panther’s trinket.
It was getting tougher by the hit.
Luna blocked a pulse of magic directed at her chest with a clever wall of magic of her own. Sabrina’s burst glowed red while Luna’s glowed white-black. Its glow was fading, showing she was weakening.
“I can’t hold on much longer, guys!” She cried. “Help me!”
Derrick and Shane looked at each other. “For the Young Guardian!” They cried together, thrusting their arms toward Sabrina’s new trinket. Using it, she disappeared, only to reappear behind them.
“I do not think so, boys.” Sabrina crooned from behind them, making them turn. She grabbed their crotches and flung them into the air.
“Freeze-frame!” Cried a voice from afar.
Derrick and Shane froze in midair. Before anyone could do or say anything else, the strange man appeared in front of them.
“Sabrina, I order you to return them to their graves.” The man cried, pointing a finger at her. The blue ring on his index finger glowed, shooting out a web of blue fire that wrapped itself around her waist.
Sabrina’s back was to the man, so she cried. “How dare you!” She cut off her own sentence when she turned to see who it was. “Lord Byron! What are you doing in the Outer Realm?”
“Ridding it of you!” Lord Byron yelled, his voice echoing in the dark cemetery. He called the Exiling Spell and she disappeared.
They watched as the necklace around her chest glowed and dropped to the ground. The ghost of Mark grabbed it at the same time his daughter ran for it. They met eyes.
“Daddy?” Destiny asked curiously.
Mark-Panther grinned, nodding silently. He placed the necklace back around his neck, winking at her.
The reunion was interrupted by Shane’s sarcasm, bringing them back to reality.
“If I weren’t scared spitless right now, I’d think this was kind of fun.” Shane remarked sarcastically.
“Get us down from here!” Derrick cried, frantic and scared. “Before somebody sees.”
“I kinda like having you guys at my command.” Ariana remarked with a teasing grin. Beside her, Lord Byron crossed his arms, scowling while both Tiger and Destiny stared. “Alright, I’ll let them down.”
Using telekinesis, she lowered them to the ground. As soon as Derrick’s feet hit the dirt, he ran to Ariana. “How do you feel?”
“Stop fussing over me, Derrick. Please.” Ariana laughed. “I’m fine. Lord Byron, do your thing.”
“It is not my thing to do, Young Guardian.” Lord Byron announced, hand on Destiny’s shoulder.
“I have no magic, Lord Byron.” Destiny remarked.
“Not true. Your father is a Companion now, correct?”
Destiny looked to the faint image of her father, who nodded.
“Your mother carries a kind of Companion magic herself. Not only can she perform Companion magic, she can turn into any she chooses.” Byron went on. “Thanks to them, you carry that same magic within you. Have faith in your special kind of power, Destiny. Believe, and it will not let you down.”
“What should I say to send them home?” Destiny asked him.
Lord Byron briefly looked to Young Guardian with his eyes before addressing the now-Earthbound Companion child. “You and Tiger can use your combined magics to say what is called the Peacemaker Spell.”
The Crusaders, Shane, Luna, Ariana, Derrick, Aaron and Aimee gathered around them.
“We’ll help if we can, Destiny.” Aimee replied.
“Earthbounds!” Lord Byron snapped. “They must do it alone, since they were born in my world.”
Aaron lunged to protect his twin from this new lord of the Dream Realm, but Derrick and Shane each caught him. With the two of them giving him a ‘don’t even think about it’ stare, Aaron backed off.
A smug Lord Byron smiled, turning back to the Companion children. “Hold hands and repeat after me.”
When Destiny and Tiger took each other’s hands, they each grinned, blushing. They looked to Lord Byron for answers.
“I thank the Ancient Mystic Gods this night,
“For helping me with Magic bright,
“Return these souls to whence they came,
“Forastu Decantum Bane!”
In a brilliant flash of rainbow-colored light, each of the ghosts were returned to their graves, disappearing. Once they were gone, Lord Byron looked to the two Companion children before nodding to the Crusaders.
“It has been a pleasure to meet all of you, though only Young Guardian knows my name.” Lord Byron remarked. “For now, it is our turn to go home.”
With that, he held the children’s shoulders, called the Dream Chant and disappeared.
The Crusaders looked at each other and walked home in complete silence.
The Elder Companions
Braken Joel’s Quest
Braken Joel Hawk was tired of keeping his own Wars for Power story a secret. He had to tell somebody, and free the Elders from the Underground. Who to tell?
His sisters? No. Lady Katherine was busy ruling the Canine Valley while Lady Kitten’s Claw was busy with the Feline Village. Not even Laurynne, Braken Joel’s oldest and dearest sister would help; she was busy with the Goddesses.
No. Not his sisters.
That left only one person – an Earthbound Ancient Mystic whom every Companion looked up to. His own rival for Guardianship, the Young Guardian herself.
Since he hadn’t practiced the more elaborate Earthbound Traveling powers since the Wars itself, he went to the Ancient Mystic Palace and found his true father with his aunt. Lord Guardian was in his human male form, laughing at something Mistress Enchantra was saying. Braken Joel cleared his throat, gaining O’Dell’s attention.
“Joel!” Enchantra spoke up while father and son were speechless. “What a wonderful surprise!”
Joel walked up to the couple.
“It’s not often you show your face here.” O’Dell announced.
“My Lord!” Enchantra hissed, then turned back to Joel. “What can we do for you, Braken Joel?”
Quickly, he explained his secret mission. At the end, the two Originators looked at each other. They showed him to the Ancient Mystic Mirror, which brought the memories of his mother’s death closer to his mind. Once they told him the spell, Joel was on his way to Ariana Reading’s house.
Braken Joel used his Magic to find her. Placing a hand on the front door, he transparently disappeared inside. His feline instincts told him Young Guardian was here, alone. It was the middle of the day, so he know all four of her children were in school, and Protector Derrick was at work. He sauntered downstairs with the speed and stealth of a cat.
Unfortunately, she sensed his presence.
“Who’s there?” Ariana Reading’s voice called from the laundry room. “Derrick, is that you?”
Joel hesitated coming out of the shadows. When he did, he shook his head.
“Braken Joel, what are you doing here?” Ariana held her chest.
“I have come to tell you of a special quest.” Joel replied.
“Did anyone see you?”
“I do not believe so. Why?”
“You’re still in Companion form.”
“Can you shift to a full human? You see, we don’t have half-cats here.” Ariana tried to explain lightly.
“Certainly.” Joel nodded, closing his eyes and changing his image. His fur disappeared, leaving his head full of baby-brown hair. He opened his eyes once the change was complete. “Better?”
Ariana breathed a thankful sigh. “Much. Now, what brings you here?”
“Something I must tell you.” Joel announced quietly. “Do you remember anything about the Wars for Power?” He asked, then spoke again, shaking his head. “Of course not, you were not there, and neither was the Grand Magus.”
The Grand Magus was Luna, Ariana’s twin sister.
“I know some, gathered from stories and my own experience recreating it.” Ariana objected. “But I don’t know much about your side, only that you ran away.”
“I did not run from fear, I assure you.” Joel said. “I ran because I had to. Both to save the lives of my sisters, then of the Elders.”
Ariana sat on the nearest chair and Joel followed.
“I must tell you my side, Young Guardian.” He said. She nodded, not wanting to complicate things by having him call her by her real name. She listened as he told his story.
“Mother entrusted me to take care of my newborn kitten sisters.” Joel started. “I fled to a secret place in the Province Wood where I could hide and be safe from the Wars. It was there I kept them safe from the Master’s harm. With help from the four Goddesses, Dana, Aura, Brianna and Hestia, I took care of Kit and Kat.”
“How did you keep hidden so long?” Ariana asked.
“The Magic kept us safely hidden.” Joel said. “It did not keep me from the pain of knowing my own mother was dead.” He heard her quiet gasp, but continued his story, entranced in the memories. “Of course, once Mother died in the Wars, they ended. For a while, we were safe. I headed back to the Ancient Mystic Palace to say goodbye. I bundled my twin sisters, taking each of their hands. Being smart, Kat only had to look at my solemn face to see what was going to happen. Kit did not have a clue. Both kits were silent on our way back to the Palace. When we arrived, I saw the Originators and the man I called Father gathered in ceremony.”
Joel had to pause, to get the story straight in his mind. Ariana took his hand and squeezed, silently telling him to go on when he could. When Joel met Ariana’s eyes, she smiled in assurance.
“The ceremony was not a pleasant one. Lying on two mantles were Lady Jezebel, the Master’s bride, and my mother, Lady Sibylline. They were still dressed in battle armors, identical, yet opposites. My father Braken Hawk stood staring at his bride’s silent body. Mother was in her full human form, no longer the lively Persian Feline he had loved.”
“What did the kits think?”
“Katherine, as I said, was silent. Kitten’s Claw was not. She asked why the Originators were gathered around these two women.” Joel replied. “I was not able to tell her the painful truth, only silence her and make her listen and watch. Enchantra and Challandra had their eyes closed, hands clasped. They chanted something in what I learned was the Ancient’s Tongue. Lord Guardian and his remaining brother Lord Byron comforted my father.”
“If they both live peacefully now, how did it happen?” Ariana asked him. “I don’t get it.”
Joel nodded, smiling a little. “You will, once I finish. As I said, the two Lord brothers comforted my father as he wept. I overheard their conversation as I stood silently in the shadows, holding on to my sisters hands. Braken asked the Ancient Mystic Guardians to give his true love back to him. The Ancient Mystic Sisters were doing just that. They did not want their sisters to die, so they pleaded with the Guardians to somehow bring their sisters back to life. The Guardian of Destiny, Mihanos himself answered their pleas, on one condition: O’Dell’s brother Orthos, the Master himself, would not provoke any more senseless wars. O’Dell agreed on his twin brother’s behalf. Guardian Mihanos granted their wishes, disappearing afterward. We waited in silence until both Lady Sibylline and Lady Jezebel moved. Lady Jezebel pleaded for forgiveness from Lord Guardian, but he refused, Exiling her back to the Master’s side. Braken was happy, but Sibylline told him it was time to use the Mirror. To Braken Hawk, it meant Exile, save for his love being back with him. Once everyone but Lord Guardian and myself were gone, I spoke up. We both knew what I had to do next. In order to do so, I had to hand my young twin kitten sisters back to him.”
“You knew they grew up with Orthos and Jezebel?”
Sadly, he nodded. “I had no choice at the time. There were more important matters on my young mind.” Braken Joel continued. “Lord Guardian bade me fare thee well, sending me to the very site of the Wars. You would not believe what physical destruction the Wars for Power caused. Bodies everywhere, blood, the stench of war and death was unmistakable. I was at the site and still, I do not believe. I had to do something. Cowering were those survivors of the Wars, fearful of all. I recognized the Elder version of the Warrior Wolf, Sheldon Stargazer, huddling with his family. Other Companion families that were left standing huddled together, stripped of their Companion Magics. I gathered them all and fled back to the Province Wood, to hide them.”
Ariana was amazed at his story. The Young Guardian had to know. “Where are they now?”
“Still hidden, unaware the Wars and Crusades are long over.” Joel told her. “They do not know it is safe to live above.”
“Above? Braken Joel, where did you take the Companion survivors?”
“To a place I called the Province Underground. There, they regained their strength, formed alliances with their enemies and lived happily.” Joel said.
“You say they’re still there?” Ariana asked. Joel nodded.
Ariana smiled. “I do believe it’s finally time to bring them home. Braken Joel, would you do the honors of showing me to the Province Underground?”
Now Joel smiled. He knew telling his true father’s successor would be a good thing.
Red Wolf’s Vision
Red Wolf Moondancer used to be part of the Master’s Dominionite Army, but that was eons ago. Now, he was a confused ex-Dominionite who longed for the days before the Wars for Power.
To see him, Red Wolf was an ordinary wolf-man, standing on furry human legs, baring a thick fur tail with a burgundy tip. He even had the face of a half-human, half-wolf. His wolf snout may have been pushed in on his face as he kept this Companion shape, but it still allowed him to sniff out danger and food from miles away. His wolf ears resembled those of a fairy elf or a sprite, pointed and furry. They acted as his sonar when hunting, helping him listen if any creatures were approaching. His eyes were human, allowing him to see color instead of the usual wolf-like black-and-white.
Maybe this form was one reason he was chosen – abducted from his own family – to become a part of the Dominionite Warrior Army? At first, he didn’t mind fighting against the very barbarians who he thought killed his own family. He wasn’t that young of a pup when he was taken away. His mother, Celeste, cried when she found out. Her Dweller powers, the clan of vampire-like hunters she was born from, allowed him to see that in his mind, day after day. His father, Chase, was furious, but his power was taken from him. The memories of his lost family plagued him, keeping his mind focused on the mission. Kill all Ancient Mystics. They were the enemy.
As he found out, Red Wolf hadn’t been the only one abducted from his family. There were Companions of all breeds, from feline, to canine, equine, bovine, pachyderm, amphibian, and birds. Not one of the Goddess Dana’s Creatures were spared, and that didn’t make either of the Elemental Goddesses happy. All they could do was stand in the Realm of the Ancients and keep watch over the Wars for Power in the Dream Realm.
Fortunately for him, Red Wolf met a similar wolf pup and became fast friends with the Timber Wolf. His name was Wolfton Stargazer, but he went by the name Wolf. Red Wolf thought it was amusing that they had similar names, so Wolf suggested the nickname “Red” for him. They were inseparable, sharing common traits and instincts as they were paired to lead teams of Seekers. The Seekers were those with heightened senses of smell, hearing, and sight, to guard any oncoming attacks from the Ancient Mystic Warriors.
One night, Wolf grew restless and decided to look around. It was the dead of night and the two pups were on watch together. Red knew his canine friend was going to find something. He was afraid, so he stayed behind, waiting. To his dismay, it was something neither Wolf Companion wanted to see or hear.
Wolfton came back, his wolf-human face white with terror. He gathered the Brigade together to tell them something shocking. They were fighting for the wrong side. After that, Wolf led the Rebellion against the Master Orthos once the Wars were officially over. When Wolf left with a feline consort, Toby Snow, and the entire Brigade of Warriors suddenly against the Master Orthos, Red Wolf Moondancer chose to stay behind.
In doing so, he lost the best Companion friend he ever had. Of course, the Dominionite Warriors and Orthos lost the Wars for Power, and soon were Exiled by the Crusaders. Red Wolf remembered the day as it played in his mind.
He was called to battle once more by the Master’s son, Damian. He protested, but the Merchant’s power was greater than even Red Wolf’s stealth and skill, so he went along with the new Warrior Pack. Before he knew it, he was standing beside Companions he once fought with, ready for battle. He didn’t want to fight, for he knew the truth. He just wanted the senseless fighting to end. It was no use. The Merchant had Red Wolf’s power in the palm of his hands, using it against him. Red Wolf stood behind Orthos, ready for a command that never came.
Lord Guardian approached in his human-male form, one that intimidated with ease. Behind him were the Dream Realm Crusaders, ready to kill them all. The Young Guardian, feared yet revered, was with him, along with her friends, twin sister, an original Crusader from the Wars, the Shadow, and a strange young black feline-man. There was also a Creature whose eyes he’d seen before, but it wasn’t until the Creature spoke and shifted to a Gargoyle that Red Wolf recognized him. The former Maximaniac, an Originator (and now Lord of the Grey Area’s Shady Kingdom) who had Banished himself for a woman, the Ancient Mystic bride of the Master, Jezebel.
Red Wolf stood silent, anxious to do something but curious as to what was going on. Was there to be another senseless War, killing those Companions and Warriors that were left? He hoped not. His eyes surveyed his opponents, only to see the friendly faces of Wolfton Stargazer and Tobias Snow. Why were a feline and canine working together? He wondered. It was against nature for the two breeds to be friends, let alone on the same side. That’s when he saw Wolfton’s hand clutching that of another feline, the Merchant’s cousin Katherine Hawk. Toby’s arm was held by Katherine’s sister Kitten’s Claw. Red Wolf saw the unusual glowing crystals around each of the four Companion’s necks and knew they regained their powers.
Good for them, bad for the Master.
It didn’t take long before one of the Crusaders, later named Young Aaron, used his own bit of Unicorn Magic power against the Merchant, calling the Exiling Spell to send him wherever. Of course, the Master Orthos wasn’t happy, but Lord Guardian wouldn’t let him do anything against Aaron or the other Crusaders, especially the Young Guardian. Soon, the battle between the Lord Guardian and the Master himself. Once Lord Guardian called his own Ancient’s Spell to Exile his evil brother, the Warriors were free to go. Before he left, Red Wolf caught one last glance at his best Companion friend. Wolf met his eyes and nodded, holding Katherine close. Katherine saw the interaction between them and smiled before leading her canine beau toward the Ancient Mystic Palace.
It was the last he saw of Wolf for a long time. Since the Crusades ended, the once-Dominionites and Warrior Army were homeless. Lord Guardian himself had named his other brother Maximaniac the Lord over the now-colorless Dominion Realm. Dark Tower was crumbled to the ground with the rest of the now-Old Dominion. It didn’t take long to find out who would be his Lady Queen. Jezebel, now seeing the err of her ways, turned her back on the Master and was allowed to return to the Dream Realm. Once adding a new Princess, Tempest, who was born in the Crusades, the old realm had a new name. The Grey Area.
In the present, Red Wolf practiced his fighting stances and such, just in case another War was declared. He was deep in meditation before another exercise when he heard a familiar voice.
“Red Wolf...” It was a Goddess-like voice, gentle and soft.
His eyes snapped open and he reached for his short-sword’s hilt, standing.
“Who is there?”
He saw her figure ahead of him, in a form that reminded him of his mother. She was in a wolf-maiden form, looking the female counterpart of Red Wolf himself. The image in front of him was faint, also reminding him of his mother’s Astral image.
“Kneel before me, Chikité Moondancer.” The voice echoed, outstretching one of her Goddess-like hands to him. “I mean you no harm, so you may take your paw off the weapon.”
He obeyed, both taking his hand cautiously off the short-sword and kneeling in front of her. He didn’t know why, but he took her hand and attempted to kiss it. As he took it, he got the image of the night he was abducted.
Red Wolf knew immediately who this woman figure was, and how she knew his full Companion blood name. “Matéré.” He whispered in his native language. Matéré meant mother.
Celeste Moondancer nodded her canine-human head. “Aye, my Donar, I have returned to you.”
“How? I thought the Master stole your power before the Wars?” Red Wolf inquired.
“You forget my Dweller-kin ties, Chikité, as well as your own.” Celeste remarked. “Master only knew how to take the Companion powers away. I am not a Companion, so I do not have the powers. You are only half-Companion, from your Pérat.”
Pérat meant father.
“What about the Wars?” Red Wolf asked. “And the other Companions? How have you survived all this time?”
“Lord Guardian’s only Donar taught us well.” Celeste explained. “He explained we had not lost our inner spirit voice, which fuels and controls our Companion power.”
“You mean Braken Joel Hawk?” Red Wolf asked and she nodded. “The very child of Lady Sibylline’s with his own Ancient Mystic powers?”
“Aye, Donar,” Again, she nodded and laughed.
Red Wolf couldn’t believe the rumors regarding the Balinese feline were true. That didn’t matter. What mattered was his Matéré was alive. “Is Pérat still alive, too?”
“Aye, but we know not where we are.” Celeste’s soft voice replied. “We are surrounded by many Elders who shared the same fate. Braken Joel tells us we are in what he calls the Underground. He has since disappeared, leaving us wondering.”
The Underground. Red Wolf vaguely recalled the hidden place, or where it was. He made up his mind.
“I will find you, Matéré.” He bowed his head to her as he remained knelt.
Celeste placed a hand atop his head, whispering. “I do not doubt it, Donar.”
When he looked up at her again, she disappeared.
Red Wolf gathered what he needed for a long journey, including weapons for hunting and protection. He went nowhere without them. In order to leave the Grey Area, he had to have permission from Lord Maximaniac himself.
It would not be easy, Red Wolf thought, but neither would be finding his family again.
Swallowing the nervous lump in his throat, Red Wolf Moondancer, former Warrior with the Dominionite Army, walked toward the Lord and Lady’s thrones. Lord Maximaniac was deep in discussion with one of his delegates when he approached. When he knelt in front of his Lord, the short-sword scraped on the hard floor, startling Maximaniac.
“My Lord Maximaniac, I am Red Wolf Moondancer, former Dominionite Warrior sent to this realm for rehabilitation.” Red Wolf started, not meeting his Lord’s eyes. “I wish you grant me permission to leave the Grey Area on a journey I must take.”
“Rise, Red Wolf Moondancer.” Lord Maximaniac’s voice was kind. “Tell me why I should grant such a request?”
Red Wolf stood, now meeting his Lord’s eyes. “I have found my family, and wish to free them from the Underground.”
Maximaniac stood from his throne after waving the delegate away. He stepped down to face the ex-Warrior pup who used to fight with the Master himself.
“Do you know where the Underground is, Red Wolf?” Maximaniac asked.
Red Wolf shook his head no. “Nay, my Lord, which is why I want to find it.”
Maximaniac stroked his human chin, his grey eyes on the pup. “I know of your experience in survival arts, which is why I grant your leave.”
Red Wolf smiled, relieved.
“But, you will not go alone, under any circumstances.” Maximaniac commented. “Is that clear, Red Wolf Moondancer?”
Red Wolf bowed his head. “Aye, my Lord.”
“Relax. I will send you to the best Companion for the job.” Maximaniac replied, allowing Red Wolf to relax once again.
“Who, my Lord Maximaniac?”
“His name is Sire Wolfton Stargazer.” Maximaniac told him.
Wolfton? “Wolf!” The pup’s eyes flashed at the name.
“Aye, but with him no longer a Warrior such as yourself, he was given land of his own to rule.” Maximaniac explained. “He and Lady Katherine live in the Canine Valley.”
Another name he remembered from the Wars.
“Katherine Hawk? A Lady?” Red Wolf was incredulous. “Is she not one of Orthos’ nieces, though? How could she be the royal title of Lady?”
“Although it is unfortunate she is the Master’s niece, she is also an Ancient Mystic.”
“Who is her mother?”
“None other than Queen Lady Sibylline of the Epsilon.” Maximaniac told him. “If you wish to begin your search, go to the Canine Valley, nearly hidden in the Ancient Mystic Province.”
The new knowledge made Red Wolf’s head spin. “What if he does not remember me? Or if he does not wish to help me?”
“I assure you, pup, Wolf will remember you.” Maximaniac clapped him on the back, startling him. “As for helping you, he is bound to it by the Crusader Oath.”
“‘To help those in need, whenever deemed.’” Red Wolf quoted. “Maybe someday, I will be a Companion Crusader.”
“I do not doubt it for a minute.” Lord Maximaniac bid him farewell and sent him on his way.
Red Wolf began his journey to the Canine Valley. It didn’t take long, using his memories from the Wars. Soon, he was deep in the dark forest of the Canine Woods. He could smell venison cooking on a nearby fire, and his stomach ached for a taste.
As he stepped closer, he heard something behind him. Grasping his bow from his back, Red Wolf was armed and ready for anything. The noise came from the top of a nearby tree. He stood poised in case whatever it was decided to jump him.
Just as he had thought, whatever it was jumped out of the tree and toppled him to the ground. His bow was thrown out of reach by some strange, unknown power. He wanted to get it, but the attacker’s weight held him down.
“Who sent you?” The attacker’s voice growled, making Red Wolf face him. Around his neck hung a charm from the Mistresses, which gave him the power of speed and agility. He could faintly make out the face.
A wolf-man’s face he’d known years before. Red Wolf stayed silent, but a hand grasped at his throat, nearly choking him.
“Lord Maximaniac of the Grey Area.” He choked. With one swift move, he grabbed his attacker’s hand and threw him across the dirt.
This enabled Red Wolf to stand and grab his bow, putting it away before confronting his attacker.
The attacker spat the mud out of his mouth, stumbling to stand. Obviously defeated, he sat on the ground, rubbing his jaw.
“Believe it or not, I came in peace.” Red Wolf replied, lending the stranger a hand up.
“If you come in peace, why bring weapons of war?” The attacker coughed up blood when he caught his breath, spitting it to the ground.
“For a journey I am on.” Red Wolf supplied. “You could at least greet a former Warrior brother with a handshake instead of attacking him.”
It took a moment, but his attacker, the renowned Sire Wolfton Stargazer, regained his senses. The two wolves stared at each other. Wolfton, commonly known as Wolf, stood slowly, grasping Red Wolf’s hand. Red Wolf helped his old friend off the dirty ground.
“Sorry about that, but old habits die hard.” Wolf replied.
“Aye.” Red Wolf agreed. “Do you remember me, Warrior Wolf?”
Wolf shook his head. “Those days are over. I am no longer a Warrior, but a Companion Crusader.” He rubbed his jaw and looked at him. “I cannot say I remember you. Do not feel bad, I do not remember most about the Wars for Power, nor do I wish to.”
“Understandable.” Red Wolf found his belt pouch and pulled a homemade salve out of it. He took a fallen leaf and applied the salve on his friend’s wound. “I am Red Wolf Moondancer, but you knew me as Red.”
Wolf had to do a double-take. “Red?” He whispered, and his friend nodded. “It surely has been a long time!”
“Not too long.” Red Wolf supplied. “I was there when Lord Guardian and the Crusaders Exiled the Master.”
“That was not long ago, indeed.” Wolf smiled as much as he could without showing pain. He wrapped an arm around his friend’s shoulder and led him out of the Woods. “Come. A lot has changed since the Crusades ended.”
Before long, Red Wolf had reunited with Katherine Hawk and met their daughter Celine. Katherine sensed the pain her canine husband was in and went to him. Red Wolf watched as her hands turned colors on Wolf’s facial wound. Her eyes were closed until the colors stopped. When she removed her hands, the wound was gone.
“There, all better now?” Katherine kissed the spot she’d healed, which made Wolf blush.
“Aye, thank you.” Wolf replied. “Red has come to join us.”
Red Wolf was about to protest about joining them, but he was interrupted.
“Red. Now, why does that name seem familiar?” Katherine asked, staring into Red Wolf’s eyes. “I remember now. Red Wolf Moondancer, is it?”
He nodded, smelling the venison and licking his lips. His stomach rumbled. Katherine smiled at him, setting a place for him to eat at the table. Once Celine was sent away with her cousin Tiger-White, it was time for business.
“What took you so long to visit?” Katherine smiled as she asked. “The Wars and Crusades are long over, and there is peace once again in our world.”
“I have come to ask Wolf to accompany me on a journey.” Red Wolf explained the vision of his mother to the couple.
Katherine was sitting by now, fascinated by the revelation. “If your family is still alive, surely that would mean yours as well, Wolf?”
Wolf was deep in thought, thinking it over. “Aye, I will join you. I wish to know if my parents and brothers still live.”
“Do you know where the Underground is?” Red Wolf asked.
Wolf shook his head, looking to Katherine.
“Celeste told you Braken Joel knows?” Katherine replied. “The obvious choice would be to go to him.”
“Where is he?” Red Wolf and Wolf echoed. Katherine shrugged.
“Can you not use the Ancient Mystic’s Empathy to find him?” Wolf asked her.
“I guess, my love, but it would be difficult.” She answered. The canines stared at her. “I will try.” She promised, closing her eyes.
Her frown turned into a smile when she opened them again. “That was easy. He is at the Feline Palace with Panther, Young Guardian, and Toby.”
Red Wolf knew Toby well, he was a tiger feline who also used to be a Warrior. He remembered Young Guardian, the Lord Guardian’s own successor. It would be the first time Red Wolf ever met her in person.
“Hurry you two, or you’ll miss them!” Katherine shooed them out once Wolf packed his gear. She kissed her husband’s lips. “Be careful, Wolfton Stargazer! You do not wish to miss the birth of your son!”
The statement startled Wolf, but before he could question her, Katherine playfully shoved him and a laughing Red Wolf out the door.
Journey to the Underground
It didn’t take long for Wolf and Red to reach the Feline Palace. Panther Grey, once a Crusader, now a Companion-Crusader answered the door. Red was awed by the new Companion the moment he lay eyes on the black panther feline.
“Red Wolf, I would like you to meet my Heart-Brother, Panther Grey.” Wolf was proud as he introduced them.
“Come in, Wolf. Ariana’s here with Joel, you know.” Panther said, leading them.
“How can a feline be your brother?” Red Wolf was confused.
“When the Master Banished me to the Outer Realm, it was his body I was Banished to.” Wolf explained, smiling. “Come, meet your Young Guardian.”
“I hear my title.” Young Guardian came from the shadows to smile at her canine friend. “Who do you wish me to meet?”
Red Wolf kneeled immediately, seeing the Jewels of the Province pinned to her gown. She wore a tunic belt that carried her wand and a short-sword of her own. “I am Red Wolf Moondancer.”
“Nice to meet you, Red Wolf, but I’m uncomfortable with the Companions kneeling to me.” Ariana’s voice was light, and she smiled when their eyes met. “Where do you live?”
Red Wolf nodded. “The Grey Area’s Shady Kingdom.”
“Lord Max’s domain. How is he these days?” Young Guardian asked. “I haven’t the energy after patrolling to visit.”
“He is well, to be expected from him, I guess.” Red Wolf stammered. “He granted me leave on a special quest.”
“He believes he has found his family.” Wolf replied. “In the Underground.”
“Funny, that’s what I’m here for.” Young Guardian laughed, telling her story of Braken Joel’s visit to the Outer Realm.
“Aye,” came the voice of Braken Joel Hawk as he stood beside them. He saw who she was talking to and nodded. “Sire Wolfton, Companion Red Wolf. Have you come to join the quest?”
Red Wolf told his story, to which the Young Guardian smiled.
She hugged Wolf. “This is perfect! A giant family reunion! Oh!” Young Guardian turned, racing to another room, where Tobias Snow was waiting patiently. The boys followed.
“You’ll join the quest, Toby.” She told him.
“What quest?” Toby was confused but intrigued. When she explained, he was shocked. “Mama. Papa. ‘Kita.” He looked to his Young Guardian friend’s smiling face. “In the Province Underground? Is this true, Ariana?”
She nodded, hugging him. “Aren’t you happy?”
“You would never guess how much.” Toby replied. He turned to Braken Joel. “So, this is what you truly summoned me here, for, then?”
Braken Joel nodded, smiling. “I will lead you to the Underground, to your families.” He saw a confused Panther Grey sitting on the sidelines, listening to the conversation. “I apologize for using your home as a meeting Palace, but it was the only way I could get them together.”
Panther still didn’t know what to think about the Elder Feline brother of Katherine Hawk. “If it was necessary, Braken Joel, I understand. It’s too bad you just missed Marie and Destiny.”
“I will greet them another time.” Braken Joel supplied. “For now, we must be going.”
“To bring home the Elders!” Young Guardian cried.
“To bring home the Elders!” Cried Braken Joel, Toby, Wolf, and Red Wolf after her.
“We rest here.” Declared Braken Joel, setting his gear down on the Province ground.
“We have to keep going.” Red Wolf exclaimed in a low growl. “Matéré is waiting.”
Young Guardian looked to him. “We rest, Companion.” She remarked. With the help of Braken Joel and Wolf, she sat on the ground. “I tire easily nowadays. Besides, I don’t even know where to go.”
“Which is why I lead this convoy.” Braken Joel replied.
In an effort to distract his friend, Wolf replied. “Toby, we need wood for a fire. Will you take Red and collect it?”
Toby knew what his old Warrior friend was up to. “Certainly. Come, Red.”
The two of them left, with Braken Joel collecting stones.
Young Guardian was interested. “What are you doing, Joel?”
“Setting a barrier around us, so we are not disturbed.” Braken Joel replied simply.
She knew when to listen and when to speak. This was definitely a time to keep her mouth shut. As an Ancient Mystic, she knew the importance of survival magic, and didn’t question his actions any further.
“Are you able to shift?” Wolf asked.
“I don’t know how, Wolf.” Ariana supplied. “Even if I did, I wouldn’t know how long I’d be able to hold the shape, or even what to shift into.”
Wolf smiled. “Why not try my shape? You are a powerful Ancient Mystic, especially in this world. It would only be your mind that shifts, not your body, so the babe would not be harmed.”
“Just because I’m not pregnant now doesn’t mean I’m not in my world.” Ariana told her Canine Companion friend. “My mind, Magic, and emotions are going through hell right now. I don’t think I’d be able to shift, even if I could.”
“Enough, Young Guardian!” Wolf laughed. “I merely wanted someone to hunt with, that’s all. No need for the lecture.”
“Oh.” Ariana said softly. She thought about shifting, and how fun it would be. She knew enough about wolves, thanks to him, but to become one? She sighed.
“What are you sighing about?” Came Braken Joel’s voice. He had finished with the correct spells to seal them inside a bubble of magic. “Are you exhausted already?”
“No, it’s not that.” Ariana remarked. “I was wondering if I could change my form.”
Braken Joel smiled, changing from a feline-man to a full Balinese feline. You are Ancient Mystic, as am I. You are also my father’s successor, bearing great magic of the Ancients. Did he not say you can do anything your heart and mind desires?
She pet him as he sat beside her, head on her crossed legs. “I never tried before. How do I do it? It’s not like I’m half-Companion already like you are. I’m full mortal, and that’s all.”
That’s not all and you know it. Braken Joel sent back, purring. Think of yourself as the animus and you will become it.
Ariana looked down to her Companion friend before glancing at Wolf, who was listening intently to the one-sided conversation. Not being telepathic, Wolf couldn’t hear the Balinese’s thoughts.
“You really think I can do it?” Ariana asked them.
“Only way to know is to try.” Wolf suggested.
Ariana pat Braken Joel’s head, saying. “That’s it. Up, Joel. I want to try it out.”
Wolf stood with her. “You do not have to, my friend.”
“You long for a hunting partner? Who better than me?” Ariana grinned.
Wolf watched as she closed her eyes and took deep breaths. She began to change form, from a full-human to a full female wolf. She looked up at Wolf with wide, canine eyes.
What do you think? She sent to him.
Time to hunt. Wolf changed his form and the two were off.
When they came back, they changed back to themselves. In Ariana’s hand were two rabbits.
Braken Joel congratulated her, telling Red Wolf and Toby what she’d done.
“You can shift?” Toby asked. “I never knew.”
“It’s terribly draining.” Ariana told him. “I only lasted until I caught a rabbit. My head began to ache, and I shifted back. Wolf changed form and nursed me until I was better. I have him to thank.”
“Good job, brother.” Toby clapped Wolf on the back.
“How is he your brother?” Red Wolf asked.
“I am married to his wife’s twin sister.” Wolf replied.
“By the way, Braken Joel...” Toby started, pulling Joel away before Red Wolf could do anything else.
“I will start the fire. The night is getting chilly.” Red Wolf announced, turning away.
“Did I say something wrong, Red?” Wolf asked his former Warrior friend.
Red Wolf shook his head. “Nay, I have a lot on my mind.”
When he was gone, Ariana stared after him.
“Do not fret over him, Ariana.” Wolf supplied. “We used to be Warriors together. He misses his family as much as Toby and I miss ours.”
“There’s something different about him, though.” Ariana announced. “Something that’s just not right.”
“If you mean his wishing to be alone all the time, you have nothing to worry about.”
Ariana turned back to Wolf. “What do you mean?”
“I should not tell you this, but since you are his Young Guardian as well, I suppose I should.” Wolf said. “I swore him to secrecy during the Wars.”
“Is it bad?”
“Just tell me, Wolf. Please.”
“Very well.” Wolf replied. “It all started in the Wars. He and I were on the same watch when I sensed something wrong in the air. Red was beside me, guarding a large gem only the Master knew about at the time. Both of us wanted to investigate, so we called two Warriors to take our places. We followed our senses to the Perilous Forest. He ran ahead when he supposedly sensed something nearby. He disappeared in the massive group of trees, so I took a chance and sang for him.”
“Wolves sing to each other, letting them know of joy, sorrow, food, or danger.” Wolf explained. “The song I got back was not the one I expected. Instead of the fresh hunt song, I got the kill song. To a wolf, the kill song heard meant the singer was in danger. Quickly, I raced to where I heard the song. To my surprise, there he was, hunched over a male Dreamer. I saw two bite marks in the Dreamer’s neck and shifted immediately. Once sensing me behind him, he dropped his victim. Thankfully, the mortal was still breathing, but barely.
“There was blood dripping from his mouth. I asked him what had he done, to which he replied. ‘I Hungered, so I Fed.’ I thought he meant the hunger calls of a wolf, but I was mistaken. That’s when he told me. He was half-Dweller, half-Mountain Wolf Companion.”
“Okay, I’m confused.” Ariana replied. “He’s what?”
“His mother Celeste is from a race of vampire-like hunters called Dwellers.” Wolf explained. “I do not know much about it, but I know he is very sensitive when it comes to his kind.”
“So, what does Hungered mean?”
“He Hungered for blood, so he took it from the nearest victim he could find.” Wolf said. He looked over to the camp fire, finding Red lighting it with a deep purple-and-red fire magic. “He is a gentle soul underneath, if not confused. Strong and dependable – he was one of the best Warriors in the Master’s Army.”
“You can’t hide that wistful stare from me, Wolfton Stargazer.” Ariana grinned. “I know you too well. You wish to be in the Warrior Army again.”
“Never!” Wolf announced. “I was crushed enough to find myself fighting on the wrong side. I never want to be a Warrior again.”
“What about your own Army?” Ariana asked. “After all, the Canine Valley always needs watching over.”
This statement got Wolf’s attention. “Who would be in it?”
Now Ariana looked to Red. He was sitting in front of the campfire in his full-Mountain Wolf Companion form, smiling as he stared at it. Wolf looked to where her eyes went.
Ariana nodded. “Why not? He was your good friend, wasn’t he?”
Wolf grinned at her. “I will speak to him about it if you will speak to Lord Guardian about a Canine Valley Army.”
“No problem there.” Ariana said.
“Thank you for the suggestion, Young Guardian.”
Ariana stood from her sitting position with his help. “Anytime, Sire Wolfton.”
Renegades and Revolutionaries
“How far is it, Braken Joel?” Ariana asked, heaving her own gear up a treacherous trail.
“Not much farther, Ariana.” Joel remarked with a smile. “Shifting would make it easier, you know.”
“I know, but who’ll carry my pack?” Ariana grinned back. “Just lead on. I can’t wait to meet their families. They must have some history stuck in their heads.”
“The only way to learn is to listen, agree?” Wolf asked, coming up beside her. “The Stargazers and the Moondancers are two of the oldest families in all the Realms.”
“My family is immortal.” Red Wolf came up on her other side. He grinned before trekking ahead of them, staying behind Joel.
“He is a strange Companion.” Ariana remarked. “I like him.”
Wolf laughed. “I knew you would.”
They climbed up a hill until Braken Joel stopped.
Ariana went up to him. “What is it, Joel?”
Joel pointed to a tree that stood over fifty feet tall. “Entrance to the Underground is beneath the Elder Tree. Follow me.”
At the tree’s trunk, they stopped again. Ariana walked around it, guessing its width was at least five yards around. She felt around the trunk, noting the bark’s texture. “This is amazing!”
She continued to feel the bark until her hand hit a knot. To her surprise, the knot moved. Afraid, she stepped back.
“Did I do something wrong?”
“Nay, you found the key.” Joel told her. “The entrance awaits.”
Sure enough, there was a small opening, just enough to fit a mid-size Companion.
“Leave the gear here. It will be safe.” Joel replied. “Time to shift.”
At that, he shifted to his full Companion form. He waited at the entrance for the others to shift. Once they did, only Ariana remained in her mortal-form. Wolf waited for her in his own Timber Wolf form.
Come, his head beckoned. Wolf’s tail wagged in excitement as he watched her shift to her own female-wolf form. We go.
Side by side, they loped through the winding tunnels of the Underground. The tunnel trails led to a large area, which housed more than sixty small homes. The homes were circled around a well. There were Companion children playing, running around the well and laughing.
Ariana was so awed by the sight of the small village, she shifted back. She hadn’t been the first. The first had been Joel, who was now standing in the middle of the small village, shooing the children away. He stood on the well’s edge and announced.
“The Wars are over, and it is safe to come out.” Joel cried, echoing his voice with Magic so all could hear. “The time has come for us to return to Dream Realm society.”
Ariana stood and stared while the villagers dared come out of their homes. Beside her, Wolf, Toby and Red Wolf changed forms. She could feel their excitement.
“What if they do not remember me?” Wolf was mumbling under his breath.
Ariana looked to him and held his hand. “They’ll remember you. You’re their son.”
Wolf exchanged a smile with her before hearing a woman calling his name.
Both looked and found a Timber-Wolf Companion woman running up to them. As they embraced, Wolf cried, “Matéré!”
“It has been too long, my Donar.” Wolf’s mother announced as she broke from the hug. “Who are your friends?”
“You tell her.” Wolf replied to Ariana. “I need to find Pérat, Strath and Toriam.”
“They are hunting, but will return later.”
Before Ariana could open her mouth, they heard a scream. “Joel!”
A young feline, looking like a female version of Toby Snow, raced up to him and gave Joel a hug and kiss on the lips. “I knew you would return!” The feline announced, hugging him extra hard.
“Nikita, behave around your Young Guardian.” Joel supplied gently, sharing a grin with Ariana.
At this, Nikita drew back and knelt to Ariana’s feet. “It is an honor to finally meet you, Young Guardian.”
“Pleasure’s mine, Nikita...”
“White-Snow.” She finished.
“Do I get a hug, ‘Kita?” Toby’s voice came from behind Ariana.
She squealed, standing. “My, you have grown handsome, little brother.” Nikita hugged Toby, who laughed.
“Not only that, I am wiser and older.” Toby told her, pecking his older sister on the cheek. “Where are our parents?”
“In the den, come!” Nikita cried. She winked at Joel. “Would you like to join us?”
“Certainly my dear.” Braken Joel smiled. He turned to Ariana. “We will meet up with you later.”
Ariana couldn’t help laughing out loud. “Imagine that. Joel’s in love with Toby’s sister! Here, I thought he was a loner!”
Wolf laughed with her.
“That is where you are wrong.” A female voice growled gently. She curtseyed to Ariana. “I am Celeste Moondancer, Chikité’s Matéré.” She saw Ariana’s eyes narrow at the word ‘Matéré’, so she supplied. “‘Mother’ in the Ancient Wolf Tongue.” Ariana nodded at that, and she rose. “Few of us remember it, and fewer of us actually use it. The kin-packs still use it, from time to time.”
Celeste now faced Red Wolf. “Why do you hide from me, my Donar? Do you still despise who you are?”
Red Wolf shook his head. “Nay, Matéré, but I wish to be called by another name. Red Wolf.”
“You are ashamed of your Dweller-kin ties.” Celeste went on. “Come, there is someone I wish you to meet.” She turned to Ariana again, nodding. “You may come too, if you wish.”
“Go.” Wolf supplied. He was still standing by his mother’s side. “I will find my family and meet you later.”
With a grin and a sigh, Ariana supplied. “What are we waiting for?”
As they walked, Celeste asked her. “Do you know what a Dweller is?”
Not wanting to say her wolf Companion friend had told her, she replied. “No, what is it?”
“I come from a clan of vampire-like hunters in the Outer Realm called Dwellers.” Celeste replied. “We walk the night, searching for the life-giving fluid of mortals and our turned kin, who we call Stalkers. The Stalkers are like real vampires of your world, hunting and killing for the fun of it. Most Dwellers just hunt to survive. Others are chosen Hunters, Hunting the Stalkers and destroying them on site.”
“Amazing.” Ariana breathed.
“My kin-Clan were called the Apprentices.” Celeste supplied sadly. “Of hundreds, only my brother Daniel and myself are left.”
Ariana was silent, digesting the information.
The trio came upon a cavern, which was hidden from the rest of the village.
“You are welcome into my home.” Celeste remarked as she pulled back a curtain. Inside, both Ariana and Red Wolf saw nothing but darkness.
“Chase, we have visitors.” Celeste called into the air.
Out of the shadows came an older Mountain Wolf Companion and a younger version of Celeste. Ariana and Red Wolf exchanged glances.
Once they were out in the open, the male greeted them. “Chikité...” His thin mouth formed a welcoming smile.
“Pérat? Who is this girl?” Red Wolf asked when he shook his father’s hand.
Chase touched the girl’s shoulder, forcing her to come from behind his legs. “Go on, child. Introduce yourself to your brother.”
“I am Cherokee.” She announced softly. “Are you Chikité?”
“I go by Red Wolf now.” Red Wolf announced. “But, aye. I am.”
Cherokee raced to embrace him. “You have come for us! I knew you would!”
“You do not know that, dear girl.” Chase supplied.
“It is time, Chase.” Celeste kissed her wolf husband’s ear. “Braken Joel has returned for us, as promised.”
“Where will we go my sweet?”
Celeste looked to Ariana. “Where will we go?”
“Wherever you were before, I guess.” Ariana answered. “Where were you before the Wars?”
“In the Outer Realm, with my kin.” Celeste remarked. “Only, Enchantra and Lord Guardian made a deal with me. In order to be with Chase, who was born and raised and fought with the Ancient Mystic Army in this world, I would stay here with him while my kin and I rested. At night, he would return with me. Thanks to me, he is now a Dweller-Companion, and must be with the kin-Clans.”
“What about now? I’m sure, if I spoke to O’Dell, he would grant you a place of your own here in the Province.” Ariana said.
Celeste and Chase gasped.
“How dare you disrespect Lord Guardian!” Chase huffed.
“I’m not disrespecting him.” Ariana replied. “Let me introduce myself correctly. My Earthbound name is Ariana Reading. I am the Young Guardian of the Dream Realm. I am not only O’Dell’s great-granddaughter, but I’m also his successor and an Ancient Mystic. It was his idea I call him and the other Originators by their given names.”
Celeste stared at her, her bright red eyes aglow. To Ariana, this usually meant a Dominionite in disguise. This wasn’t the case in Celeste. She had the same feeling about her Red Wolf did. Oddly enough, she felt harmless.
“I believe you.”
“You should. It’s only been destined since I was born.” Ariana remarked lightly. She sensed something in the air, closing her eyes and listening with her empathic ears. “We’re to go now. If you want to come with us, you can. That’s what we’re here for.”
“You promise to speak to Lord Guardian on our behalf?”
“A promise made by the Young Guardian is always a promise fulfilled.” Ariana smiled at Cherokee.
It didn’t take long to gather the village together. Once they were ready to go, Braken Joel and Nikita White-Snow led the large group, with her family directly behind her.
Ariana took up the middle, where she caught up with the Moondancers and Wolfton’s family, the Stargazers. She saw Cherokee walking hand-in-hand with a Timber Wolf brother of Wolfton’s he named Toriam. They seemed so happy together. Wolfton, she saw, wasn’t exactly happy with the way he found his family-pack.
“Cheer up, Wolf.” Ariana joked, catching his arm and wrapping her own through it. “I thought you’d be excited to see your family again?”
“I am happy.” He growled softly, so soft, only he and Ariana could hear. “I could not believe how much they have changed. Used to be they would never permit felines to speak with them. Now, they are friends?”
“What about you and Kat?” Ariana countered. “Isn’t your relationship the same thing?”
“Ours is one of love, not necessity.”
“So it was necessary for your parents to befriend their rival species?”
“No, hear me out.” Ariana responded. “Don’t you think a hatred that lasted centuries could be eliminated by more than mere necessity?”
Wolf pulled away, shifting his form and racing ahead. Turning to the nearest Companion, she told them to carry her pack while she shifted to race after him. She found him deep within the forest.
“You can’t run away from this forever, Wolf, and you know it.” Ariana howled in wolf-speak.
“I run from nothing.” He responded, stopping only to say it.
“You are or I wouldn’t be chasing after you.” She growled after him. “What are you running from? Telling your parents who you grew to become?”
“I am nothing in their eyes. They left me for dead.” Wolf commented with an angry bark.
“They had no choice.” Now that she had him stopped in his tracks, she shifted form. “I know how it feels to be left on your own, but I don’t let that stop me from being who I am. Regardless of the past, you are who you are.”
Wolf walked up to her. She knelt to embrace him.
“Don’t be afraid of telling them.” Ariana whispered, hugging his neck. “If anything, they’ll be proud of you.”
He looked up at her. “You do not understand. I found them only to find they had changed drastically. My brothers have grown hard, when they used to be playful. My parents hardly speak to each other when they used to love one another as Kat and I do.”
“You’ve said so yourself. War and chaos changes people, even Companions.” She supplied. “They may not be the same now as when you knew them in the Wars, but I ask you this. Are you the same man you were back then?”
Wolf shook his canine head, finally changing form. He began to walk on two legs, with her beside him. “Speak of this episode to no one.”
“Not even Kat?”
“Not even Kat.” He remarked, walking ahead of her.
“Will you tell them about your marriage?”
He stopped again, turning to face her. “Enough!” He stomped away, now angry.
Behind him, Ariana shook her head, worried for the brilliant but troubled mind of her canine Companion friend.
Memories bothered her mind as she slept with the Companion camp. She didn’t know where they were coming from, or what they were about. In them, she was holding a dark book. When she opened it, she saw the darkest of spells. The spells, curses, incantations and information she recognized as being those of Dark Mystic Magic.
Why am I thinking of those now? What is this book and why is it in my memories if I’ve never seen it before?
There was another memory; this time of herself sitting at the bedside of another. They were each in different forms; the one laying in bed was half-cobra, half-Immortal female. Ariana found herself in a form unlike her own; a wolf with dragon’s wings. Her mind came up with a name: Dragonwolf.
The cobra-female spoke in a rasped whisper. “Adellandra, Kanata. I need your help.”
Without asking questions, but letting the memories flow, she took the woman’s hand. “Anything for you, my Mutyrna.”
“Before I pass to the Summerlands, I need you to write down every word of Ancient Mystic Magic I speak to you.” The cobra woman made her look into her silver-golden eyes.
“I will do it, Mutyrna Locarra.”
“My time is short, so we must start right away.”
The cobra-woman named Locarra handed her a book and pen.
For days, the two women wrote down all Mystic Magic spells, information, potions, incantations and stories in that book.
Another scene entered Ariana’s mind. It was months later and the Dragon Nations were at war. Ariana as the Dragonwolf was running, carrying the book in her hands. There were tears in her eyes, and an ache in her heart.
Why are you destroying everything in sight? Why is the Vision-Sickness so intense? What’s going on?
She found a small hutch-cave ahead of her and rushed inside, sealing the door with a quick wave of her arms. Looking at the book again, she shook her head and thought aloud to herself. “I cannot let this fall into the wrong hands, but what can I do with it?”
After a moment of rushed thoughts, she clutched the book to her chest and closed her eyes. “Sight within to sight without, I will not fall, I will not fail. Hide this book within my soul, so no others follow evil’s trail.”
With a bright glowing light, Ariana felt the book sink into her body and soul to disappear. When the light faded, so did her sight and she fainted on the spot.
She awoke from those strange memory-like dreams clutching a black book with writing on it. It was in another language, perhaps Draconian? She was able to read it, which confused her. It said: DemonsBane.
Ariana stood and took DemonsBane with her as she walked around the camp. Something was drawing her to the edge of it, where three dragonlet children were sleeping.
She sensed something familiar in them. The black Spirit-dragonlet’s mind and heart called out to hers. The young dragon hadn’t named himself was protective over his two sisters. Ariana used her empathy and found he had an ache in his heart and soul for his family. His soul revealed he was far from the evil of what his kind were known for around the Realms.
“How innocent you are, young dragonlet?” She told him in a whisper, kneeling down quietly beside him. He was asleep with his wings wrapped around the two identical younger dragonlet sisters beside him.
Something in the back of her mind told her she would once again see these three, one day soon. Until then, she had to retain her duties as Young Guardian and not be tormented by the memories and the book of DemonsBane.
She reached one arm out, barely touching him as she closed her eyes. That’s when she got another, stranger vision.
The three dragonlets in front of her huddled in her own dragon’s wings, and were happy. They called her “Mutyr,” and loved one another very much.
As a surprise, a large dragon they’d called “Dratyr” scooped them all in his own wingspan and kissed each of their cheeks before kissing her lips.
Ariana found herself purring in the form she’d found herself liking from the start: the Dragonwolf. Only one thought came to her mind: “Familia.”
Ariana shook out of the vision and stared at the dragonlet for a moment before setting the task of doing the same to him as she’d seen herself do in her memory. She was going to hide the book of DemonsBane within this strong, innocent dragonlet male’s heart and soul.
It would lay dormant and unused, away from evil forces that were about to come forth and threaten to destroy them all.
When she finished, she felt woozy and returned to her bedding, knowing full well what lay ahead for them would be another war, and they would fight in it.
At the edge of the Ancient Mystic’s Province, Braken Joel Hawk called for a stop. Ariana rushed from her place to stand beside him.
“What are we going to do with them?” Braken Joel asked. “Most of their homes were destroyed.”
“I’ve an idea.” Ariana remarked. She turned to the massive group. “A lot has changed since the Wars and Crusades ended. The Ancient Mystic Palace is bright with magic, your Lord Guardian living there with the Mistress Enchantra. The Ancient Mystic Kingdom Castle stands tall once again, the Kingdom itself led by Lord Byron and Mistress Challandra. The Dominion, you’ll be happy to hear, is gone. Dominionites no longer bother innocent Companion souls. Instead, those who wish rehabilitation are under Lord Maximaniac’s command in what is known as the Grey Area. His bride used to be the Master Orthos’, Jezebel. She has since changed her ways and lives happily with him in the Shady Kingdom.”
“Good for her, but where will we live?” Echoed a minx Companion who had called himself Bram.
The entire group chorused. “Aye.”
“Leave that up to Lord Guardian.” Came an unfamiliar female voice from behind Ariana and Braken Joel.
When Ariana turned, she saw a white feline, tall and beautiful. Around her neck, she saw the symbol of the Dream Realm, five jewels spotting a tiny globe encased in a dream catcher’s webbing. Her eyes were the same as Ariana’s own, silver-blue, but they were cat-shaped.
“Laurynne, I did not see you there.” Braken Joel announced. He turned to Ariana. “Young Guardian, this is perhaps the first Elder Companion born in the Dream Realm. May I introduce to you my sister, Laurynne Silver-Hawk.”
“Pleasure to meet you, Laurynne.”
“Pleasure is all mine,” Laurynne announced softly, bowing to Ariana’s feet.
“Does Father happen to be in?” Braken Joel asked as Laurynne stood.
She surveyed the crowd of Elder Companions, smiling and waving when she saw someone she recognized. Laurynne turned back to her brother and nodded. “Follow me. Companions young and Elder, please, feel free to roam the Province until Lord Guardian calls upon you.”
With that, the Companions from the Underground began to set up camp.
“Sorry, but I have to leave.” Braken Joel replied, winking. “I am taking Nikita home with me.”
“Fare thee well, Joel.” Ariana smiled. She turned to the older of Wolf’s brothers, asking in wonder. “This is a Companion matter. Do I have to stay?”
“Laurynne will take care of the rest.” Strath answered with a slight blush. “She is good at that.”
“You know her?” Ariana teased with a smile.
“We all do.” Strath supplied. “We were childhood sweethearts.” He sighed. “I wonder if she still cares about me?”
Ariana giggled. “I’m sure she does. I saw her staring at you. Go talk to her, Strath.”
With that, she disappeared. Somehow, one more thing was holding her here, and she was about to find out.
Something told her it wasn’t time to go home quite yet. The more she thought about it, the more tiring it seemed. Would she ever go home to the Outer Realm?
Lord Maximaniac’s Decree
Ariana reappeared in the Grey Area, shaking off a chill. She stood in front of the Shady Kingdom’s Castle, wondering why she was brought there. Shrugging, she marched up to the gates, meeting a young woman at the doors.
“Who goes there?” The young woman commanded. Her red-eyes narrowed, glowing. Her skin was pale, as if death was her token of life.
The young woman’s eyes widened. “Business?”
“None of yours. Step aside, Companion.”
“I am no Companion!” The young woman cried. “I am the princess of this castle, Tempest.”
“My apologies, Princess. I’m here to see Lord Max.”
After a suspicious glare, the princess supplied. “Follow me.”
Tempest stalked off, flitting her skirts behind her. Ariana could tell she was rotten, if not spoiled. She knew who Tempest was, but did the Princess?
“I wasn’t aware Lord Max had a daughter your age.” Ariana supplied.
“He does not.” Tempest announced. “I am adopted by the Queen.”
So that’s how she thinks she’s a Princess. Ariana thought. Let her keep thinking that, I suppose.
Tempest led her to the main hall, where Max sat at his throne. He was talking to two Companions she didn’t recognize from behind.
“There he is. Lord Max, Young Guardian to see you.” Tempest announced.
Lord Max looked up with a smile. “Wonderful! See her in, then excuse us.”
The two Companions he was talking to turned to look. To Ariana’s surprise and delight, it were none other than Wolf and Red Wolf.
Something must be going on if that dog’s in on it. Ariana could hear Tempest’s very thoughts, so curious and suspicious. The Princess was every bit as mean as her true mother, and her empathy revealed her nature.
Close your thoughts, Princess. Ariana thought back as she bowed to Lord Max. I can hear you.
With a cry of disbelief, Tempest stomped her foot and stormed out.
“What angered her this time?” Red Wolf growled.
Lord Max supplied, “Why do you not tell me, Young Guardian?”
“She was projecting her thoughts and I told her so.” Ariana stood.
Lord Max’s frown widened to a smile. “Jezebel took up the task of teaching her Magic, but Tempest hates the lessons with a passion.”
“I can see that.” Ariana replied. “On to business. Was I brought here for a reason?”
“Ah, aye.” Lord Max remarked. “The pups claim you helped find the Elder Companions in the Underground.”
“And you rescued them, bringing them to my brother O’Dell.”
“Yes, what?” Ariana started, but he interrupted.
“Did you also claim to help them find homes and reunite with their children?”
“In a way, yes.” Ariana huffed.
“It has been brought to my attention the Canine Valley needs looking after, and you yourself suggested an army to do this.” Max declared. “You have also decided that Red Wolf Moondancer would be a part of this Canine Army. Has something happened in the Canine Valley not even my brother knows about? Something that needs an army to defend it?”
“Not to my knowledge.” Ariana replied.
“I sense a presence there; one so evil, it makes the Master look like a child.” Wolf replied. “I only wish to see my home, and our world safe from all harm. That is why I came to you. I believed, with this mission, Red would be able to regain his lost power and live with me at Stargazer Castle.”
“He is not warranted by Lord Guardian to leave the Grey Area.” Lord Max shook his head. “He still pays a penance for his part in the Wars for Power. His actions helped destroy many hundreds of Companion homes, tearing apart families and kin-packs.”
“Not by my own hand!” Red yelled. “The Merchant and the Maiden had our powers; you know this as well as anyone, my Lord Maximaniac!”
Max was no longer sitting. He stood up with such speed, the three of them cowered.
“Enough!” Maximaniac screamed. “No more insolence!”
“What of myself?” Wolfton responded, getting in Max’s face. “Have I fully paid for what I helped destroy?”
Only he was able to talk back to Max, Ariana thought. All those years together in the same Earthbound mind.
“You became a Companion-Crusader.” Max supplied. “You earned your title in the Crusades, Sire.”
“Why not let Red Wolf earn his?” Ariana stepped in. “He may have his faults, as we all do, but that doesn’t mean he has to pay for what wasn’t his fault to begin with.”
“You have no say in this Ariana Moon!” Max cried.
“I have every say!” Ariana yelled. “I am the Young Guardian. I am Lord Guardian’s eyes and ears. I can generate decisions that can make or break this world. I’ve earned through my life and love of this world my right to stand in Lord Guardian’s place. Now tell me I have no say!”
Max was silent, staring at Ariana’s wild eyes. He could have sworn they were turning colors. Colors he’d only seen with Dominionites that could never be good again.
“You will be silent. All of you.” Max’s voice was level. “Sire Wolfton, can you explain what you sense so madly, and how?”
Wolf shook his canine head. “Nay, my Lord, but I believe my Companion Magic has allowed me to sense these things. If I were an Ancient Mystic, I would be explaining visions. As it is, only my wife is, and she has been away helping Young Guardian in the Outer Realm. She only returned recently, when events here brought her home.”
“Has she told you of any visions concerning this eerie presence?”
“All I know, Max, is something is happening in all realms and all worlds, starting with this one.” Wolf responded.
“Have you felt this presence he speaks of?” Max turned to Ariana.
“I regret I’ve been unable to patrol recently.” Ariana supplied. “On the way back from the Underground, I did feel something odd in the Province. I believe it turned Wolf against himself, having him think of his lost family.”
Max gave Wolf a curious look. “Is this true, Sire Wolfton? You were pitted against yourself?”
Wolf growled at Ariana, then commented. “You could say that, aye.”
“Where were you in all this?” Max asked Red Wolf, who had been kneeling in silence, listening to them talk.
“I was there, with them.” Red Wolf replied. “I felt it when Sire Wolfton changed form and raced off into the wood. I also felt it when Young Guardian did the same and loped after him. There is something amiss on this side of the Dream Realm. I want to find it and help destroy it.”
“So, you wish to be a part of Sire Wolfton’s Canine Valley army?”
Red Wolf exchanged glances with his former Warrior friend. “If he would be willing to have me.”
Wolfton smiled, nodding his canine head.
“And you would be willing and able to help him earn Knight status?”
“Aye, my Lord Max. I told you; Young Guardian suggested it.”
Max now turned to Ariana. “The one person rallying for peace in this world and you suggest an army?”
“Only as a means to an end.” Ariana shrugged. “We have to fight back when forces are against us. We can’t do that unless we have separate armies stationed around the Dream Realm. Always on alert, always ready for battle or a fight on short notice.”
“You believe my brother would agree with you?”
“If you mean O’Dell, I’d say, yes. He’s trusted me with decisions before. He’ll agree with this one, I’m sure.” Ariana remarked.
Maximaniac put his hands behind his back and began to pace the floor.
“If I should grant his leave, you will be fully responsible for him from now on.”
“Aye, Lord Max.” Wolf’s tail wagged.
“And you, Red Wolf, shall listen to all he says.”
“Aye, Lord Maximaniac.” Red Wolf replied, nodding.
“Young Guardian, you will be in charge of this endeavor.” Lord Max responded, stopping in his tracks. “Bring it up to my brother, every last bit. Is that understood?”
“Of course, Max.” Ariana nodded.
“On that note, I give you my decree.” Max unsheathed his sword from his belt. To an already-kneeling Red Wolf, he held his sword high and responded. “I, Lord Maximaniac of the Grey Area’s Shady Kingdom, give unto you the power you so richly deserve. I send you to the home of Sire Wolfton Stargazer, to be his Page until he deems you ready to receive your knighthood.” Max tapped each of Red Wolf’s shoulders, saying. “No longer a Grey Arean, I dub thee Page Red Wolf Moondancer, of Stargazer Castle and the entire Canine Valley.” He sheathed his sword, telling Red Wolf to rise. “Your Companion powers have been fully restored. Go, join your Knight-Master and Sire at Stargazer Castle. I wish you pleasant journeys in what lies ahead.”
Max turned to Ariana. “I now release you from my own magical grasp, with my deepest apologies. You may return home to the Outer Realm. I do not wish to hear of your not patrolling anymore. As the Young Guardian, it is your job to help protect this world from such presences as the one Sire Wolfton has brought to my attention.”
“I won’t argue, Lord Max. Rather, I’ll take my leave.”
Finally, Ariana was allowed to go home.
She knew she was in grave danger of being discovered, but that didn’t matter. She had to know what Red Wolf, Sire Stargazer and Lord Maximaniac were up to, and why Young Guardian looked as if she were in charge of the place. She’d heard of Young Guardian from her adopted father Lord Maximaniac, but she never met the woman until now.
There was someone to be scared of. She thought to herself as she watched the scene.
She watched from behind a brick wall that separated the Throne Room from the Main Hall. She could hardly hear their voices but knew something was up.
“What have I told you about snooping, Tempest?” She heard someone behind her, feeling the touch of a hand on her shoulder. She turned to see her adopted mother Queen Jezebel. She stood once seeing the frown on her Queen mother’s face.
“Not to do it.” Tempest remarked. “I could not help it, Queen Mother. I was curious.”
“Why Sire Stargazer has come to Lord Max, and why Red Wolf is with him.” Tempest replied. “They look as if they returned from a quest.”
“Very observant.” Jezebel noted.
“Can you answer my questions?”
She thought about telling the Princess the truth, but decided against it.
“And tempt your curiosity?” Jezebel remarked. “I think not. These are the affairs of Elders; not to be taken lightly by the Young Ones.”
Tempest stomped her foot, hands at her hips. She gave her Queen Mother her darkest, most hideous glare, her eyes turning black with rage. “Why can I never know what goes on around here?”
“It is none of your concern.” Jezebel supplied, arms crossed. She pointed off to the distance. “To your quarters, Princess.”
“Go now or you will clean out Lord Byron’s stalls as punishment.”
She frowned, but went anyway.
Dark Mist From the Unknown
When she was Exiled by Lord Byron, she returned to the Unknown. Sabrina fell face down in a mud pile. To her embarrassment, slaves and peasants surrounded her. One even put their hand out to help her up. It was a male Dominionite with orange-glowing eyes.
“May I?” The male inquired.
Sabrina scowled at him, standing abruptly only to fall flat on her butt. She wasn’t happy.
Silently, she took his hand, allowing him to help her out of the mud.
“Are you alright my Lady Maiden?” The male asked, sounding worried.
“Take me to the Tower.” She commanded without hesitation.
The male nodded tightly. “Certainly.” He whistled, calling someone from behind her. “Allow my fellows to clean you off.”
“You are too sincere to be in the Unknown. How did you get here?” Sabrina asked him with a curious look.
“My loyalty for you.” The male supplied. “I am Cyrix. I was once one of your Warriors, head of the Brigadiers, to be exact. I followed only to be with you.”
“Of your own will?”
“My own will.” Cyrix smiled. He began to walk with her once the three slaves who cleaned her were on their ways. “There is a heart in there somewhere, my Lady Maiden, and I will be the one to unearth it.”
“How do I know it is not a trick?”
He stopped in his tracks. “I would not be here if not for you.”
He walked with her to Dark Tower, where he bowed to her at the gates. “This is where I leave you, my Lady Maiden. I bid you a fond adieu.”
Before disappearing, he took her hand and kissed it.
“You see, Master is not the only one in the Unknown able to bring about chaos.” Gloriana announced, flipping through a Spell-book.
“What are you doing now, Gloriana?” Damian asked, bored.
Gloriana turned on him. “Address me correctly.”
“Fine. Queen Stepmother.” Damian waved at her. “Happy?” She nodded tightly. “Tell me.”
“Searching for a proper spell. One so hideous, it would make what I just did look petty in comparison.”
“Rich.” Damian scoffed. “What, may I ask, did you just do?”
Gloriana showed him an image in a Dark Mirror. It was the Canine Valley, and there was a mist covering each little tree, every blade of grass, every bit of wildlife that lived in the Canine Wood. “Recognize the mist?”
“A Dark Mist. Clever, but not enough.” Damian supplied. “There is so much goodness in the Canine Valley, the mist will be gone in no time.”
“Of course, but not without attacking certain individuals first.”
“What are you talking about?”
Gloriana crooked her finger, telling him to come closer. “Watch for yourself.”
Damian stood beside her, watching the image. The figure of a wolf came into view, stopping mid-stride to howl in pain. There was a purple gem around his neck he recognized as the Amethyst Diamond Amulet. Damian leaned closer to the mirror, watching as Wolf Stargazer changed his form. Wolf was holding his head, continuing to howl. His necklace glowed bright and he changed form once again. This time, another wolf strode up to him. This one stopped, and sat in one position, watching Wolf go through his tirade of pain. Damian heard the wolf-song, recognizing the tone as a wolf-bitch’s consoling droll.
The wolf-bitch’s eyes glowed silver-blue and Damian knew. “Is that Young Guardian? In wolf-form?”
“Aye. I knew you would recognize her.” Gloriana replied. “Watch what the mist does to her.”
Damian’s eyes followed the mist from Wolf Stargazer’s mind to her own. She calmed him, changing form and embracing him.
“I have learned a lot from that book.” Gloriana supplied. “Especially about the Ancient Mystic’s healing powers.”
“What about them?”
“As with any power, there are limits.” Gloriana announced proudly. “Young Guardian heals by taking the pain away and banishing it in her mind. Only, the pain I put Wolf through is so confusing, she can’t do anything with it.”
Damian smiled. “So, the mist in turn hurts her own mind. Brilliant.”
“I thought so.”
“Being it’s a Dark Mist, it hurts not only Young Guardian’s mind, but those who are around her, if they are not strong enough against it.”
“They do not know what hit them.” Damian rubbed his hands together. “You need no other spells for this, Gloriana. Let the Mist do its job, and nature take her course.”
“We will have them beat in no time.”
For once since the woman’s arrival, Damian agreed.
Ancient Mystics and Wizards
After seeing the feline children home, Lord Byron stopped by the Shady Kingdom’s Castle.
“Who goes there?” Announced the twin guards at the gate.
“I am Lord Byron of the Ancient Mystic Kingdom.” Lord Byron announced proudly. He loved how the title rolled off his tongue. “Here to see the Lord of the manor. Step aside, Grey Areans. I will not fight again today.”
Lifting their spears, the twin guards stepped aside to let him through.
“That is more like it.” Lord Byron supplied under his breath. “Carry on, gentlemen.”
He showed himself through the narrow corridor to the main hall. Smiling at the sight of Maximaniac speaking with his lady-love Jezebel, he stopped paces in front of them.
“Lord Byron?” Jezebel’s inquiring voice cried happily once she heard him stop. “Is that really you? After all this time. . .”
“Aye, Jezebel, it is I.” Lord Byron bowed, kissing her outstretched hand. “Lord Byron of the Ancient Mystic’s Kingdom.”
“So O’Dell gave you the old Kingdom.” Maximaniac stood to greet his brother. “Time below has paled you, brother.”
“No more than this land has stripped you of all color.” Lord Byron supplied. “If I may be so bold, Queen Jezebel, I need a word with my brother.”
“Certainly, Lord Byron.” Jezebel curtseyed before she was on her way.
Maximaniac groaned as soon as she left. “That god’s-awful title of yours.” He moaned. “Just because you were knighted in the Outer Realm, you think yourself a lord. What happened to just Byron?”
“Few people are allowed to call me Byron.” Lord Byron announced. “Maxwell, my dear brother, you should be one to speak. Where did the name Maximaniac come from?”
Maximaniac said. “I changed it when I Banished myself for Jezebel. When I changed my name, so did my persona.”
“No longer the lone Wizard, are you Max?” Lord Byron chided.
“Are you here for a reason or just to antagonize me?”
“A little of both, I think.” Lord Byron continued to joke with him. “Did O’Dell tell you anything of the Earthbound Ancient Mystics thus far?”
“I have not had the pleasure of our Lord Guardian’s appearance at my door as of late.” Maximaniac supplied. “Apparently, he seems fit to send Young Guardian in his place. He has given her full rights to this world, for all she’s but a child. Have you met her?”
“Quite the lovely woman. Met her when I was Earthbound.”
“What were you Earthbound for, Byron?”
Lord Byron told him about his trip to the Hill View Cemetery, and how he helped Destiny Grey find her parents and bring them back to the Dream Realm. “While I was doing that, what were you up to?”
“After her little fling with you in the Outer Realm, Young Guardian saw to it to personally reunite Wolfton Stargazer and Red Wolf Moondancer to their respective families.” He told Lord Byron, who listened with interest as Maximaniac told him the tale of the Renegades and Revolutionaries.
“So I was not the only one to emerge from my hideaway?” Lord Byron replied.
“Indeed, you were not.” Maximaniac supplied. “There is something I wish to discuss with you.”
“Please, not another favor.” Lord Byron joked. “I am still recovering from the last one.”
“I am serious this time, Byron.” Lord Maximaniac shifted to his gargoyle form.
“To become one of those disgusting, meddling things, I guess you are serious.”
“I am finished playing around, brother! Listen to me for once!” Maximaniac growled. “There is something going on in the Canine Valley that, if not handled correctly, could prove disastrous for this entire Realm.”
“Get to the point.” Lord Byron said. He changed his own form to a serpent, just to show his brother he hadn’t forgotten how to shift. “Dare keep me in sss-suspense-sss.”
“For once, this is no joke.” Maximaniac said seriously. “Someone has sent a Dark Mist there.”
“I remember those from the War for Power. I believe Orthos created them.”
“Since they are his creation, they are in his Spell-book.” Maximaniac pointed out. “Somebody got hold of that book and cast the spell in the Canine Valley, starting with the Wood.”
“Has it effected anyone, yet?”
“As far as I know, only Young Guardian and Wolf Stargazer.” Maximaniac said. “I need you to get rid of it.”
“Why you? You were the only one of the three of us that knew how to undo Orthos’ spells.”
“You know about his Dark Mists. They have to run their courses, that is all.”
“Will you try, Byron? Please?” Max asked, changing form back to his court-jester persona. “From one brother to another?”
Lord Byron changed back to his own human-Wizard form. “For you brother, I will.”
Maximaniac beamed. “My thanks to you. If ever you need a favor from me, it will be yours. All you need do is ask.”
Lord Byron grinned. “Ask and ye shall receive. Remember this if any of your subjects end up on my chopping block.”
Before he knew it, his brother was gone. Lord Maximaniac of the Grey Area’s Shady Kingdom stared at his youngest brother’s exit in awe.
Ariana Reading woke up in a hospital bed.
Oh no, she thought. Not again.
She looked down and found her belly flat. Where was the baby?
“Good morning, sleepy-head.” The cheerful voice of her almost-sister Amethyst whispered. She pet Ariana’s hair, flattening it on her head. “How are you feeling?”
Ariana opened her mouth, but nothing came out. Where’s the baby? She asked Aimee in her mind.
“In the NICU.” Aimee supplied. “He’s fine, for a preemie.”
“Two months too early to be exact.” Aimee told her, holding her hand. “Derrick’s gone to see him. He was here day and night, you know. Couldn’t stand to be away from you for a whole month.”
Here? A month? When?
“Question is, where were you all this time?” Aimee whispered. “Trouble in our world?”
Ariana nodded, relaying in thoughts what happened in the Dream Realm.
Where is everybody, Aimee? I want to see my family. Ariana’s eyes started to tear, and it hurt Aimee’s empathy to feel her intense emotions.
“Relax, everything’s fine now.” Aimee supplied. “There’s nothing more to worry about. The kids are at school, Luna’s watching Melody with Logan downstairs in the lobby, and Derrick’s with the baby.”
Aimee knew she’d ask for her brother. “Just outside. I’ll get him.”
Ariana smiled, squeezing her almost-sister’s hand before letting go. After a moment, Aaron was at her bedside. There was something on both their minds, and they needed to talk. Alone.
Aimee, stall Derrick while I talk to Aaron, okay?
Aimee gave her a quizzical look before leaving them.
“Spit it out, Ariana Moon. Why the long trip?” Aaron was concerned. “Everyone was worried, especially Derrick and myself.”
There’s something I have to tell you.
“So, talk.” Aaron supplied. “Wait – why the telepathy? Can’t you talk?”
Ariana shrugged, rubbing her throat. “Better on my tired voice, I guess.”
Aaron kissed her cheek. “That’s my Ariana Moon.” He commented with a grin. “So, tell me.”
Aaron watched as she closed her eyes and nodded her head.
“Checking for listeners.” She told him. “What I have to tell you is pretty important, and I don’t want anyone else to find out.”
His grin faded, turning into a frown. He crossed his arms. “Out with it.”
“The baby’s yours, Aaron.” Ariana told him. “Only, nobody can know except us.”
He stepped away from her, shaking his head. “No. It can’t be.”
“He’s your son, my Aaron Theodore.” Ariana reached for him, only for Aaron to lay his head on her chest.
“What have we done?” He whimpered.
“Created life.” Ariana supplied, then grinned. “Again.”
He stood up. “When?”
“When Gloriana and the Djinn were haunting us. Remember our little affair?”
“You don’t understand what your new son has done to us.”
“Our son, but only we’ll know.”
“What about Kelly?” Aaron replied. “Will she know?”
“I think she already suspects.” Ariana said. “Listen to me, Aaron. I want you to get Derrick and congratulate him. Tell him how much that boy looks like him.”
“Don’t know how much, though. He had green eyes at birth.”
Ariana was confused. “Green? How? He’s Ancient Mystic.”
“I’ve had dreams, and Aimee’s had visions since our little run-in with Gloriana.” Aaron supplied. “This boy’s got potential for wild Unicorn Magic. It’s strong in him, couldn’t you feel it in your womb?”
“I felt the surge of power, but thought it were only me.” Ariana replied. “Why was he taken from me so early?”
“You were thought in a coma.” Aaron responded, shrugging. “Of course, we knew better. You were patrolling – for a long, long time.”
Ariana sighed, placing her hand on her stomach. She raised her head to tell him what happened in their world. Aaron became silently angry. He stood, calm as anything, but his mind was reeling with thought.
“If I ever get my hands on Max, he’ll wish he’d never been crowned Lord of the Grey Area.” Aaron growled softly.
“Now, Aaron. Settle down.” Ariana responded, grasping his hand and holding it.
“Leave Max alone,” came Luna’s voice from the door.
To Ariana’s surprise, no doubt. She promptly let go of Aaron’s hand, turning away from his sad eyes.
“Don’t be surprised, big sister.” Luna replied with a wink and a grin as she made her way to the bed. Logan was in her arms and Melody lagged behind her. “I’ll always be here to tease you.”
“Why didn’t I sense you?” Ariana asked her twin. Silent Melody, looking a lot better since her little ordeal, climbed on the bed and hugged her mother.
“Your sensors were on the fritz?” Luna asked. “I don’t know, but I promise we’ll look into it. Derrick’s coming this way with your new son in his arms. How do you feel?”
“Miserable.” Ariana commented, sneaking a glance at Aaron. Aaron quickly looked away, finding something else to stare at. Ariana sighed to herself.
Derrick came in smiling, his new son wrapped in a blanket and hooked up to an IV and numerous monitors. Aimee rolled in a portable bed, but the baby was in Derrick’s arms.
“Derrick!” Ariana breathed.
“Good to have you among the living.” Her husband joked, placing the baby in her arms. “Take a look at our new son.”
The baby’s eyes opened to greet hers. True to Aaron’s word, the eyes were green. One blink and they were silver-blue, not unlike Ariana’s own.
You’re tricky, little one. Ariana smiled, tracing a finger along the baby’s cheek so he smiled.
Unlike his older siblings, he couldn’t communicate with telepathy yet. Maybe that was reserved for when he thought himself ready? Ariana asked herself.
Also unlike his siblings, his eye color changed at will.
What kind of Magic do you hold, little one? Is the Unicorn Magic inside you? Ariana wondered, kissing his forehead.
“Isn’t he beautiful?” Derrick whispered, kissing her lips. “What will we name him?”
Ariana looked again at the infant, who was now sleeping. “I was thinking Ethan, but maybe not.”
“What about Theodore?” Aaron spoke up.
The couple had forgotten he was still in the room.
Aaron! Ariana scolded gently to him in her mind.
“After your grandfather.” Aaron quickly added. He looked her in the eyes and supplied in his mind. Not to mention me.
Ariana smiled up into her husband’s beautiful brown eyes. “Theodore Ethan Reading. Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?”
Derrick kissed her. “Definitely.” He rose from his position over her. One hand on his Pendant and the other on his new son’s reddish-brown-haired head, he announced. “I dub thee Theodore Ethan Reading. By far the best of the bunch.”
“Daddy!” Kelly appeared from the doorway, dragging three identical-looking boys and her cousin Meredith behind her. Bradley took up the rear. She giggled. “Not in front of the little ones.”
“Yeah, you might hurt their feelings.” Shane Morehouse’s voice rang. He went up to Ariana’s bedside and placed a kiss on her cheek. “How are you feeling, sister?”
“Could be better.” Ariana replied. She handed the infant to Shane, who held him.
“He’s beautiful, Ariana.”
“Thank you.” Both Ariana and Derrick said at once.
“I wanna see the baby!” Andrew and Mark Antony cried together.
“Come over here, boys, but be careful.” Derrick supplied. “He’s still very little.”
“Littler than we were?” Andrew asked.
Ariana nodded. “Much. You two were monsters compared to your brother.”
“You’re still monsters.” Derrick teased his twin sons. Meredith and Caleb laughed. Logan and Melody shared smiles.
Melody was still sitting next to her mother on the opposite side of the baby. She reached over to touch little Theodore’s nose. Her twin brothers breathed over him, making her frown.
My brother! Melody sent to them, gently tapping a hand on Theodore’s chest.
“He’s ours, too, you know.” Kelly supplied.
“It’s starting already.” Derrick announced.
“What’s that?” Luna asked.
“Sorry to break it to you, Derrick, but that started the moment these meatheads were born.” Kelly supplied with a laugh, thumbing to the twins and Caleb.
Derrick could do nothing but shake his head and laugh.
“Everyone out!” They heard a nurse call.
To their genuine surprise, it was Anna, with Claudia behind her.
Derrick shook his head at his sisters-in-law. “Sorry, ladies, but I’m staying right here.”
“She needs her rest.” Claudia said.
“She needs me with her.” Derrick argued.
“I need everyone to stop arguing.” Ariana laughed. “It’s okay, Claud. I want him to stay. As for the rest of you; I’ll see you when I get out of here. I promise to let you spoil me rotten when I’m out.”
After wishing her good luck and get better, only Anna, Derrick, Aaron, and Kelly remained in the room with her.
“I want to stay with Theo.” Kelly supplied when the adults gave her dirty looks.
“Take her home, Aaron.” Ariana said aloud. Making sure Derrick couldn’t read her thoughts, she sent to Aaron. Tell her the truth, if she doesn’t know already.
Aaron nodded. “Come on, kid. Let’s go home.”
Kelly kissed her mother and hugged Derrick before waving goodbye.
Anna had been silent until she knew she was alone with them. She grinned. “Listen, you two, I have to take the little one back to the NICU. Visiting hours are long over.”
“If anyone has anything to say about it, I’ll just tell them who I am.”
“If they don’t know already.” Ariana added. “Thanks, Anna.”
“No problem, little sister. Get some rest, okay? The wound is going to heal in time, so careful with it.”
“Yes, Doc.” Ariana kidded.
Anna left the room with a grin and the baby in the roll-away crib.
When Ariana heard her husband sigh, she knew she was in for it. His voice was low and calm when he asked. “Did you want to tell me where you went, or should I ask Lord Guardian?”
Reluctantly, she told him. The story was becoming repetitious, but her Earthly Protector had to know. When she finished, she yawned.
“Don’t tell me you’re sleepy?” Derrick asked, astonished.
Ariana shrugged her shoulders. “Being me is hard work. With that bunch, I’ve got a splitting headache.”
“That goes without saying.” Derrick supplied, kissing her before leaving. “I love you, Dream Girl.”
“I love you too, Romeo.” She echoed, snuggling into her sheets.
Book II: Circle of Earthly Protectors
Visions Lead to Understanding
The Apprentice’s Message
Shane Morehouse dreamed. He searched his Dream Realm for something, but he couldn’t find it. He didn’t even know what ‘it’ was. He decided to visit an old friend who might give him insight.
“So you’ve returned, Young Shadow.” The male voice boomed. “You search for answers to inquiries in your mind.”
“How did you know?”
The Apprentice laughed. “I know what happens in your world. Our Grand Shamus has a habit of letting us in on everything.”
Shane smiled. “Tell me, Apprentice. If you know what’s happening, then you know about the Silver Magic I sensed months ago.”
The Apprentice stepped away from his sharpening wheel, sheathing the sword he’d been sharpening. “Of course. You were healed by it, only to see it again years later. Have you told the Protector, yet?”
Shane was confused. “Who’s the Protector?”
“Young Derrick, of course!” The Apprentice supplied with a grin. “The only man strong enough to handle being Earthly Protector to the Young Guardian.”
“What about me? Aren’t I strong enough to be named Protector?”
“You have always been, and always will be the Shadow.” The Apprentice remarked. “Your charge is the Grand Magus. Together, you and the Protector have Magics unlike any other Earthly Protectors in the line, past or future.”
“I don’t understand.”
“It’s easy to see why each of you were chosen as their Protectors.” The Apprentice announced. “I chose you myself. You are strong, pure, brave fighters. The Protector is loyal and fair to the cause.”
The Apprentice cupped his hands to his mouth, blowing a gentle wind toward Shane. He could feel his dream-self changing as the Apprentice spoke.
“The Shadow is cunning, willing, honorable and just.” The Apprentice went on. “It is for that I give you these gifts. Don’t be afraid, Shadow. Use your instincts, search with not only your mind but your own magic.”
“I don’t have magic.” Shane supplied, looking down to find a black leather cloak covering his body. The Protector’s Pendant around his neck was glowing gold and his dream locket was buzzing. Feeling at his back, he found a sword of his own. He reached behind and drew it, staring at it in wonder. The blade was his arm’s length, his hand grasping a black hilt that moved in his palm to fit his grip. The jewel in the pommel was the opal stone, sparkling in the Dream Realm sunlight.
“You do now. What do you think?” The Apprentice startled him out of his daze.
“Uh, I don’t know what to say.” Shane sheathed the sword in the scabbard on his back. He took the hood off his head, settling it on his shoulders.
“Say thank you.” The Apprentice remarked with a grin. “You earned it.”
The Apprentice’s smile turned serious. “Not fully, yet, but the Shamus and I thought you should have these now. You’ll need them.”
Shane studied the Apprentice’s face before he turned away from him. “You know what’s going to happen, don’t you?”
“Don’t you?” The Apprentice asked. “Doesn’t the Grand Magus?”
“She senses things, as any Ancient Mystic does, but she’s afraid of it.”
“The Empathy. Yes, I know of that fear.” The Apprentice supplied. “Be forewarned now, Shadow. Shane. The twins will be in desperate danger if they don’t curve their fears. Learn from the past, and fight heartily.”
“What is there to fight?”
“Never you mind for now. You know the Shamus’s visions as well as I. Tell the twins first, and go from there.”
“Tell them what?”
“The past, Shadow. Tell the twins about the Crusades; what really happened.”
“You must.” The Apprentice was adamant. “They have to know what you do.”
“I told you, I can’t!” Shane cried. He could feel the Pendant around his neck growing hot with his anger. His voice calmed, as did his demeanor. “I was sworn to secrecy. The Shadow never breaks his word.”
The Apprentice was getting angry. “Listen, Shadow. Listen and understand. They must learn that Silver Magic, just as their Protectors must learn the Magic in the Pendants. That’s what I gave them to you for. To learn and use against all evils.”
“What evils?” Shane asked. “There’s never been a true evil us Crusaders couldn’t handle.”
“Crusaders will not be enough in this battle, Shadow.” The Apprentice supplied. “Remember the past and learn from it.”
Suddenly, something clicked in Shane’s mind. “History’s gonna repeat itself, isn’t it?”
“In a way, yes. I can’t say exactly.” The Apprentice announced softly. “Go see Sire Stargazer. He’ll tell you more.”
Shane was afraid once the Apprentice disappeared from sight. He was twice as afraid once he found the new gear he was wearing wasn’t vanishing. It would seem the Apprentice was right; something’s gonna happen, the twins are going to be in danger, and they have to learn the Silver Magic. Not only that, but their Protectors had to learn a new magic all their own.
Before he left for the Canine Valley, he searched for the Protector. Surely, Derrick would have a better idea on handling this sort of thing than himself? Thinking back on the Apprentice’s arguments, Shadow took flight. The entire Dream Realm depended on the four of them, and Shane Morehouse was sure not to let anyone down.
“Why are you so sure of me, Sire?” Red Wolf asked once Wolf showed him around the Canine Valley.
“You were my friend during the Wars and Crusades.” Wolf pat his new Page on the back. “Come, show me what you remember.”
For hours, it seemed the wolves sparred each other, testing what Red Wolf remembered from when they were serving with the Army. Soon, every canine pup in the Valley were watching them, rooting for one or the other.
“Tell me.” Wolf breathed. “What made you come in search of me?”
Wolf cracked his staff against Red’s.
“Our families were waiting for us.”
“What about the Army?”
“Once I had my own mind again, I knew the right way to go.” Red Wolf supplied. His eyes glowed red from their usual black. “Need I say more?”
Wolf shook his head, finally noticing the crowd. He put the thought of taking Red aside to the back of his head, focusing his attention on the crowd. “Kind Companions of the Canine Valley. I, Sire Wolfton Stargazer, with the acceptance and help of Lord Guardian and Young Guardian, hereby announce tryouts for the Canine Army. Page Red Wolf Moondancer and I will judge who is worthy to join, and who is fit to fight another way.”
“What will we be fighting, Sire?” Came a question from a beagle pup in front. He looked strong in mind, but not in body.
Wolf went up to him. “What is your name boy?”
“Ronan Brownpatches, Sire.”
“We fight whatever enters this world with the purpose of destroying it rather than enjoying it.” Wolf told him. He looked up again to the crowd. “We fight anything that threatens the Dream Realm. Anything unworthy or unbecoming of a Creature or Companion.”
“How will we know what it is?” Peeped a voice beside the young Ronan. This one was female, the voice coming from a pretty foxhound with a sliced ear.
Wolf addressed her. Before he could ask her name or answer her question, she curtseyed to him. “The name is Nicola HeartLily, Sire. My friends call me Nicky.”
She pointed to her ear.
“Oh, right. The nick in your ear.” Wolf supplied. “You will know, once you are trained correctly. Is it my understanding most of your parents either died or disappeared in the Wars for Power?”
“Aye, Sire.” The crowd chorused.
“Is it also my understanding you all wish to join the Canine Army?”
“Aye, Sire!” Came the unanimous response.
“If I may speak, Sire.” Red Wolf spoke up.
“Most of them are mere children.” Red Wolf announced, stepping up to Wolf. “We must ask their Packs’ permission.”
“Nonsense.” Wolf said. “We were mere children when we were nabbed for the Warrior Army.”
“We had no choice.” Red Wolf pointed out.
“You were a Warrior?” A deep voice called from the back of the crowd. Canines stepped aside to let him through. It was a rather large bulldog, or at least, a young pup version of a bulldog. Judging by his clothing and the way Companions acted toward him, Wolf could tell this one was bad news.
“One in every bunch, I suppose.” Wolf sighed to himself. “Address me correctly, Canine!”
“I address no Dominionites!” The Companion folded his arms and stood in front of Wolf. “Dominionite Warriors killed my family.”
Wolf and Red exchanged smiles. Wolf shook his head. “Have you learned nothing in your short life, pup?”
“I learn what I live.” The pup announced in a strong London tone. “I live in the gutter an’ learn from the seat of me bum. An’ all because of the Warriors.”
“We are Warriors no more.” Red Wolf supplied. “Those who were kind-hearted, like Sire Wolf and myself, were spared. Your Sire was one of many to destroy the Dominion Wall.”
The pup was speechless. “You lie!”
“Do you not know who I am?”
The pup stared at him, waiting.
“Go ahead, Sire. Tell the pup and get this charade over with.” Red Wolf whispered.
“I am the Companion Crusader Wolfton Stargazer, Sire of Stargazer Castle and the entire Canine Valley.” Wolf rattled. “I have fought with the Crusaders, Young Guardian, Protector Derrick, Shadow, the Grand Magus, Over-Seer Aaron, Panther Grey, my wife and your Lady Katherine Hawk, the Lady of the Feline Village Kitten’s Claw Hawk, Sire of the Feline Village Tobias White-Snow, Sister Shannon and Protector Nick. I helped Exile the Master, Maiden and the Merchant; all of whom had every Companion’s powers in their command while we were on their side. Once the Wars ended, we regained our Companion powers. Some went with the Master to the Unknown Realm while others stayed behind to begin new lives. Those behind banded together to destroy the Dominion Wall, so no other would wish to rule the Dominion.”
“What was left behind?”
“A cloud of grey dust stretched the old Dominion as far as the eye could see. It was almost barren, until an old Wizard Originator reclaimed his place beside his true love.”
“Those are lies told to children.”
“Shut up, Mimsy!”
“I will not!” The hound named Mimsy stood up. “How do we know you are not making this up?”
“I have been places you have only feared!” Wolf howled at her. “Enough insolence! Return to your homes if you do not believe me! Return to your lives, your perfect homes in this Canine Valley, but live in fear, for peace is only temporary. Only when we unite in harmony will peace remain constant.”
The crowd drew silent, dispersing in fear of their Sire. Wolf was exasperated, turning his back in order to not see what his temper was doing to his people. Red Wolf gathered the practice gear and walked behind him to Stargazer Castle.
“Spoken like a true leader.”
Wolf stopped in his tracks, not turning around. He knew the voice, and he knew it well. “Go to the Castle ahead of me. Tell the Lady I will be there shortly.”
Red Wolf nodded, heading to the Castle. Wolf stood in his spot, staring at the ground.
“You heard that tyranny?”
“Aye. Every word.” The speaker pressed softly. “I misjudged you in the Underground, my son.” The Elder Sheldon Stargazer placed a hand on his son’s shoulder. Wolf shrugged it off. “I had been led to believe you were lost to the cause.”
Wolf’s ears perked. “What cause?”
“The cause of good. Our Lord Guardian’s side.” Sheldon explained.
Wolf turned and met his father’s dark eyes. “I have never known such blatant lies.”
“I knew you were good, Wolfton. I saw it in you.” Sheldon explained.
“Is that why you let the Merchant snatch me from your side?” Wolf growled. “Because you saw the good in me?”
“You know we had no choice.” Sheldon responded. “Besides, that is not why I am here.”
“Why do you darken my doorstep, Papa?” Wolf snapped.
“What happened to Pérat?” Sheldon tried with a grin. When he received a glare and a low growl in return, he shook his head. “You must calm your temper, Donar. the Wolf Magic in you is finally coming out. It will consume if you are not careful.”
“I have no Wolf Magic. Only that of this Amulet.”
“What do you think powers that amulet?” Sheldon asked. “It cannot run on its own.”
“The Mistress Sisters gave it to us.”
“When you became Earthbound; Aye, I have heard the story many times.” Sheldon supplied. “I was wondering, Wolfton. Are the rumors of your marriage to the Master’s niece true?”
“Katherine could not choose her family, just as any of us.” Wolf said. “Katherine Hawk has always been the gentlest, most astonishing female I have ever met, excluding Young Guardian of course.”
Sheldon laughed. “Of course. I do not know her as well as you, but Young Guardian seems suited to her role. Tell me more about your bride, and your daughter.”
Wolfton Stargazer grinned. Any and all anger he may have had simply disappeared from the mere mention of his small, but proud family.
They were on their way to Stargazer Castle, swapping stories when a dark cloud flew overhead. They looked up to see the cloud coming closer to them. Wolf sprung into attack position, covering his father should the cloud, or whatever it was, hit him. Both Stargazers watched as the cloud lowered to the ground. It was no longer a cloud, but a shimmering black blob. Neither could understand it.
“Reveal yourself immediately, stranger!” Wolf cried. “You are on Province ground!”
The cloud-blob stopped shimmering. Carefully, it removed the hood of its cloak, showing a face. “I know that, you stupid pooch!”
It was Shane “Shadow” Morehouse.
“Young Shadow!” Sheldon cried. “You have grown!”
“Sorry to do this to you, Sir Sheldon, but I need to steal him away for a bit.” Shadow announced. “If you don’t mind, that is.”
“Certainly. Go right ahead.” Sheldon nodded. “I will wait at the Castle for you.”
“Tell Katherine who I am with.”
With another nod, Sheldon Stargazer, father to the Sire Wolfton, shifted to his full wolf form. He loped off into the Wood that surrounded the Castle and disappeared.
“What is the matter, and why are you wearing those clothes?”
“You’ll never guess.” Shadow told him what happened with the Apprentice. He concluded with, “What do you know about the new evils in this world?”
“That is just it, Shadow.” Wolf announced. “I know nothing. What I do know is not worth a cent to my own people.”
Shadow was confused, so Wolf told him what happened.
“There may be a way we can figure this out.” Shadow supplied. “Let me do what the Apprentice wants me to do. We’ll go from there; got it?”
Wolf nodded. “Got it, but you still did not tell me why you wear those clothes.”
Shadow shrugged. “Every hero has a costume, right? I guess this is mine.” He remarked. “See you later, Wolf.”
Before he could say any more, Shadow had taken flight and disappeared.
“What have you done, Apprentice?” Enchantra asked him.
“Something you should’ve done long ago, Mistress.” The Apprentice announced. “The men need to learn their magic, and quick.”
“They should have been sent long ago!” The Grand Shamus cried. “Back when they received the Pendants, Shannon told them to see you. Did they not?”
The Apprentice shook his head.
“They were busy, each fighting their own demons.” O’Dell remarked. “Why so quickly? Is there something going on we do not know about?”
“It is hard to explain, Mother.” The Grand Shamus supplied. “I bet Sire Wolf would tell you the same. There is something heading toward the Canine Valley that threatens the very minds of our Companions there.”
“Only in the Valley?” O’Dell asked.
“For now, yes.” Apprentice supplied.
“What form does it take?”
The Apprentice and his mate shrugged, shaking their heads.
“Does Young Guardian know of this?”
“You could ask her, my Lord.” Apprentice said. “In the meantime, I believe the Protector and Shadow are ready to learn the Magic in the Pendants.”
“Shadow is different in many ways to Derrick.” The Grand Shamus told him. “For one, Shadow was in the Wars for Power while Derrick was not.”
“They are different, aye, but that is not important.” O’Dell replied. “I actually agree with your mate, for once.”
“You do?” The Apprentice asked, amazed.
O’Dell nodded. “Aye. I also believe it is high time for the Protectors to learn their own magic. After all, it was your idea Apprentice.”
The Grand Shamus giggled, nudging him. “Of course it was, darling. Don’t you remember?”
The Apprentice smiled, kissing her lips. “Certainly.” He turned to O’Dell. “Now, my Lord, will you do the honors of sending them to me for training?”
“I will tell them what to do. You can count on me, Apprentice.”
“I always could.” The Apprentice took his wife’s hand and disappeared with her.
This left O’Dell and Enchantra alone in his brilliant Castle.
“I guess you should listen to him.” Enchantra grinned, hugging him. Before he could say anything, she announced. “You were the one to bring him here.”
“On the insistence of your daughter.” O’Dell supplied.
“Last I knew, Dixilynne was your daughter, too.” Enchantra teased. “If you must, take Young Guardian from her patrols, explaining what the Apprentice had in mind.”
“I cannot take her from her duties.”
“You are the one who gave her those duties. Surely, you can take her from them.” Enchantra said. She stepped away from him. “If you will not, I will.”
“For the sake of this world, my Lord, call her.”
O’Dell sighed, calling a short spell in the air as he pointed to his own Castle’s door.
The Young Guardian, fresh from her patrols, stormed in the Castle. She wasn’t happy. “What is the meaning of this, O’Dell?”
“I beg your pardon!” O’Dell cried.
“You took me from my patrols.”
“For good reason, mind you.”
“Enchantra, not now.”
“We will explain as soon as you bring Derrick here.”
“Tell me why.”
“You will respect me.”
“I want to know why you brought me here.” Ariana demanded.
O’Dell and Enchantra could each see her eyes turning from yellow to red. The two Originators were silent, shocked at her behavior.
“Yours is not to ask why, only to do as you are told.” O’Dell faced her.
She didn’t cower away as she usually would. She only faced him with red-burning eyes and enough red-colored magic around her body to torch the place.
“Not if I don’t want to.” Ariana announced. With a wave of her arms, she disappeared.
It took a second for either Originator to say anything.
“What has gotten into her?” Enchantra asked softly. “My Lord?”
O’Dell could only shrug. For once in his existence, he did not have an answer.
Powers of the Pendant
Derrick searched the entire Dream Realm for his wife, but couldn’t find her. He asked numerous Companions if they’d seen her around, but they haven’t either. That wasn’t the strange part. They called him Protector.
Since receiving the Protector’s Pendant from Shannon, he was used to being called Protector Derrick, but this time, it was different. It was if he had Protector as a title, just as Ariana was the Young Guardian. Did he have any right to demand respect from Lord Guardian’s followers? After all, he was just Ariana’s Earthly Protector. There wasn’t anything special about him besides that.
“Companion, have you seen Young Guardian around?” He asked a leopard Companion.
“Nay, Protector.” The leopard supplied. His eyes widened when they met Derrick’s necklace. “Definite trouble somewhere, Protector. Your Pendant is glowing gold!”
Derrick took it in his hand. “Gold?”
“Go swiftly to Lord Guardian’s Castle. I will warn the others.” The leopard Companion announced before pouncing away in fear.
Derrick was left scratching his head, confused why his Protector’s Pendant was glowing the distinct color of gold.
Before he could go anywhere, he disappeared, waking to the alarm clock beside the bed.
It was time for him to wake up and get ready for work. Ariana was sleeping beside him, eyes moving rapidly underneath the sockets. She was safe, at least. That was a good thing.
He decided to let Shane drive this time. There was too much on his mind. Halfway through the day, the boys went to lunch. Derrick still wasn’t talking, not even to discuss a case they were working on at the moment.
Shane noticed his silence, and didn’t like it one bit. He watched as his partner played with the Pendant around his neck, deep in his own thoughts to notice Shane staring at him.
“Something’s going on and I want to know.” Shane demanded in his best “Shadow” tone. Usually, that tone made any man stand at attention and do what Shane told him, but this time, it was a no-go.
“Derrick!” Shane cried, slapping at his hand.
Derrick looked up at him, circles under his eyes. “Sorry, Shane. What’s up?”
“That’s what I’d like to know.”
After a moment’s hesitation, Derrick told him. “I had a strange dream last night.”
“A dream-dream or a Dream Realm dream?”
“Definitely Dream Realm.” Derrick told him what happened, to which Shane was the silent one. “What do you think?”
Shane took his own Pendant into his hands. “It’s time to become the Protector and the Shadow.”
Derrick was confused.
“Your dream is proof, Reading!” Shane remarked in his “Shadow” tone. This time, it got Derrick’s full attention. “Silver Magic coming from Ariana, a golden glow coming from your Pendant. Clues, Detective.”
“Clues to what?”
“The leopard Companion told you something was going to happen.” Shane supplied. “I’d listen to the kit if I were you.”
“Go to Lord Guardian.” Derrick replied. “What’s he gonna do?”
“Send you to the Apprentice.” Shane said. “Or rather, send us. You see, we were supposed to see him the night we received the Pendants, but we didn’t. We were too busy with our own lives; not to mention you and Ariana were still on the Crusader Project.”
“Oh. That doesn’t explain why I couldn’t find her.” Derrick replied. “She wasn’t patrolling.”
“Was she there when you woke up?”
“Of course, only her Amulet was glowing.”
This got Shadow’s attention. “What color?”
“Silver, I think.”
After a moment, Shadow pounded his hand on the desk. “That’s it!”
“In the Pagan traditions, they believe in both a Goddess and a God.” Shane began, barely looking at his partner Derrick.
“They say silver is the color of the Goddess, and gold is for the God.” Shane supplied. “It means great magic. In fact, I’ve seen it used before.”
“Sure you have. When the Djinn attacked me.”
Shane shook his head. “No. Long before that.” He remarked. “Remind yourself I was there in the Wars for Power. I was there to fight the Dominionites with the Ancient Mystic Army. I was a Dream Realm Crusader before you. I was there when Mick McNathaniels died in the Dream Realm. I was there when Sabrina placed a spell on Nick to make him think he killed his own father. I was there.”
“So you were there, so what? What does that have to do with Ariana and this new Silver Magic?”
“Everything, if you listen.” Shadow commanded. “Dixilynne Ryan, the System’s boss during the Wars, used it against the Master. She claimed it was the darker side of her Magic working in her favor. I don’t think Ariana realized that when she exorcized the Djinn demon from you. She thought she did it with her own Ancient Mystic Magic.”
“How did Dixilynne use the Silver Magic?”
“I was wounded badly by a shot of Dominionite Magic during the battle.” Shane explained. “She used that to save me from insanity.”
“How was she after the battle?”
“Sore, and sick for nearly a month.” Shane supplied. “She was out of sorts for two months after she was well again.”
“Come to think of it, Ariana’s been out of sorts since she came back from the hospital.”
“Let’s just say I feel I have our new live-in housekeeper as a wife.” Derrick remarked. “I spend more time with Juliet than I do Ariana, and it’s bugging me to bits.”
“Hang on, Protector. We’ve got a job to do.”
“I’m almost afraid to ask.”
“The Apprentice wants to see all four of us.” Shane explained. “There’s something going on in the Canine Valley. Wolf told me so himself. Whatever it is made Ariana the way she is.”
“I don’t get it.”
“You never get it.” Shane joked. “Do as the leopard kit says. See Lord Guardian. He’ll show you where to find the Apprentice.”
“What about you?”
“I’ll be there.” Shane remarked. “Trust me.”
That night, before Young Guardian could patrol, Derrick took her with him to the Ancient Mystic Palace. She didn’t exactly like the idea of being bossed around by her husband, but what could she do? Derrick nearly took her, kicking and screaming. Companions that hung in the nearby wood stared at her theatrics, wondering what the Protector was doing with her.
“It’s okay, Companions.” Derrick supplied as he kept a firm hand on her arm. “It’s for her own good.”
Once they entered the Palace, Ariana couldn’t keep her silence. She disappeared from his grasp, only to reappear a few feet away from him.
“For my own good, huh?” Ariana asked furiously. “What is the meaning of this, Derrick James? You, of all people to take me from my patrols. You – ”
“The man who married you. The man who happens to love you.”
“So what? That doesn’t mean you have to take me from my duties!” Ariana screamed. “First O’Dell and Enchantra, and now you! What is the big deal? Are you guys trying to piss me off?”
“Lately, that seems almost too easy.” Derrick remarked. “Listen to us. I’m sure Lord Guardian had a perfectly good explanation for doing it. In fact, so do I.”
“Tell me already!” Ariana demanded. “Dare keep me in suspense!”
Derrick folded his arms, silently telling her how her attitude would get her nowhere.
“Don’t look at me like that, Derrick.” Ariana cried. “It won’t work.”
“No! I won’t be anybody’s plaything, and that’s final.”
“Who said we were playing with you?” Derrick asked.
“No one said it. I feel it.” She remarked. “I feel I’m being pressured and pulled this way and that. Frankly, I’m tired if it!”
Derrick unfolded his arms and stared her down. “Think of how we feel about your behavior. Something affected you while you were bringing the Elder Companions from the Underground. Something so fierce, it has our own friend Wolf worried.”
Ariana’s face softened at the sound of her Companion friend’s name. She turned away from her husband, closing her eyes. Derrick could only watch as a wind of her own Magic whirled around her, changing her clothing to those resembling breeches and a long tunic. A brown leather cloak covered her back, the hood of it sitting on her shoulders.
He felt his own Pendant glowing. Putting a hand on it, he watched himself change clothing as well. A golden wind swept around him, rendering him speechless. The wind moved from head to toe. When it disappeared back into the Pendant, the necklace itself stopped glowing. He looked down at his body. On his feet were black leather boots, similar he’d seen in movies set in the middle ages. He wore black hose under a black pair of long breeches. There was a gold stripe along each leg of his breeches.
At his waist he wore a girdle, which held a sword sheath, complete with black-handled sword. Derrick took the sword out to admire it. There was an opalescent jewel in the pommel, the blade was arm’s length. It seemed to fit him perfectly. He sheathed the sword only to glance at his top-dress.
Upon his chest he wore ring-mail. Underneath, he wore a white under tunic. On his arms were battle armor that matched his ring-mail. His Pendant hung lifeless around his neck, mocking him.
To break the silence, O’Dell and Enchantra came in the room.
“Congratulations, Protector.” O’Dell replied proudly. “You have earned your title.”
Derrick looked up at O’Dell, bowing to him. “How? What is going on, my Lord?”
“You knew enough to bring Young Guardian here.” Enchantra smiled.
Ariana still stood silent, ringlets of red-blond hair shimmering. She faced no one, unable to move.
“What have I done?” Derrick felt awful. “I shouldn’t have shouted at her like that. I only wanted her to see what she was doing to herself.”
“You did the right thing, Protector.” O’Dell remarked. “You made her see the truth. That is why she is dressed the way she is.”
“You see, that is her Fighter’s Gear.” Enchantra remarked. “She is known through-out this world in it.”
“What about me?”
“I must say, I am impressed.” O’Dell supplied. “You thought of yourself her protector, so you became one. Now, you are the Protector.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means you are the only man strong enough to handle her.” Enchantra supplied. “You saw for yourself she is no longer helpless.”
“I never thought she was.” Derrick remarked. He surveyed his clothing once again. “But this?”
“Consider that a gift from us.” O’Dell supplied. “Now that you know about the Gold Magic, see the Apprentice. He will show you how to use it.”
“How do I find the Apprentice?”
“The same place you will find the Grand Shamus.”
“The woman who will teach Young Guardian how to use the Silver Magic properly.” Enchantra replied.
Derrick’s head was spinning, so he held it.
“We know this is hard for you, but you must do it.”
Derrick looked from his wife to Lord Guardian. “I know, my Lord. For the sake of this world, I’ll do anything.”
Enchantra saw his short glance. “She will be fine. Take her. Hold her. Love her. She needs you more than we do right now.”
Derrick walked over to Ariana, placing a hand on her shoulder. He could hear her silenced sobs. He embraced her from behind and kissed her neck. He whispered in her ear, holding her tight. “Ariana . . .”
She moved. Turning, she wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him hard on the lips. He could taste her salty tears.
“Derrick, I’m so sorry.” She whispered once the kiss was over. “I treated you like dirt.”
“Shh.” Derrick placed a finger on her lips. “It’s okay. We’ve got work to do, Young Guardian. You’ve got to learn the Silver Magic and I have to learn how to be the Protector.”
They met eyes. He noticed hers were silver-blue once again, and he was happy. His wife and love was back.
“The Protector and the Young Guardian.” Ariana replied softly. “I like the sound of that.”
After they kissed again, Ariana turned to O’Dell, kneeling at his feet. “I apologize for my blatant disrespect for you. I knew better, but did it anyway. Please say you forgive me, my Lord Guardian.”
Even Derrick anticipated O’Dell’s answer.
“I forgive you.” O’Dell supplied.
She stood and nodded. “Thank you, my Lord.”
“Call me O’Dell.” He winked, making her smile. “Now, off to see the Apprentice and the Grand Shamus.”
“Where do we find them?” Derrick asked.
Enchantra looked to O’Dell. “May I, just this once?”
“They have to learn...”
She placed a hand on his cheek, which became beet red at her touch. “O’Dell...”
Ariana and Derrick held their laughs inside.
“On with it, Enchantra. Time is wasting.” O’Dell’s silver eyes glared at her.
She kissed his lips and turned to the couple. Enchantra held her arms out and began to chant.
“Deep in the forest, where the Wishing Well hides,
“Go a little deeper, and darkness abides.
“A single beam of light glimmers around now,
“Grand Shamus and Apprentice waiting for thou.”
With that, they disappeared.
O’Dell shook his head. “Was that necessary?”
“Of course not, but you know us Ancient Mystics.” Enchantra giggled, hugging him. “We have a flair for the dramatic.”
O’Dell laughed, kissing her.
Lessons in Silver Magic
When they appeared again, Derrick and Ariana held hands. They saw a forest in front of them.
“Clever.” Derrick remarked.
“Not only did Enchantra cast a spell, she also gave us directions.”
Ariana grinned. “Clever indeed. Let’s go.”
Following the spell’s directions, they followed the darkness that surrounded them in the woods. Lit by a single oil lamp on a hand-crank, they saw the Wishing Well.
“Shall we make a wish?” Derrick asked with a smile.
“Nah, you never know. It might not come true.”
“Yet again, it might. Right?”
Ariana rolled her eyes. “Come on, Protector. We’ve got work to do, remember?”
Derrick laughed at his wife. “That’s my Young Guardian.”
“Enough.” Ariana laughed back. She happened to glance at the glowing necklace. It made enough of a light for her to see what he was wearing. “What are you wearing?”
“Weren’t you listening back there?”
Ariana shook her head. “Too much in my own thoughts, I suppose. Tell me.”
“This is my Protector’s uniform.” Derrick said. “I’ll be known as the Protector in it.”
“Like me with my Fighter’s Gear?”
“Just like you, but I’m your Protector.”
“Are you sure you’re just mine? I mean, if they call you the Protector now, don’t you have other people to protect?”
“Point taken.” Derrick remarked. “I wonder if that’s what Shadow meant.”
“Shadow? What does he have to do with anything?”
“He’s the one who told me to take you to Lord Guardian.” Derrick supplied. “He’s also the one to tell me Wolf senses something in the Canine Valley.”
Ariana held his hand tighter. “Yipes.” She said softly. “Uh, Derrick?”
“What would you say if I may have had something to do with it?”
“I don’t know, exactly.” Ariana said. “All I know is when we brought the Elders back, I sensed something in the Canine Wood.”
“You didn’t tell me that part.”
“I didn’t want you worried.” Ariana replied. “Anyway, it turned Wolf against himself, and I believe it turned me against everybody around me. It’s the Black-as-Night Crystal all over again.”
“Don’t say that, Love.” Derrick wrapped an arm around her without tangling the sword and her short-sword together. “I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking you’re turning evil, like Sabrina and Damian. I happen to know differently. If you were evil, would you want to tame the new Silver Magic?”
Ariana looked up at him and smiled. “Point taken.”
He kissed her cheek. “Maybe I’m supposed to Protect the Dreamers?”
“That’s my job, in a way.”
“You could always need help, right?”
“I guess so.” Ariana cleared her throat, breaking from his embrace. “Look over there. Is that the same beam of light as in Enchantra’s spell?”
“Let’s find out.” Derrick supplied, directly behind her.
She ran toward the light, meeting with a woman she’d seen in the Outer Realm. Or, at least a woman identical to Dorianne Jacobs. Ariana wasn’t afraid to walk directly up to them.
“Are you the Grand Shamus or the Apprentice?”
An elder man came out of the shadows in a long, black wizard-like robes. He tipped his wizard’s hat and bowed to Ariana, smiling. “I am the Apprentice. Are you the Young Guardian or the Grand Magus?”
“Young Guardian. Apprentice, what is this all about?” Ariana asked in her Young Guardian’s tone.
“We must wait, my dear.” The woman who looked like Dorianne told the Apprentice. She caught Ariana’s glare. “To see you for the first time. I knew you would turn out this way, did I not?”
Ariana didn’t know what to say. “You look like...”
“Dorianne Jacobs? Yes, I’ve been told.” The woman remarked. “I am the Grand Shamus. One of the greatest private detectives that had ever lived. Since I was born here, I returned here upon my death.”
“Are you...?” Derrick couldn’t help asking.
“Am I what?” The Grand Shamus supplied.
“I don’t know how to ask this, but are you. . .”
Before he could finish his sentence, Derrick heard Shadow’s voice behind him. He turned and smiled at his partner-brother-friend.
“Derrick Reading, meet Dixilynne Ryan.” Shadow came up to the group. “She is the Grand Shamus.”
“I told them that, Shadow.” Dixilynne remarked with a grin, hugging him. “I taught this man everything he knows about detecting.”
“Ah, but I am the one who married your granddaughter.” Shadow supplied. “Without which there would be no Grand Magus.”
“I earned that title on my own and you know it, Shane.” Luna’s voice came from behind him. “Well Gramma Dixie, we’re here. Now what?”
“Come girls. The gentlemen need to learn from the Apprentice.”
“If you’re Luna’s grandmother, you’re mine, too.” Ariana whispered. “Wow, I’m related to the Grand Shamus.”
“It’s no big deal.”
“It is a big deal my dear.” Dixilynne announced. “Can you guess the Apprentice’s true identity, Young Guardian? Think of the line and you will see.”
“Okay, Luna and I are Susan Woods’ daughters. You’re Susan’s mother, our grandmother. Am I getting close?” Ariana asked.
“Getting there.” Dixilynne prodded, smiling. “Based on the records I left behind at the System, who is the Apprentice?”
Ariana shook her head. “I never read any records.”
“I bet you had visions of the County.” Dixilynne supplied.
“Come on, sister, think! We were going over baby names and you decided on this one.”
“Theodore.” Ariana’s hand went to her wrist and to the scar made by the Musketeers those many years ago. “Theodore Ryan. The name I saw on a cement block of the System. It said Theodore Ryan’s family bought the Shore Point University building when the school was shut down. His wife Dixilynne, you, dedicated it to him, since he was lost during renovations.”
“If I am his wife, he is my husband.” Dixilynne announced. “The Apprentice is none other than your grandfather Theodore Ryan.”
“I never knew.” Ariana said. “Then again, we don’t know much about you two.”
“I do.” Luna remarked. “All you had to do was ask.”
Ariana rolled her eyes as Dixilynne escorted them away.
During their conversation, Derrick, Shadow and the Apprentice were listening in. When the women left, the Apprentice rubbed his hands together.
“I see you’ve earned your title as well, Protector.” He supplied. “My congratulations.”
“Thanks, but aren’t we here for a reason?” Derrick asked.
“To the point. That’s what Shannon likes about you.”
“Shannon knows you, too?”
“Of course. I’m her Uncle, aren’t I?” The Apprentice responded. “Now then. The Protector’s Pendants carry certain Magic of their own that accent those of the Ancient Mystics.”
“What kind of Magic?”
“A type of golden, protector-like Magic.” The Apprentice announced. He turned to Shane. “Do you still have your Dream Locket?”
“Good. Give it to me, along with your Pendant.”
Confused, he obeyed. “What are you going to do with them?”
The Apprentice nodded. “You’ll see. And you, Derrick. Hand it over.”
His hands went to his Pendant.
“Relax, my boy. I’m only going to place a spell over it.”
“What kind of spell?” Derrick asked as he took it off.
“Dream Locket, too.” He instructed. Derrick took his Locket off as well, handing both to the Apprentice. “A spell that will help you learn the Protector’s Golden Magic.” The Apprentice took all four necklaces and hovered them in the air.
He chanted in some unknown language Derrick guessed was the Ancient Mystic, making the necklaces glow brightly. The combined golden glow was blinding, but the boys couldn’t look away. The golden glow separated to two different glowing balls of light. Each of their two original necklaces merged in midair to make one Pendant-Locket. The Apprentice held out his hands, each new necklace brought to one of them. Derrick’s on the right and Shadow’s on the left. The boys took them in their own hands and looked at them.
“What did you do to them?”
“Combined them.” The Apprentice replied. “Go ahead, put them on. I want to see if the spell worked.”
Derrick and Shadow looked at each other. “Together.”
“On three.” Shadow said.
On the count of three, they put their new necklaces over their heads at the same time. The Apprentice watched in amazement and joy as their bodies nearly glowed Gold. The golden wind from the new Pendants circled around the Shadow and the Protector. Judging by the scared but awed looks on their faces, it was plain to see they were pleased.
“How do you feel?”
“Refreshed.” Derrick supplied.
“Re-energized.” Shadow said. “Are they linked?”
“To each other, no. To your loves, yes. To whatever powers you may have had before, yes.” The Apprentice said. “They work in just the same way as the Pendants and the Lockets did, only better. Instead of two separate charms, they are one.”
“Wicked.” Derrick said, awed.
“My sediments exactly.” The Apprentice laughed. “You have the magic. Now, you must learn how to use it.”
With that, he took them away to learn until morning.
Ariana was allowed to return to her patrols once she learned the proper basic uses of the Silver Magic. She learned that type of Magic was dangerous if not controlled. She also learned she used the Silver Magic to exorcize the Djinn from Derrick’s body.
Young Guardian had other matters to attend to. Such as, what was going on in the Canine Valley, and why hadn’t Wolf told her everything he knew about it? He obviously knew something was wrong; his behavior was stranger than hers. He wanted to unite the Valley in their own Canine Army. Well, she was going to find out.
She flew through the clouds so fast, she almost missed Stargazer Castle. When she touched down, she saw Katherine and Wolf sitting on the yard swing that hung from a giant branch of a tree. Celine was there too, and she’s the one who noticed Ariana first.
“Young Guardian! Come see my new brothers!”
As she said this, Ariana touched down. She met eyes with Wolf, who growled, stood and loped away. She ignored him for the moment, concentrating now on Katherine’s new sons. Ariana sat in Wolf’s abandoned spot, watching as the pup-kits played with Katherine’s necklace.
“Are they not adorable?”
“Of course they are, Katherine.” Ariana smiled, ruffling Celine’s hair. Celine was standing over them, grinning proudly. “What did you name them?”
“The pup-kit with dark tufts on his tail is Raulf.” Ariana looked and saw the pup-kit’s tail. Sure enough, there were dark tufts of fur covering it. “The other is his twin, Lovell. Can you sense the kindness in this one?”
Ariana placed her hands on the tiny Lovell. His eyes were brighter than his brothers. More of a blue than the usual grey of a wolf’s. Lovell’s tiny eyes followed her, his hands touched hers. To her surprise and Katherine’s, he tried to howl.
Katherine laughed. “Pups, meet your Young Guardian.”
“She is the greatest friend!” Celine put in. Raulf was grasping his sister’s finger. When his brother howled, he did, too. Only, his was lower in baritone than Lovell’s.
“Congratulations, Kat.” Ariana stood upright.
“You are not leaving already? You just got here!” Celine took Ariana’s hand.
“Now, Celine, she has her duties, remember?”
“Aye, Mama.” Celine was crushed.
“I did come here for a reason.” Ariana said. “How are things, besides the pup-kits?”
Katherine didn’t look at her Young Guardian friend. “To be expected, I guess. All is well with the Valley. The Canine Army has begun, and Wolf takes Red with him to teach the pups how to fight.”
“What about Wolf himself? And you?” Ariana asked. “Anything strange happening since the Elders returned?”
“Papa hardly ever comes home anymore.” Celine remarked sadly. “Please, make him come home. Make him not be so mad.”
“Mad? What are you talking about?”
“Ariana, he is angry with you.” Katherine announced softly, rocking the pup-kits back to sleep. She finally looked up at her friend. “What happened between you?”
“Whatever did, it’s hurting me, too.” Ariana supplied. She told her feline friend what happened. “I think he’s mad at me because I had to tell Max the truth.”
“Now, you just told me. What went wrong in the Wood?”
“That’s what I’m here to find out.” Ariana grinned when she changed her form to her own she-wolf. “If you excuse me, I’m to find your husband.”
It didn’t take long for her to find Wolf. He was in the Valley’s practice fields, sparring with Red Wolf Moondancer. She shifted her form once again, catching Red Wolf’s attention.
“Page Red Wolf, I need a word with your Knight-Master.”
“Certainly, Young Guardian.”
“No, Red. Stay.” Wolf turned to face her, leaving Red Wolf staring at the two of them. “Whatever she has to say to me can be said to you.”
“This is a private matter, Wolf. Between us only.” Ariana and Wolf stood eye to eye. “Page Chikité ‘Red Wolf’ Moondancer, take your leave.”
Red Wolf was confused.
“Do you listen to her or to me?”
“I listen to her before you, Sire.” Red Wolf squeaked. “She is Lord Guardian’s successor.”
“You think I do not know that!” Wolf yelled at his Page.
“That’s enough, Wolfton Stargazer.” Ariana cried in his face. “Don’t make me pull rank, Companion.”
Wolf growled under his breath, but she wasn’t about to be intimidated by him now, or ever. “Very well. Leave, Red Wolf.”
Behind him, Red Wolf nodded. “Aye, Sire.”
As soon as he was gone, Wolf had a few more words for her.
“How dare you? In my own Valley!”
“Don’t do this, Wolf.” Ariana supplied. “Why are you mad at me?”
“For undermining my authority.”
“Big words for such a little pup.”
“Little pup?” Wolf was getting madder by the moment.
“Yes, little pup.” Ariana mocked. “Listen here and listen good. Something happened to both of us when we were bringing the Elders home. In order to find out what that is, I need to know more about this evil presence you sense so madly.”
Wolf finally broke eye contact. “I do not know.”
“You’re the one who brought it up to Max.”
“And you are the one who told Max something I told you in confidence.” Wolf barked back. “I knew I should not have told you.”
“If it involves this world, I have to know.” Ariana remarked. “Would you rather have Lord Guardian on your butts about this?”
“Not until it is dually necessary.” Wolf supplied. “I have told Shadow all I know of this...thing. The evil presence that nearly took me.”
“It didn’t take you, and it didn’t take me.” Ariana said. “Don’t you see? Whatever that was that got us was something small. We were strong enough in mind and body to fight it and win.” When he didn’t answer right away, her voice grew soft. “I’m sorry I told Max, but I had to. It’s part of being Young Guardian. I don’t want to fight against you, Wolf. You’re my friend, not my enemy. I want to work with you against this. Please, say you forgive me. If you won’t, I don’t think I’ll be able to –”
“Young Guardian!” Wolf cried.
She was silenced. To her surprise, he smiled.
“Ariana, I forgive you.”
Ariana laughed, hugging him. “About time. I was running out of words to tell you how sorry I am.”
“It is done.” Wolf supplied. “Leave it be.”
“Sorry, but I’m not finished with you, yet.”
“What do you mean?”
They began to walk back to the Castle.
“I want to know what you told Shadow.”
“Nothing.” Ariana stopped and scratched her head. “I don’t get it.”
“I do not know anything about whatever it is, so kindly drop it.”
Ariana shrugged. “You know my detective’s instincts better than that.” She supplied. “I can’t give up until I’ve explored every option, every angle, every nook and cranny.”
“Let’s start at the beginning, instead of the middle.” Ariana replied. “When did you first notice this presence?”
“I sensed it for months.” Wolf said.
“In the Canine Wood, between the Wood and the Perilous Forest.”
“Are you crazy? What if it effects us again?”
Ariana grasped at her Dream Amulet pin on her cloak. “It won’t. I’ve got the Silver Magic under control.”
Wolf continued to stare at her as if she were nuts. “One lesson and you think you know it all.”
“I’m a quick learner.” Ariana replied. They walked ahead. “It’s mine to learn, right? In my own way?”
“I guess so.”
“So, show me where you sensed it first.”
Wolf stopped and growled softly. “Very well. We must tell Katherine where we are headed.”
After they did that, they were on their way.
Princess of the Shady Kingdom
When they woke up, it was just another day for Shane Morehouse and his wife Aluna. It started out the same way as it usually did. Luna made breakfast, sending Caleb and Meredith on the school bus when they were ready. Shane kissed his wife goodbye as he drove himself and Derrick to work. Luna fed Logan, checking on her sister across the street. With Derrick and her four children gone, Ariana was left with Juliet and her new son, Theodore. They chatted and played with the boys until it was time for the babies naps. All seemed pretty normal until the younger children came home from school.
Luna was home to greet her two children off the bus. Only, they weren’t alone. There were three other children with them. One girl looked about twelve while the other looked nine. The boy looked a lot like her son Caleb. The girls had curly brown hair pulled up into perfect ponytails while the boy’s was perfectly combed. Luna remembered their names. The twelve-year-old was Amanda, the other girl was Celine and the boy’s name was Dwight. She also remembered their last names were the same as her own. Morehouse.
“I told them they could stay.” Caleb remarked. “Can they?”
“Only until your father gets home.” Luna shooed them to the backyard, taking her oldest son aside. “Caleb, I want you to promise me.”
“I know, Mom. No funny business.” Caleb said. “I’ll watch Meredith, too.”
“Stay where I can see you, okay son?”
Caleb smiled. “Okay, Mom. Can I go play with them now?”
Luna nodded. “Go.”
She watched Caleb race off to meet his friends in the backyard castle. It wasn’t long before somebody screamed. By that time, Shane had returned home, racing out with his wife to see what happened.
They saw something they shouldn’t have. Dwight was pointing at Logan, screaming. They were playing in the sandbox.
“Mrs. Morehouse, Logan did something weird.” The younger girl Celine replied.
“What did he do?” Luna held her chest, dreading the answer.
“He yelled ‘car’, pointing his arms in the air.” Celine demonstrated by making a beckoning motion with her hands. “The car just swooped in the air, and he caught it.”
“Is that so?” Luna didn’t know what to say to the other children. She didn’t know whether to be mad or glad her youngest son’s powers were awakening.
Did he have to do them in front of other children?
She scooped up Logan, who was smiling proudly, showing off his car. “Car.”
“Yes, honey. That’s a car.” She told him, turning to the other children. “Everyone in the house. I want one of you to call your parents and tell them you’re on your way home.”
The children raced inside. As soon as they were out of sight, Shane couldn’t keep silent any longer.
“So, what are we going to tell their parents?”
“What? Come on, Lu.”
“You wouldn’t believe a child’s word, would you?”
“Ours, yes. Others, I’m not so sure about.” Shane took Logan in his arms. “What about him?”
“What do you mean, ‘what about him?’” Luna asked.
“How do you punish a toddler?”
“We’ll think of something. In the meantime, I believe he has his strongest power.”
“Telekinesis? Tell me your kidding.”
Luna grinned, shaking her head. “They’re the ones that come out first, remember Caleb’s?”
“Like you, Clairvoyance. So, what are we going to do about him?”
“Silly, we’re gonna teach him.”
Shane groaned. “Great.”
They walked into the house to see the three other children standing together.
“Mommy and Daddy want to invite you to our house for dinner.” Amanda spoke up with a grin.
Luna and Shane exchanged glances.
“When you take us home, so no rush.” Amanda replied.
Luna had to laugh while Shane groaned.
Meanwhile, at the Readings, Kelly was coaxed by her brothers to talk to their parents. Neither Reading kid liked the new addition to the family, Juliet, and they weren’t going to stand for it anymore.
“Why me?” Kelly asked before she headed out to the kitchen.
“Why not?” Mark Antony supplied.
“You are the oldest.” Andrew remarked.
“Not to mention Mom’s favorite.”
“She doesn’t play favorites.” Kelly tried to tell them.
“She’ll listen to you.” Mark replied.
“In other words, she won’t suspect me of mischief, as she does you two?” Kelly suggested. “Yeah, whatever.”
“You don’t like Juliet, either, do you?”
“I don’t need a babysitter. Heck, I am a babysitter.”
“We know that. We just need you to convince them we don’t need one, either.” Mark replied.
Kelly knew right away she was duped by her little brothers. Twins and lovable they may be, but annoying they’re definitely. “Fine. I’ll talk to them. Okay?”
The twins exchanged glances. “Okay.” They ran off, leaving her alone.
“Momma, Derrick, can I talk to you?” Kelly asked.
“Certainly, honey.” Ariana replied. “What about?”
“Juliet Grey.” Kelly supplied. “You see, I don’t understand why she has to stay.”
“Is that why you pulled that prank on her?” Ariana asked, arms crossed.
“Prank?” Kelly asked, confused. “What prank?”
“You know what prank, young lady.” Derrick supplied. “The shaving cream in her shoes?”
“That wasn’t me, it was the twins!”
“Where did they get the idea from?” Ariana asked.
“You don’t believe me!” Kelly cried, exasperated. She looked at her stepfather. “You guys honestly don’t believe me!”
“You’re well-known for playing pranks on people Kelina Erin.” Derrick supplied. “That’s why we thought it necessary to hire her on as a live-in caretaker.”
“A Caretaker.” Kelly huffed. “A babysitter, you mean. I don’t need a sitter and you know it. I’ve been watching them since they and Melody were born. I can take care of myself.”
“Don’t you dare talk to your mother like that!”
“Sure, take her side.” Kelly interrupted, arms crossed. “You always do. You never seem to see my side of anything.”
“Regardless of whether or not you can take care of yourself, Juliet is staying. End of story. Is that clear?” Ariana pointed out.
“Yeah, whatever, but don’t expect me to listen to her.” Kelly huffed.
“You will listen, obey, and respect her as you do us.” Derrick supplied. “She is here to help us.”
“Does she know about us? About how different we are?” Kelly argued. After a moment of their silence, she laughed. “Didn’t think so.”
“That’s enough out of you, young lady.” Ariana said seriously.
“I think your mother will agree with me when I say this.” Derrick announced. “You are bound to your room until you can apologize to us and Juliet for the way you’ve treated her.”
“What?” She looks from one parent to the other. “You can’t do that!” She looks to her mother. “He can’t do that!”
Kelly noticed her mother’s amulet glowing, all six jewels were bright.
“He may not be able to, but I can.” Ariana took Kelly’s arm and stared into her eyes. “Until further notice, I personally bind you to your room and school. No clubs or after-school activities until I release the binding. As it is done, so mote it be.”
“Not even a binding will stop me from living my life, and you know it.” Kelly remarked.
“Maybe not by itself, but with my empathic powers linked to yours, I will be able to watch your every move, hear your every thought and be able to recognize when you’re ready to apologize.”
Mother and daughter stared at one another.
“Oh, and one more thing.” Ariana replied. “Decorum Sanctus Be!”
Those three words bound themselves in Kelly’s memory, and Ariana released her arm.
Derrick cleared his throat, refusing to look at his stepdaughter. “For now, go to your room. We’ll call you when dinner’s ready.”
With a huff of surrender, Kelly turned on her heal and left.
In the Dream Realm that night, Luna was patrolling her own ground as the Grand Magus. She spotted a strange girl snooping the Garden, where the barrier separating the Province and the Dominion had once stood.
The girl was dressed all in black. From leggings and boots to cloak and long-tunic, the girl snuck around, not wanting anyone to notice her.
Luna shook her head as she came out of the shadows. “Now, what would a girl like you be doing here? Snooping around where she doesn’t belong?”
The girl froze, staring at Luna. “Young Guardian!”
Luna shook her head. “Close, but not close enough.” She took her own cloak and bowed, tossing it behind her. “I am the Grand Magus. Who are you?”
“What do you care?”
“I patrol the Dream Realm just as my sister does.” Luna remarked. “I demand respect from all Creatures of the Realm, which I would guess includes you.” She stepped up the girl, noticing at once who this had to be. “Princess Tempest?”
“Aye, what of it?” Tempest huffed.
“What are you doing out of the Grey Area? Does Lord Max know where you are?” Luna asked. “Does Queen Jezebel?”
Tempest continued to stare Luna down. “In that case, does anybody?”
“Nay, nor will you tell them.” Tempest took out a wand and pointed it at her. “Or I will curse you so bad you will not be able to see straight!”
Luna laughed, waving her arm in front of her. The wand went flying out of Tempest’s hands and up into a tree. “You’ll curse me? With what? A silly spell? Girl, there’s no spell I can’t block. No spell I can’t turn against the caster.”
Tempest was scared. “Leave me alone!”
“You’re the one out on your own, not me.” Luna pointed out. “Why are you here, anyway?” She saw the black bag on Tempest’s back and surmised. “I see. You’re running away. Where did you plan on going?”
“Anywhere but the Shady Kingdom.”
“I hate it there!” Tempest cried. “They hate me! I do not belong there with them.”
“Where do you think you belong?”
“With my real mother and father.” Tempest replied.
So she didn’t know. Luna thought to herself. “Did they happen to tell you where you can find your real mother and father?”
Tempest shook her head.
“Have you any ideas where to look?”
The Princess shook her head again.
“That’s what I thought.” Luna stepped away from the girl. “The only thing to do is send you back.”
“Back? Nay! I cannot go back!”
“Have you done something wrong?” Luna asked. “Don’t want to face it?”
Tempest nodded her head. “I spied on Lord Max when he was talking to Young Guardian and two Companion pups.”
“Sire Stargazer and Red Wolf Moondancer.” Tempest replied. “Said they were going to start an Army, and Red Wolf needed permission to leave the Grey Area.”
“Was he granted it?”
Tempest nodded. “Aye. He is now Sire Stargazer’s Page. Young Guardian was to be in charge of it all.”
“Who else knows you were spying on them?” Luna asked.
“Queen Mother.” Tempest announced. “She sent me to my quarters, where I packed a bag and left. I never want to go back.”
Luna thought it over while the girl stood there, staring. “I know where you can find your mother.”
Tempest was aware in moments. “Where? Can you show me?”
“Not really, but I can send you there with my Magic.”
Tempest nodded ecstatically.
Shouldn’t be any harm in pointing her in the right direction, should there? Luna mused with herself. “Very well. Stand back while I call the spell.”
“Magics of the Realms Unite
“Take this Old Dominionite
“In a cloud of dust to the Unknown
“I Exile you all alone!”
In a flash of light, Tempest was gone and Luna was proud of herself. She didn’t realize she was being pulled away by an unknown force of Magic.
When she appeared again, it was in front of Lord Maximaniac’s throne. He wasn’t smiling.
“Lord Max,” Luna stood and bowed to him. “What can I do for you?”
“Why did you Exile my daughter?”
“She wanted to know where her mother was.” Luna supplied. “So, I sent her away to look.”
“Do you not know what you just did?”
“Obviously something I should not have, but it’s done. What can you do?” Luna tried to joke. “I’ll be on my way now.”
“SILENCE!” Lord Max’s voice boomed. His image changed to that of his Gargoyle self. “I do not care if you are the Grand Magus, or even the Young Guardian’s twin. You will bring her back.”
“Sorry, Lord Max, but I can’t.” Luna remarked.
“You Exiled her. Find her and un-Exile her! Am I making myself clear?”
Luna gulped. “Perfectly.” She croaked. “There’s just one problem.”
Max stared at her, growling. “What problem?”
“She’s in the Unknown.”
Max turned away from her. “Did you tell her the truth?”
“No, I thought I’d leave that to her father.” Luna supplied. “Apparently, she doesn’t know who she is? Why do you insist on keeping it a secret from her?”
“It is hard to explain. You should know this!”
“I should but I don’t. You see, I was always told who I was.” Luna remarked. “Send one of your minions to get her.”
“One of my minions, aye.” Max turned back to her, his image changing again to his court-jester self.
This told Luna one thing. “I’m not one of your mindless minions, Lord Max, and you know it.” Luna argued. “I’m a powerful Ancient Mystic.”
“One that has been to the Unknown and back time and again.”
“Only for my sister.”
“You can do it again, and come back in one piece.”
“Grand Magus, hear me out.” Lord Maximaniac said. “You sent the Princess there. That was your crime. Your punishment is to fetch her before she finds Sabrina. Easy enough, aye?”
Luna sighed. “Aye.”
Why did she have to be so impulsive with her Magic? Why couldn’t she just leave well enough alone? Why didn’t she send Tempest back to Max instead of the Unknown where she would ultimately meet up with Sabrina?
She knew it from the moment her eyes met Maximaniac’s. She was doomed.
The Devious Plan
Ariana thought hard about that binding spell she put on Kelly. She felt so bad about it, she confided to Wolf. “Do you think I was too hard on her?”
Wolf shook his head. “Of course not. She did something wrong and she has to pay the price. Tell me you have never punished her before?”
“I wouldn’t be lying.” Ariana said. “Oh Wolf, I feel so awful. I want to take the Binding Spell off her and apologize.”
“She will never learn if you do not set boundaries for her.” Wolf remarked. “How will she know the difference between right and wrong?”
“She’s never done this before.” Ariana said. “She was right. The twins pulled the prank on Juliet. I shouldn’t have accused her and punished her for something they did.”
“The deed is done.” Wolf remarked. “When her punishment is over, talk to her. Make her understand it was for her own good.”
“She’s thirteen.” Ariana supplied. “She won’t see it that way. Besides, she’s never done anything wrong before.”
Wolf laughed. “Nothing she was caught doing.”
Ariana broke away from his side without another word. Wolf watched as she headed to a bush. Being safe, he brought his sword up. Ariana heard it and turned, nodding. She followed suit.
“Look at the pommel.” Ariana whispered, showing him the jewel in the pommel of her short-sword.
“Is your jewel not the opal?” Wolf asked. She nodded. “Why would it be as black as an onyx?”
She shrugged. “Something’s fishy ‘round here.”
“What do you sense?”
Wolf watched as she threw her sword arm out, pointing the weapon to the bush. “Reveal your secrets!”
There was a flash of light, blinding them for a moment. When they were able to see, they didn’t like what was waiting for them. There was a black cloud surrounding most of the bushes in the area.
“What is that?” Ariana asked, examining it closer.
Wolf held his sword at attention, cautiously making his way to her. “I recognize this cloud. It is a Dark Mist. The Master used it against Lord Guardian’s own Army during the Wars.”
“Did it work?”
“Against them, no.” Wolf smiled. “He tried casting a spell on the feline Warriors, but it turned out all wrong.”
“I’ll bet.” Ariana grinned. “What else do you know about it?”
“The mist may have been called a Dark Mist, but the Province was so full of goodness the mist did no damage.” Wolf laughed. “When the Master found the Mist had faded into nothing, he was so mad, he could not think straight! The spell played itself out, disappearing.”
“I guess that’s how we get rid of this one.” Ariana remarked. “Spread the word. No Companion is allowed in the Wood until I give my word.”
“Do not want anymore, uh, occurrences such as ours, do we?”
“Total and complete chaos.” Ariana said. “Come on, Sire. I’ve got some time before I wake, and I’ve already patrolled. Let’s visit until then.”
“On one condition.” Wolf replied.
“What about the gear?”
“Have you learned nothing? Send it to the Castle ahead of us.” Wolf announced as he shifted. “Race you.”
Ariana quickly shifted, loping ahead of him to Stargazer Castle.
“You, my dear stepmother, are a failure.” Damian remarked as he came from the mirror. “You may be good enough to satisfy Father’s ultimate desires, but as an evil-doer you stink.”
“I was sure the mist would cause some chaos!”
“It did, but you underestimate the Ancient Mystics. As usual.” Damian responded. “Father did a wonderful job trying when he unleashed the Djinn.”
“I will make him proud!”
“Why do it for him?” Damian asked. He played to her ego. “Why not do it for yourself? After all, did they not Exile you here in the first place?”
“That was different. I wanted it.”
“You wanted to be Exiled so you could reunite with Father.” Damian supplied. “Now, he pays no attention to you.”
“What would you have me do? I have tried everything I know!”
“Try something you do not know.” Damian remarked. “What the hell, make it up as you go along? It will be fun.”
“Why would she ever want to be like you, brother?” They heard Sabrina’s voice croon.
“Who was it this time?” Damian greeted her.
“Lord Byron. He’s returned from the Barracks.” Sabrina supplied. “He was Earthbound with Destiny Grey and Tiger White-Snow.”
“That handsome wizard has returned, has he?” Gloriana asked. “Gather my daughters. I have a plan.”
Sabrina and Damian couldn’t believe their ears.
“What about your oath to Father?” Sabrina asked her.
“He ignores me. I want him to know I can be as evil and cunning as him.” Gloriana replied. “In order to do that, I must go outside my usual boundaries.”
“Usual boundaries?” Sabrina and Damian echoed.
“Face it, you will never beat the Ancient Mystics.” Sabrina remarked. “Set your sights a little lower.”
“Just because you have given up on them does not mean I will.” Gloriana remarked. “I want my share of the Ancient Mystics.”
Damian came up with something. “You will have your share, my Queen.”
Gloriana gave him a suspicious look. “What are you getting at?”
“You will see. You are not the only one wishing to get on Father’s good side.” Damian replied. He turned to his sister. “This is our turn to shine, sister.”
“Just what are you talking about?”
“We have Ancient Mystic Powers.”
“How can we use them?” Sabrina asked.
Damian did nothing but smile.
Tempest shivered, lost in the Unknown. She could hear howling of a distant pack of wolves. She was in a forest, she knew, but why wasn’t it green and flourished like the Shady Kingdom? Everything around her screamed death and decay. A dark shadow passed over her head, making her look up in alarm. There was nothing there.
All my fault. Tempest concluded. If I had not been such a baby and run from the castle, I would not be here now. If only I could learn to keep my mouth shut!
She heard caws of a crow from behind her. Frightened, she turned to see where it was. Again, nothing was there.
“Are you scared yet, child?” She heard the shrilling of a female in the air.
“I fear nothing I cannot see.” Tempest stood her ground, despite her anxiety.
A cloud of dark grey wind twisted itself around her body before settling feet in front of her. She watched in amazement as the wind formed itself into a female figure. It almost looked human. The eyes were black as coals and spiky hair white with patches of black in it.
“Who are you?” Tempest demanded in her best Princess tone.
“No concern of yours.” The female shrugged, not looking at her.
“I am Princess of the Shady Kingdom!” Tempest cried. “You will tell me your name!”
The female felt the gentle push of compulsion on her mind, but ignored it.
“Impressive, Princess.” She mocked. “Allow me to introduce myself. I am Albrath, a Dark Lady of the Unknown.”
Tempest gasped, stepping away from her. Albrath moved closer, using her mesmerizing black eyes to freeze her in place. “You reek of Lord Maximaniac. If you are his Princess, how are you here instead of there?”
“The Grand Magus sent me here.” Tempest told her. “I am in search of my true parents.”
Albrath smiled, the simple expression not meeting her eyes. Tempest was petrified the demon-girl’s gaze felt like ice. “If they were once Warriors on the Master’s side, they would be here.”
With a quick chant in an ancient dark language Tempest had only read about, Albrath tied her in a magical rope. She was unable to escape.
“Unhand me this instant!” Tempest’s nerve to command was back.
Tempest struggled to free herself from the bindings.
“I would not try anything if I were you.” Albrath leaned close and whispered into her ear. “The spells holding you are powerful and can be quite painful if you use your own magic on them.”
She licked Tempest’s ear, breath making her skin crawl.
“Now, Princess.” Albrath shrilled. “Shall we go meet the Master?”
“Aye.” Tempest knew she had to listen, and not speak, to the Dark Lady. She could do nothing but obey.
Luna was tiring in the Abyss. She searched for hours but couldn’t find the opening to the Unknown. She found the only thing that resembled life in this desolate Realm. A rickety shack made of old wood. Just as she raised her arm to knock on the door, she heard a booming voice.
Who dares disturb my rest?
“I am the Grand Magus, an Ancient Mystic of the Dream Realm.” Luna supplied. “I can’t seem to find the doorway to the Unknown.”
Why would you wish to go there? A shadow in front of her remarked. Its voice was neither male or female, but both.
“Please, Gatekeeper. Let me pass.” Luna replied. “I need to fetch a soul that doesn’t belong there. I have to bring her back.”
Who did you send to the Unknown?
“Princess Tempest, of the Grey Area’s Shady Kingdom.”
The shadow moved, and a brush of air passed Luna’s left side.
You will find the entrance behind you. Go swiftly.
“How do I get back?”
That is your problem.
At that, the shadow disappeared.
“Thanks a lot, Gatekeeper.” Luna replied sarcastically to thin air. Turning, she indeed saw the doorway. She cautiously walked through it, falling into nothingness. Quickly, she thought of the wings of a bird and began to fly. “Now, to find the Princess.”
She soared through darkness until she could see a light. A bright light came from a tower in her vision. She changed her eyesight to that of an owl and magnified her vision. It was a castle, she was sure, but why did it look so familiar?
That’s when she heard cackling. “Birdy, birdy, in the sky, come down from your flight so high. Shift your form with your own power and find what you seek in Dark Tower.”
Dark Tower? Couldn’t be! Luna thought to herself.
Without thinking, she shifted back to her human form in midair and began to fall. She tried to shift again, but couldn’t. She felt it; her Magic for shifting was gone in the Unknown.
She felt a field of a white-black glow shimmer around her, slowing her descent until she was safely on the ground. When she set on the cold ground, she stood up. All around her, she could see restless spirits in the shapes of ghosts. Somehow, she wasn’t afraid.
“You are right not to be afraid, Grand Magus.” One walked up to her and grinned. It was a giant half-human rat. His huge teeth stuck out of his mashed-in snout, whiskers were shortened, as if burned.
“How did you know who I was?” Luna asked.
The rat-man grinned, showing receding gums and broken, rotted teeth. “You would be surprised how fast rumor flies when one is not listening.”
Great, she thought. A riddle.
“Answer me this, then.” Luna supplied. “Have you seen a recently-Exiled female come through here? I need to take her back to the Dream Realm.”
The rat-man thought for a moment, ticking his tongue to the two front teeth. “Souls come through here all the time. Describe her.”
“She was human, wearing all black.” Luna tried.
The rat-man shook his head.
“She acted like a common Dominionite spy, only she wasn’t.”
He shook his head again.
“What about this? Her hair was black as night, her eyes as red as flowing blood, and her skin was white as death.” Luna remarked softly, pausing after each description for effect. It seemed to work, for the rat-man cowered away from her.
Bug-eyes widened, frightened at the sight of her, the rat-man bowed and told her what he knew. “She heads toward the Dwindling Glen, where old memories are kept before they are forgotten.”
“Show me.” Luna replied in her best Grand Magus tone.
With a nod, he stood. “Follow my lead.”
D’Kora, the Maiden’s own servant, watched as Young Guardian’s twin followed Sarnov’s lead.
That rat has always been gullible to good. D’Kora thought in her mind.
With a sneer, she disappeared, finding her Maiden in conference with Queen Gloriana and the Merchant.
“Maiden, my I have a word?” D’Kora’s smile never left her lips. It was devious, so Sabrina nodded her head. “Young Guardian’s twin is here, searching for the Ghost-Child.”
Gloriana was confused. “Who is this Ghost-Child?”
“She is the one Albrath found in the Forbidden Zone.” Sabrina answered. “The Grand Magus sent her here to search for her lost parents. The Warriors tell me the child reeks of Lord Maximaniac.”
“Aye, I do recall him taking in a bastard child.” Gloriana remarked. “Eyes as red as blood, skin white as a sheet and colder than the coldest winter.” She turned to D’Kora. “Bring her to me. She may be of some use to us.”
“Where is she now?” Sabrina asked D’Kora. “This Ghost-Child.”
“In the Dungeon, as ordered by the Master, my Maiden.” D’Kora supplied. “Young Guardian’s twin searches for her as well.”
“The Grand Magus is here?” Gloriana was confused. “Who was she Exiled by?”
D’Kora shrugged. “I could not tell you, my Queen.” The troll-like maidservant supplied. “She is led by Sarnov, the River Rat.”
“That vile creature still exists?” Damian butt in. He grinned, coming up with a plan of his own. “Brilliant. I must greet them formally.”
With that, and a killer smile, he disappeared. D’Kora could only smile after him, returning to her post. Sabrina was left laughing, cooking up a devilish plan of her own.
A Test of Power, Part One
When Shane woke up, he noticed his wife was gone. He went about his day, taking the kids across the street to Aimee’s when he realized she wasn’t coming back for awhile. He vaguely heard the various greetings as he walked in the Police Station that morning. Derrick had driven both of them, as he sometimes did, and even he didn’t know what to make of things.
All through the day, he was the one in the daze, wondering where Luna was, and why his Pendant was jumping. He tried using some of its Magic to sense her himself, but he quickly found out she was nowhere around. The Shadow and the Protector were confused as to what happened to Luna. They were both certain something actually did happen, but they didn’t know what.
After work, they decided to find out. Derrick and Shane found the one woman who was linked to Luna at all times. Ariana was in Kelly’s room, cradling the teenager to her body. Somehow, something happened to Kelly, too. They had worse things to think about.
“Ariana?” Derrick was instinctively at her side, holding her. “It’s okay, Love. I’m here. Tell me what happened.”
“Djinn.” Was her whispered reply.
The boys looked at each other.
“Luna?” Shane asked Derrick.
Derrick shrugged, turning to his wife when she gasped. “Luna’s missing.”
Ariana nodded. “I know. I was visiting Lord Max when I got her mind-call. It was the same time I felt Kelly drifting away from me.” She told them. “Orthos sent the Djinn to get my daughter, and I felt it.”
She sobbed in his embrace. By now, she’d released Kelly’s limp body.
Shane felt his Locket-Pendant, eyes trained in using its particular magic. All around the child he saw a whisper of a white-black aura. It was as if she were gone somewhere, yet her body was there. “Invisibite?” He whispered under his breath. “She made herself an Invisibite?”
“Impossible.” Derrick said.
“You don’t know us Ancient Mystics, do you?” Ariana asked. “She learned how to separate the Magical and the Spiritual sides of herself. She did it to escape the Djinn.”
“What about Lu?” Derrick asked. “Can you sense her anywhere?”
“She’s in the Unknown.” Ariana told them matter-of-factually.
“How did she get there?”
“The Gatekeeper, how else?”
“Can you sense Kelly?” Shane asked.
“There’s nothing but a senseless Djinn in her body.” Ariana looked to Kelly’s quiet shell. “It called itself a Mind-dweller.”
“Is that anything like the Dweller you told me about?”
“You’re talking of two different species of beings.” Ariana remarked. “A Mind-dweller is an almost-powerless, if not useless breed of Djinn. Their main goal is to use and confuse Dreamers, making them think they’re going crazy when they’re not.”
“Like what happened to Jake and I?”
“Exactly.” Ariana nodded. “The Dwellers I told you about were like modern-day vampires. They’re hunters in their own right, waking in the night to hunt their turned kin.”
“Back to Luna.” Shane was astonished at the amount of information she’d learned in such a short time. “Can you tell us where in the Unknown she is?”
Ariana shook her head. “She did tell me how she got there, though. Lord Max sent her.”
“Why?” Shane was slowly turning into his own hunter-persona, the Shadow.
“To retrieve Tempest.”
“Who Exiled Tempest?” Derrick was confused.
“Luna, but she didn’t know what she was doing.” Ariana remarked.
“Oh, Luna always knows what she’s doing.” Shane was now completely pissed. His eyes were now dark with anger. “I’m sure your sister had a very good explanation for sending Tempest to the Unknown.”
Knock it off, Shadow. Concentrate. He heard Ariana’s leader voice in his head. It calmed him for the moment.
One look into her eyes brought Shane back to life. “Thanks.”
“No problem.” Ariana smiled. “We’ve got to rescue her, only we have to get Kelly back, too. Before it’s too late.”
Shane studied her, and so did Derrick.
“You feel bad about the Binding Spell, don’t you?”
“Binding Spell?” Shane was confused.
“We thought Kelly played a prank on Juliet.” Ariana said, looking back at Kelly’s body. “I bound her to me until I felt she’d learned her lesson.”
“No wonder you felt her so strongly.” Derrick admonished. “We’ve got to do something. We can’t just sit here and weep over our losses.”
There was something Shane hadn’t heard in a long time. Derrick was finally taking charge when his love-of-a-wife couldn’t. He didn’t realize he was staring at his brother-in-law until Derrick himself said something.
Shane shook his head. “Nothing. I’ve got an idea.” Ariana and Derrick waited for him. He smiled. “We go and fetch her.”
“Luna?” Ariana asked. “What about my daughter?”
“We don’t even know where Kelly took herself.” Derrick said.
“There’s only one place for the Spiritual side of Invisibites to go.” Ariana supplied. “The Abyss.”
There was a tone in her voice neither gentleman liked to hear. They knew she has always hated the Abyss, and the only being who inhibited it, the Gatekeeper. Her voice was angry, yet determined.
“I don’t care if the Gatekeeper has her locked in some tomb in the hidden alcoves, I will get my daughter back.” Ariana was determined.
“Need I remind you of our new son?” Derrick asked. “What about him, and the other children? And your own niece and nephews?”
“Yeah, Ariana. Where will they go while we’re rescuing Luna and Kelly?” Shane asked.
“Easy. We leave them to Juliet and Aimee.” Ariana supplied. “After all, that’s why I hired Juliet in the first place. To be there for our children when Derrick and myself can’t.”
“You actually trust her, Love?” Derrick asked. “She wasn’t exactly the most responsible teenager in the Academy you know.”
“She’s still Mark’s sister.” Ariana argued, glaring at him. “Besides, Amethyst will be there if anything should happen.”
“Amethyst?” Shane asked. “Since when do we call her that?”
“Since now.” Ariana stood. “Where to first?”
“You tell Juliet.” Derrick said. “She likes you better than she likes me.”
“So Juliet Grey no longer has a crush on my debonair husband?” Ariana teased, hugging him. He groaned, rolling his eyes.
Shane couldn’t help laughing. “I’ll tell Aimee.”
“That would leave you to look after Kelly.” Ariana told Derrick.
“Not like she’s going anywhere.” Derrick sat on the bed next to Kelly’s silent body. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say she was just sleeping.”
“Don’t be fooled. She’s in a deep trance.” Ariana supplied. She kissed his lips and was on her way, Shane following in her tread.
Once the other children were safely tucked away at Aimee’s with Juliet, Ariana led the gentlemen to her downstairs Magic-room.
“You know, we never actually been to the Abyss outright.” Derrick announced. “Is there a spell or something that’ll take us there?”
“I’m not terribly sure.” Ariana thought aloud. She turned to Shane. “Has Luna thought of one to take us directly to the Abyss?”
“Just a variation of the Dream Chant.” Shane shrugged. “What about when you patrol? Don’t you find Dreamers worlds through it?”
“Sure, but it’s part of my job to go there when I do.” Ariana said. She held both her hands out. “Form a circle.”
Derrick and Shane each grasped one of her outstretched hands, then each other’s, completing the circle. “Now what?” Derrick asked.
“You know the routine.” Ariana grinned. “Close your eyes and repeat with me.”
Ariana’s smile stayed, catching the eyes of her Earthly Protector and brother-like best friend. “Centaurium Abysms Tu.”
Echoes of a short-handed spell vibrated through the air as the trio were swept away in a whirlwind of Magic to the Abyss.
“You’re gonna regret capturing me.” Luna growled to her abductor.
Damian could do no other than laugh at her. “Dear Grand Magus. Only mortals revel in the emotion called regret.”
“I’m no ordinary mortal, and you know it.” Luna supplied. “I came here searching for Princess Tempest.”
“She does not concern me.” Damian shrugged. “Why should I care for a Grey Arean who lost her way?”
“She didn’t lose her way, Damian.” Luna remarked. “I sent her here.”
“You did that?” He looked and sounded impressed.
“By mistake.” She emphasized. “If Lord Max is told you interrupted my retrieval of the Princess, it will be more than your head on a platter.”
“I am already Exiled.” Damian supplied. “What more can that travesty of a Wizard do to me?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I’m sure he’ll think of something.” Luna responded sarcastically with a sneer.
It only made Damian smile. “Well, then.” He said. “I always knew you had promise, Grand Magus. I never knew you would actually wish to learn the Dark Magic.”
“It’s not only Dark Magic I learn, Damian.” Luna remarked. “I know more than you can ever fathom.”
Damian laughed, gliding away from her black-gilded cage. “Have you forgotten, Aluna? I was fighting in the Wars for Power against your Great-grandfather long before you were ever born! I have lived centuries longer than you. Your mere attempts at learning Magic do not faze me.”
Luna couldn’t lose heart. He may have the advantage, locking her in a cage she can’t even touch the bars of, but that didn’t mean all was lost. Somehow, she had to outsmart him, or intimidate him.
“You think to outwit me?” Damian supplied. When she opened her mouth to answer back, he grinned. “Simple Telepathy. I am certain even you know of its existence?”
“Of course.” Luna whispered. Time to try another tactic. She closed herself off, trying to think as hard as she could. If only Shane were here! “You know of the Shadow, don’t you?”
At the title, Damian cringed. “Aye, it is unfortunate I do.” He grumbled.
Good. He was weakening. Damian was scared stiff of the great Shadow. What to do with the information?
“He just so happens to be right behind you.” Luna tried her hardest to project the image of Shadow where Damian looked.
He was taken aback, surprised for only a moment. Suddenly, with a pain in her mind, the image flickered out of sight.
“Parlor tricks?” Damian pointed to the now-vacant spot. “You wish to delude me with parlor tricks? Come now, Grand Magus. You can do better than that!”
Luna grasped her Dream Pentacle, a sort of pentacle-shaped Dream Locket she’d earned training to become the Dream Realm’s Grand Magus. It signified she was capable of great power, great magic, and able to learn any kind of world magic with ease. Grasping it now, she felt its magic pulsating in her hand. It gave her hope.
“You’re right. I can.” Luna remarked. “I just choose not to waste it on scum like you, cousin.”
Damian was shocked at the last word. He grasped a staff from thin air and pointed it at her. It made Luna cringe. “How dare you assume I am one of you!”
She could feel the evil burning through his system to the end of the staff. What she couldn’t do is stop the bolt of red Dominionite Magic that came from its end. All she could do was cover her eyes and hope for the best.
At once, the Unknown around her turned black, and she was unconscious.
Once in the Abyss, Shane, Derrick and Ariana changed dress. Immediately, they were the Shadow, the Protector and the Young Guardian. As usual, Ariana took control.
“Shadow, find the Grand Magus in the Unknown.” Young Guardian commanded. “Protector, come with me to find the Enchanted Child’s Invisibite self. We’ll meet up with the Child somewhere safe in the Dream Realm. That way, we’ll be able to Exorcize the Mind-dweller away there. Understand?”
The Shadow and the Protector nodded their heads.
“Hurry.” The Protector supplied.
“How do I Exile myself?” Shadow asked, confused.
“See the Gatekeeper. It will show you the way.” Young Guardian announced. She took the Protector’s hand. “Let’s go!”
After a moment of searching in complete darkness, the light from the Protector’s Pendant-Locket showed the way.
“At least this thing is good for something.” The Protector teased.
Young Guardian giggled, despite her urgent mood. “We can do no other than oblige it, now can we?”
The Protector noticed her own necklace was glowing silver-white. “If I’m not mistaken, your token is telling you something.”
His arm wrapped around her waist, securing her safely to his side. She fingered her Dream Amulet. “I wonder. . .” She cleared her throat and called a quick spell. “Show me what you wish me to see.”
In front of them shimmered a vision of thirteen-year-old Kelly, the Enchanted Child. The vision was glittering, like a pretty fairy. She was dressed all in white, with small wings in the middle of her back like a fairy. She really looked like a reddish-brown haired fairy from storybooks.
“Momma. . .” Kelly’s voice was but a musical whisper.
“Where are you?” Young Guardian called to her daughter’s vision. She knew right away the Child was in danger somewhere, just by the look in her silver-blue eyes.
“Follow your charms.” Kelly whispered. “I’m weakening. Hurry to me.”
Young Guardian’s head ached. She reached to soothe it, but the Protector’s hand was already there.
As quietly as she’d come, the Enchanted Child’s image was gone.
“Where did she learn such imagery magic?” The Protector asked into the air.
Young Guardian shrugged, holding her head. His hands felt warm under her own.
“Does it hurt much?” He asked softly, removing his hands and kissing her forehead.
“Can you feel it?” Young Guardian whispered, falling to her knees. “The pain from both of them is driving me mad.”
“You can’t be mad.” The Protector announced. “Only I’m allowed to be mad. There can’t be two of us running this place, can there?”
He was joking with her. In his soothing voice, he was calming her nerves and taking away the pain in her mind.
“How are you mad?”
“I married you, didn’t I?” The Protector kissed her lips and held her close again. He wanted so much to totally take away the pain. “Follow your sensors, Love.”
“There’s too much going on in my head.” Young Guardian supplied. “Not only am I bound to the Grand Magus, I’m bound to the Enchanted Child.”
“Concentrate on the Enchanted Child then.” The Protector supplied. “Shadow’s taking care of your twin.”
With a look of determination, she sighed. “I certainly hope so.”
Shadow easily found his way to his Sweetling. He used his Empathic sensors to locate her, the magic for Empathy coming from his necklace. Like the shadow for which he named himself, Shadow crept into the Unknown’s Dark Tower dungeons. Luckily for him, they were the same here as they were back in the Dominion. Once coming close, he sent out a telepathic message.
Grand Magus, I’m here for you.
In her cell, Luna stirred. Her head still hurt from the lightning blast. Could she have heard the Shadow’s comforting tone in her mind? Just in case, she sent back. Where are you?
Good, he reasoned. She got it. To her, he supplied. Just outside the door. Where is the Merchant?
No, she wasn’t hearing things. It really was Shadow. Her Shadow. With the image of happiness and love, she relayed. Away for now.
Use your Empathy.
Shaking her head, she cried in her head. NO!
Grand Magus, I’m here to rescue you from the Merchant. Please, use your Empathy to sense me.
It is the only way I can pinpoint your location, and be certain the Merchant is gone long enough for me to do my job.
She hated when he was the Shadow. He wouldn’t let up for anything. Cool, relentless, suave, sophisticated and a most brilliant hunter.
Compliments will get you everywhere, my dear. For the last time, sense me!
She let out a soft sigh. Closing her eyes, she opened her Empathic sensors for the first time in months. She could sense him where he said he was, just outside the door.
He got the Empathic push he needed to see through her eyes. Making sure it was safe for him to do so, he raised his arms to the locked door. “Release!”
A brilliant glow of light came from the center of his being to his call. It shot out of his hands to cover around the door.
From inside, she watched the glow penetrate the door, making it disappear. She watched as he raced to her rescue. The Shadow touched the bars, only to come with scarred hands.
She fiercely felt his pain with her Empathy, turning it off. “Shadow!”
“I’m okay. Just shocked.” Shadow reassured her. “What kind of Magic is that?”
“I thought you of all people would recognize Dominionite Magic!” She cried. “Get me out of here!”
“Right.” Shadow supplied. “Hold on, Sweets.”
He stepped back from the cage and tried using the same magic on it as he’d used on the door. It didn’t work. The beam of Gold-Magic was literally devoured by the bars. The only thing it did do was disappear.
“Great.” He mumbled.
“Any more bright ideas?” She demanded.
He looked up at her and saw the glowing Silver Magic of her Dream Pentacle. “Have you tried your Silver Magic since you’ve learned it?”
“Not really, see?” Luna shook her head, but grasped the Pentacle in her hand. She brought it up for her eyes to see it. “It’s glowing!”
“So is the Pendant-Locket.”
“Never mind.” Shadow sighed. “Try it out. Use the Silver Magic.”
Shrugging, she pointed it at the bars, concentrating the Magic’s silver beam to hit them. It only disappeared as well. “Okay, now what?”
Shadow was excited when his smile showed he had a thought in his mind.
“Shadow. . .” Luna warned.
“When you sleep at night, do you change at all?”
“What do you mean?” Luna asked. “And what does it have to do with getting me out of this blasted cage?”
Shadow laughed. “Calm yourself, Grand Magus.”
“Stop calling me that.”
“It’s who you are.” Shadow remarked.
“Not here, I’m not.” Luna supplied. “Only in the Dream Realm, and you know it.”
“Of course I know it. I also know if you become the Grand Magus here, you’ll have a better chance at escape.”
“Huh?” Luna echoed.
“Change your image.” Shadow urged. “Become the Grand Magus.”
“Very well.” Luna stepped away from the bars and waved her hands in the air to change her image to that of her own persona, the Dream Realm’s Grand Magus. “There. Happy?”
“Not yet.” Shadow remarked. “I want you to do one more thing.”
“Use your Silver Magic on me.”
“What are you, nuts?”
In his best tone, he commanded. “Do it!”
She pointed the Silver Magic of her Dream Pentacle at the Shadow. At the same time, he pointed his Gold-Magic of his Pendant-Locket at the Grand Magus.
“Say the spell with me, Grand Magus.”
“Trying to kill me?” Grand Magus remarked.
“Have I ever hurt you?” Shadow asked. “Truthfully.”
“No.” It was a quiet admission.
“I’m not going to now.” Shadow supplied softly. “I need you to say the spell with me, in order for it to work.”
“Spell? What spell? For what to work?”
Again, his adamant tone cried out. “Do it!”
The Grand Magus and the Shadow stared at one another. His eyes controlled, concentrating both on her and the combined magic. Her eyes scared and wondering what he had in mind.
“This is where your Wiccan studies can really save your life, Grand Magus!” Shadow cried. “Think closely of what we’re doing here. Of what these colors represent to witches everywhere.”
What did gold and silver mean?
“The Lady and the Lord.” Grand Magus whispered. “I know a spell.”
“Good. I was hoping you would. Call it.” Shadow demanded.
“First, put your hands against mine.” Grand Magus instructed. Once he did so, she closed her eyes. He did the same, knowing he must. The Gold-Silver Magics together formed a circle around them, connecting them in more ways than one.
The Grand Magus called a spell.
“Harkening the Ancient Mystic’s might
“To Silver Lady and Golden Lord bright.
“Together form a power light as day,
“Where darkness once was, now go away!”
In a radiant light of Gold-Silver Magics, the bars of the cage disappeared. When the last sparkle of magic dust disappeared, they were shocked. They found themselves in each other’s embrace, kissing and hugging so fiercely, they thought they would each collapse.
“Let’s get out of here before the Merchant finds us.” Shadow supplied.
“We have to find Princess Tempest.”
“Not yet, Grand Magus.” Shadow remarked. “Time to find Young Guardian and the Protector.”
Grand Magus was confused as they headed far away from Dark Tower as they could possibly go. Not asking who the Protector was, she asked him. “Where?”
“In the Abyss.” Shadow took her hand and pulled her close for a kiss. “Away we go.”
The Test of Power, Part Two
They found the Protector and the Young Guardian waiting for them. The Enchanted Child in all her beauty held tightly to the hands of her mother and stepfather.
“Can we go home now?” The Child asked.
“Not until Shadow and the Grand Magus meet us here.” The Protector replied.
The Child promptly let go of their hands to run ahead. Young Guardian followed, greeting her war-torn sister.
“Grand Magus! Shadow!” Young Guardian cried, hugging them both. “You’re alright!”
“Did you ever doubt?” Shadow playfully kissed her cheek. He hugged the Child extra hard. “Are you okay, kid?”
The Enchanted Child shook her head. “I forgot the chant to take me home.”
“We’re not going home right away, honey.” Young Guardian replied. “Do you think the Mind-dweller would follow her entire self to the Province?”
“Why would he dare?” The Protector supplied. “It would mean his destruction.”
“He’s right.” Shadow remarked. “There’s too much goodness in the Dream Realm for a Mind-dweller to stay long.”
“Do you mean to tell me a Djinn is haunting her?” Grand Magus asked, astonished. “How? Why?”
“Worry about that later.” Shadow commented. “Do either of you remember the spell to get her Spiritual self back to her Magical self?”
Both the Grand Magus and the Protector shook their heads.
“What about you, Young Guardian?” Shadow asked. “If I recall, Orthos sent both you and the Child to be Invisibites. Do you remember what spell Max used to bring you back?”
Young Guardian’s brow lowered in thought. “Let me think.” She muttered under her breath. “Aha!” She bent to whisper something in the Enchanted Child’s ear.
“I remember now!” The Child cried. She stepped away from the four of them, closing her eyes and raising her hands to the air.
“Intertwine these Forms of Mine
“Magic, Mind, and Body Yearn
“From duo places and duo times
“Make one once again in turn.”
Her hands clasped together at the last line. In a flash of light, the Enchanted Child was whole again.
“Is the Djinn still there?” Young Guardian asked quietly.
The Child nodded.
“Call the Dream Chant.” Young Guardian instructed. “When you arrive, go straight to Stargazer Castle. We’ll meet up with you.”
“Moy Yam Tor Ham Day,
“Take me away.
“My heart, my soul and all I seem,
“Take me now to the World of Dreams!”
In another flash, the Child was gone.
“Why there?” The Protector asked.
“I want to see if that Dark Mist was gone for good.” Young Guardian announced, taking his hand. She also took her sister’s hand. “Ready to rock and roll?”
Grand Magus rolled her eyes before she closed them. Once all hands were clasped in another’s, they called the same spell and disappeared.
Sabrina watched her brother pace. It made her dizzy.
“Damian...” She whined.
“Silence, sister.” Damian announced.
“You let them go free!” Sabrina cried. “I wanted the Grand Magus!”
“Relax, Sabrina. You will have her, yet.”
“Why did you let Shadow free her?”
Damian finally turned to his sister. “I wanted to see how much Magic she really knew how to use.”
“She is the greatest of Ancient Mystics.” Sabrina remarked. “I wanted her, and her powers.”
“I told you, you will have her.” Damian supplied with a grin. “Did I not give you the Djinn to help you?”
“Why send a Djinn to the Enchanted Child when I want the Grand Magus?”
“Have you learned nothing all these years?” Damian huffed. “When one is in need, they all come running.”
Sabrina was finally understanding her brother. “Tricky, tricky.”
He bowed. “None other.”
“What of Gloriana?”
“That oaf of an evil-doer?” Damian laughed. “I sent her somewhere to reek havoc.”
Sabrina was curious. “Where?”
“To the mighty Ancient Mystic’s Kingdom.” Damian supplied.
“What for?” Sabrina asked. “That place has been in ruins since the Wars.”
“Lord Byron dwells there with Mistress Challandra and their children.” Damian said. “I just sent her there to have a little fun.”
“Lord Byron?” Sabrina crooned. “Aye. He should pay for Exiling me.”
Damian nodded. “And so he will, from Gloriana, by my orders.”
“You scandalous beast!” Sabrina was excited. “Father will be enraged!”
“As my intent. It will teach our new stepmother not to disrespect us.” Damian supplied. “After all, she was one of our many useless Dominionite drones.”
Sabrina saw the blazing colors in his eyes. He was going to have some fun, and so would she. “My, brother, you really know how to liven a party!”
Young Guardian and her three colleagues met the Enchanted Child in the Dream Realm’s Canine Valley. She was happily playing with Celine Stargazer and her new kit-pup brothers Raulf and Lovell . An elder version of Wolfton Stargazer himself was watching them, Red Wolf beside him.
“Sheldon!” Young Guardian cried. She hugged Wolf’s father. “Where’s Shelby?”
“Getting to know her new daughter.” Sheldon Stargazer supplied. “If you need my son, he is patrolling the border of the Canine Wood.”
“Any more incidents of the Dark Mist?” Shadow asked.
“None we could detect.” Sheldon remarked. “You may seek if you wish.”
“Can I stay here, Momma?” The Enchanted Child asked.
“What about the Djinn?”
“I have already explained to the Child the Djinn must be taken care of in your own world.” Sheldon supplied for her, shaking his head.
“Wouldn’t it be easier here?” The Grand Magus asked. “After all, he hasn’t any power here, right?”
“I was wondering that myself.” Young Guardian supplied.
Red Wolf had been quiet up until then. He cleared his throat, getting his Young Guardian’s attention. “May I speak freely?”
“Go ahead, Page Red Wolf.”
“It is true the Mind-dweller has no power here, but it would still be difficult.” Red Wolf said softly.
“We can handle it, Red Wolf.” The Protector replied.
“However,” Red Wolf continued loudly, “you must use the combined Magics in the Outer Realm. The Child told us of his existence, and how he wishes to get to the Grand Magus.”
“Me?” Grand Magus asked, holding her heart. “Why me?”
“You are the most powerful Ancient Mystic in your line, with the exception of Young Guardian.” Sheldon announced, bowing his head. “Begging your pardon, Young Guardian.”
“Understood.” Young Guardian bowed her head back, acknowledging his remark. “Go on.”
“This particular Mind-dweller was sent by the Maiden herself.” Sheldon continued.
“Not Sabrina again!” Young Guardian cried. She looked to her sister. “Will she never learn?”
“I guess not.” The Grand Magus supplied.
“For now, go home and get rid of it before it hurts the Child more.” Sheldon supplied.
Now the Protector was angry. All could feel it. Young Guardian placed a hand on his arm with a look of warning.
“How has it hurt her?” He growled, fists clenched.
“Just my mind, Daddy.” The Child hugged him. He hugged her back tightly. “I knew enough to handle him.”
“But not enough to get rid of him.” The Protector whispered, kissing her temple.
“It’s the take-over all over again.” Shadow growled. “I hate to admit it, but Sir Sheldon’s right. We need to get home to the kids anyway.” He turned to the Protector and Young Guardian, who were each holding the Child. “We’ll meet in the morning and get rid of the Djinn, okay?”
The three of them nodded, agreeing. The Grand Magus and the Shadow disappeared, returning home to the Outer Realm.
“In the meantime, I believe we have a mission.” Young Guardian announced. “Child, stay here with Sir Sheldon and Page Red Wolf. Protector, are you coming with me?”
“Where else would I go?” The Protector grinned.
“Thanks again, Sir Sheldon.” Young Guardian said. “I’ll find some way to repay you.”
“No need. Reuniting me with my son and his family was thanks enough for me.” Sir Sheldon bowed to her. “When you have need of me, I will be yours to command.”
“How noble of you.” The Protector nodded. He wrapped an arm through his Love’s. “Shall we find Wolf?”
Young Guardian and the Protector disappeared from sight. Sir Sheldon, Red Wolf and The Enchanted Child exchanged worried glances. They hoped everything would turn out all right, and nothing would happen to them.
The couple found Sire Wolfton where his father said he would be. He was with a pup, patrolling the border of the Wood.
When Young Guardian gave the cry, Wolf saw who it was. He said something to the pup before heading in the couple’s direction. His face lit up when he saw the Protector.
“Young Guardian!” Wolf bowed quickly. “And, who is this?”
“Wolf, it’s me. Derrick.” The Protector supplied. “Apparently, I’ve earned my new title, along with the clothes to go with it.”
“I see that. What is your new title, my friend?” Wolf asked.
“They call me the Protector.” He supplied. “I don’t know what or who I’m supposed to protect, but that’s who I am. For now, I’m helping our Young Guardian with her duties.”
“So you are the infamous Protector!” Wolf laughed. “I knew your deeds sounded familiar!” He turned to Young Guardian. “It would seem the Dark Mist has completely disappeared.”
“Have you had any more problems with it?”
Wolf shook his head. “Nay, thank the Gods.” He yelped. “Oh! Come and meet one of my own Soldiers of Justice.”
“Soldiers of Justice?” Young Guardian giggled. “I’ve got to see this.”
She followed him to the pup in a uniform.
“Personnel Ronan Brownpatches, meet your Young Guardian and the Protector.” Wolf replied. “Ronan here is a beagle pup. Very loyal and determined. He was one of the first to sign up for the Canine Army.”
Ronan bowed. “It is an honor to finally meet you, Young Guardian.” He supplied. “I am truly blessed by your presence.”
“Stop.” Young Guardian giggled. “Thanks anyway, Young Ronan.”
The Protector nudged her. “You’re blushing, my dear.”
She turned to him, surprising him with a kiss. Startled, he turned away from view.
“Good. Now you’re the one who’s blushing.” Young Guardian teased. “We came to see if it was gone for good. I was worried for a while there.”
“Like the night, it was gone.” Ronan was still knelt in front of her.
“Rise, Ronan.” Young Guardian announced. “I don’t feel comfortable having Companions kneeling to me quite yet. I’m still Earthbound, you know.”
“Does that mean the rumors of Lord Guardian’s demise are false?” Ronan asked them.
“He’s too strong to die.” Young Guardian told him. “Where did you hear the rumors?”
“That rumor has been around the Canine Valley for a long time!” Ronan supplied. “Thank the Gods it is not true.”
“How long have these rumors been around?” The Protector wondered.
“Years of Outer Realm time.” Ronan announced. “My Auntie Mim told us there were attempts on his life.”
“There were, once.” The Protector supplied. “How much do you know about the Crusades?”
Ronan looked to his Sire. “Just what my Sire has told me. How brave the Crusaders were against the Master! I am proud to be on his side!”
Young Guardian laughed. “Well, you’re on my side, too, Young Ronan. Don’t forget that.”
“Aye. I owe you my life and loyalty, Young Guardian.” Ronan nodded. “Yours as well, Protector. Without you, there would be no Canine Valley.”
“The pup speaks the truth.” Wolf supplied, clapping Ronan on the back. Ronan beamed. Wolf turned back to his two friends. “Looks like we have to ferret out the starter of these rumors, in order to keep the Valley safe.”
“Why not speak with Auntie Mim?” Ronan asked. “Surely, she would know.”
“Who is this Mim?” Protector asked.
“Mim is one of the local Elder canines.” Wolf rolled his eyes, huffing. “The young pups call her Mimsy, and she has quite a mouth on her.”
“Have you tried taming her?” Young Guardian asked with a teasing smile. “You seem to be doing a good job with the rest of the Valley.”
“Can you truly tame a coyote?” Wolf asked.
“I’ll find and speak with her on my next patrol night.” Young Guardian announced. “If anyone can scare the daylights out of anyone, it’s got to be Lord Guardian’s own successor.”
“Sorry, what?” The Protector was confused.
“Mimsy’s Elder-name. Madam Proudfoot. You will need her name to find her, aye?”
“Aye.” She nodded to the pup. “Pleasure meeting you.”
“All mine, Young Guardian.”
“You, we’ll see later.” Protector supplied to Wolf. “Full reports at every patrol visit, is that clear?”
“Crystal.” Wolf grinned. “You are taking your role seriously I see.”
“‘Bout time.” Young Guardian grinned. “By the way, send the Child home when you see her, if she hasn’t left already. We have to Exorcize a Djinn Mind-dweller from her.”
Wolf nodded. “I would be honored. Pleasant Journeys, Young Guardian. Protector.”
With an equal cry of “Pleasant Journeys!,” the couple held hands and returned home.
Shane, Derrick and the twins were in the room Ariana used for her magic studies, far away from onlookers. Kelly consented to being tied to a pole as she sat in a chair, just to be safe. They knew it would be potent magic, far too dangerous for any of the other children to be near. As instructed, the five of them used their Gold and Silver Magics to Exorcize the Mind-dweller from Kelly’s mind.
There was just one problem with it. With all their chanting the Exorcism Spell, with all their combined powers, with all their wit and wills, it wasn’t working.
“What are we doing wrong?” Luna asked, turning to her twin.
Ariana shook her head.
“Everyone’s mind focused?” Shane asked.
“Of course we’re focused!” Ariana cried.
“Why isn’t it working?” Derrick wondered aloud. “Red Wolf said we would get rid of it this way.”
“We’ve called the Exorcism Spell until our throats hurt.” Luna supplied, rubbing her throat. “I don’t know about you guys, but I’m already magically drained.”
The men and Ariana agreed.
“It worked with Jake and Derrick, and even some Dreamers during the Wars.” Shane told them. “Why won’t it work now?”
“Shane, this is my daughter, not some medial Dreamer.” Ariana announced. “The Mind-dweller has more of an advantage over us in this.”
“Such as?” Derrick asked, afraid of the answer.
“Kelly’s an Ancient Mystic with powers.” Luna supplied for her twin, who nodded in agreement. “He could use those powers to attack us through her.”
“Don’t be too sure.” Shane said. “You have to remember. Djinn go for the mind, not the magic. Most Dreamers don’t have these kind of powers for a Djinn to work with, so the Dreamer goes insane.”
“Layman’s terms?” Luna asked.
“Djinn attack mortal Dreamer, Dreamer goes insane.” Shane said. “Djinn attack Ancient Mystic Dreamer, Ancient Mystic disappears in their mind. No mind, no chance to go insane. Also, no chance for it to use those powers.”
“Oh.” Luna said softly, eye on both her niece and twin. Her hands went straight for her temples when she tried using Empathy to sense those around her. Quickly, she closed it off, watching her sister.
Shane was alert, ready for anything. His mind raced at possibilities and strategies, trying to find a way to fight and destroy the Djinn without harming the girl.
Ariana was pacing now, thinking. Kelly’s body was limp in the chair, head down so her hair fell in her face. Derrick cleaned his glasses on his shirt and Shane played with his Locket-Pendant as he squinted in thought. With nothing to say and almost nothing to do, all was silent.
“A Binding is so draining on the energy, is it not, Young Guardian?” Came a low voice from Kelly’s mouth. It definitely wasn’t Kelly, it was too male.
Ariana and Derrick looked at each other. The Djinn Mind-dweller had arrived. It was show time.
“Leave my girl alone!” Ariana cried, eyeing it. She could see, feel, and almost smell the Djinn inside Kelly’s body. Where was her mind now? “We know Sabrina sent you, and we demand to know why!”
The Mind-dweller’s eyes caught those of Luna. All eyes were on Ariana’s twin.
“Easy, Young Guardian.” The Mind-dweller supplied. “She is the Grand Magus, capable of learning and holding great power.”
“So?” Luna supplied, heart catching in her throat at the admission.
“Apparently, death is the only way for the Maiden to gain those great powers.” The Mind-dweller went on.
Luna gasped, shaking her head. “No.”
“Oh, aye.” The Mind-dweller said.
“We’ll destroy you before you touch one hair on her head.” Shane growled.
“Tempers flair so easily! The energy is intoxicating.” It laughed mockingly.
That’s when Shane knew. This was no ordinary Mind-dweller. He knew exactly what to do. “One more time.”
“What?” Luna asked. “Are you mad? He’ll absorb our magical energy!”
Shane’s eyes widened, as did his smile. He grabbed her hand. “Do it.”
There was that tone again. Shane loved being the Shadow.
Luna grabbed Ariana’s, who took Derrick’s, who in turn took Shane’s other hand. Together, they formed a circle around the pole, surrounding Kelly’s Mind-dweller ridden body.
“You’re taking a big risk, Shadow.” Ariana announced in her Young Guardian’s voice.
His eyes seemed to shine in mischief as they met hers. “Trust me. One more time.”
So, one more time, they started chanting. “Dominicus, Exordium, Bane!”
After a few repetitions of the chant, Shane broke off, bellowing in his own voice.
“Djinn High-Counsels, I call to you,
“This Horde is stealing someone pure and true.
“Release this Mind-dweller from our sight,
“Return it to Omri to be destroyed this night!”
In harmony with the other three, Shane chanted. “Dominicus, Exordium, Bane!”
All four of them stared as Kelly’s body began to convulse, screaming a final. “Damn you, Shadow!” as the essence of what was once a Mind-dweller was pulled out of Kelly’s mind and body. Winds came from nowhere to sweep it away, making it disappear out an open window.
Derrick was the first to break the circle. He rushed to Kelly and untied her. Ariana was with him, ready to hold her daughter in her arms.
Luna stared first at the scene unfolding in front of her, then to her husband. She wasn’t smiling. “Explain.”
“Later, I promise.” Shane took her hand and gestured her in the direction of their own house. “I have a feeling they need some time alone.”
Tempest and the Djinn
Truth in Illusions
It was a week later in the Outer Realm. Shane was reminded of the Apprentice’s warning. He had to tell the other Crusaders what really happened in the Wars, to prepare them for what Sabrina or whoever else had in store for them.
He watched the family, his family, relaxing and having fun in the Reading’s backyard. The three other Morehouse children were there, too. Kelly and Bradley were at the picnic table, talking with five of their closest friends Shane recognized as Cara Richardson, Kirsten Farthay, Steven Edwards, Samantha West and Josh Stevenson. Aaron sat by himself under the giant tree, staring into space. Aimee and Juliet talked by the pool, bare legs in the water. Meredith and Melody were swimming in the pool, giggling and splashing each other and Angel. Amanda and Celine were playing with them, having fun. Mark, Andrew, Dwight and Caleb were in their own fort, trying hard to keep Logan out.
He started over to the older children at the picnic table. “Kelly, I need you to do me a favor.”
Kelly beamed. “What is it, Uncle Shane?”
“Can you and your friends watch the little ones with Juliet while I talk to the other Crusaders?” Shane asked. He shouldn’t have said Crusaders around the kids, but he couldn’t help it. It was on his mind, and these kids were trustworthy.
“What’ll you give us in return?” Twelve-year-old Kirsten asked.
“My trust in you. Isn’t that enough?” Shane asked.
“Can we tour the police station?” Bradley, who was sitting beside her, grinned.
“Sure, Bradley. Anytime.” Shane hurried. He wanted to talk to the Crusaders before he lost his nerve.
“All of us?” Steve asked.
“All of you. Now, will you do it?” Shane inquired.
Kelly rolled her eyes at her friends. “Never mind them, Uncle Shane. They’ve got the sleuthing bug. I’ll do it, and so will Bradley. Right?”
Bradley looked horrified. “All these monsters?”
“Not all of them are monsters.” Samantha spoke out.
“No, just the twins and Caleb!” Kirsten giggled.
“I’ll leave you to figure it out.” Shane supplied. “Have fun!”
Shane took a deep breath as he looked to the other Crusaders. His wife and Sweetling Luna was tanning herself by the pool, trying hard not to get herself wet. Ariana and Derrick were cooing over their new son Theodore in the shade, away from the summer sun’s hot rays.
I have to tell them, but how? Shane thought to himself.
Luna looked up at him, giving him a concerned look. Shane? What’s the matter?
Shane shook his head, going over to her. “I have to tell you something.”
“Not just you.” Shane remarked, sitting on the chair next to her. “The other Crusaders, too.”
By this time, Ariana and Derrick had joined them. “What is it, Shane?” Ariana’s soft voice asked.
Shane hid his head in his hands. How to begin? Where should he start? Should he tell them the Wars themselves? Or how he and the first Crusaders had to go back in time as Time Bandits?
He felt Luna’s hand on his back. “Hey, it’s okay. Whatever you have to tell us, we’ll listen.”
“It was so terrible.” Shane told her.
“Couldn’t be too terrible if you have to tell all of us.” Ariana remarked. She looked in the directions of Aimee and Aaron. Aimee touched her head before excusing herself from Juliet’s side. Her twin looked up, alarmed. Both Schmidt twins were eager listeners. Shane silently thanked Ariana for the small favor. “Now then, what’s on your mind?”
“I have to tell you guys what really happened in the Wars for Power.”
“What do you mean?” Luna asked. “What don’t we know about them?”
“You’re about to find out.” Shane announced. Thinking back on last week, and the Dwellers Ariana told him about, he supplied. “Ariana. I’ve known about the Dwellers long before the Crusades. Celeste Moondancer told me about them.”
“How do you know Celeste?” Ariana asked.
“I fought in the first War for Power, meeting her when I was injured.”
“The first War for Power?” Luna asked. “That’s impossible! You weren’t even born, yet! How could you have fought and gotten injured in a war long before either of our times?”
Shane stopped pacing to stare at his wife. “Think, Lu-Lu.”
The Shadow had returned, using her old codename to remind her. Ariana and Derrick anticipated his next words. The Schmidt twins exchanged glances, knowing he was being serious. They could feel it.
It took Luna a moment to think. “What are you talking about?”
“I’ll tell you only if you guess.” Shadow supplied. “How did we get back to the right time in the Crusades?”
“Time Bandits?” Luna guessed, noticing his emphasis on the word ‘time.’
“You got it.” Shadow said. “It was Shannon’s idea to bring them back.”
“Back? From where?” Aaron asked.
“The whole story, Shadow. From the beginning.” Luna announced.
“Fine, Lu-Lu. I’ll start from the beginning.” Shadow glared at his sister-in-law. “O’Dell had a vision in his Sphere. He would die by his brother’s hand.”
“Those were just rumors someone spread around the Dream Realm.” Derrick said. The brothers-in-law looked at one another. “Ronan Brownpatches told us.”
Shadow nodded tightly.
“He’s not dead.” Ariana shook her head. She hadn’t heard her husband’s words. “The vision didn’t come true.”
“No, Young Guardian.” Shadow supplied softly. “It did come true. That’s where the Time Bandits came in.”
Ariana and Shadow glared at each other. Ariana could see the faint reddish glow of his aura in his eyes. She could feel his emotions, and they weren’t good. You’re with friends now. She sent to Shadow’s mind. You don’t need to put on a brave face around us.
“I don’t understand.” Aaron announced, breaking the two from their staring contest.
“You will, once I explain.” Shane supplied, turning back to his old self. “Now then, you guys remember Jamie Stewart and Alan Deneson?”
“Chips and Jammins at the System, right?” Aimee spoke up. “One’s a computer genius, the other’s the electronics whiz?”
“They stumbled upon a program for holograms.” Shane explained, sitting next to Luna. “Real-deal, energy-pulsating, fully interactive holograms.”
“Get on with it.” Derrick warned.
“Shut up and I will.”
“Enough!” The twins chorused, folding their arms and frowning at their husbands.
“Just tell your story.” Ariana said. “The holograms?”
“Knowing the boss had to know, they got Shannon in on it.” Shane explained. “The two holograms, named Alex and Gloria, turned out to be two ghosts, searching for their time-traveling killers. In a way, they were just masses of energy. After they caught their killers and were sent to the Dream Realm, Jammins and Chips put an axe to the program.”
“What does that have to do with O’Dell’s death?” Ariana asked in her Young Guardian tone.
“Once hearing from Dixilynne that O’Dell was dead, Shannon got the idea to bring the Time Bandit Program back. Only, we’d use it on ourselves, much like you did in the Crusade. We sent ourselves back in time.”
“You went back in time, saved O’Dell, got yourself banged up pretty bad, obviously won the Wars for Power and went on your merry way.” Aaron spoke up sarcastically.
“In a word, yes.” Shane was uncomfortable, memories reeling of the Wars and Crusades.
“How does that apply here, and what does Celeste Moondancer have to do with anything?” Ariana wondered.
“When we went back in time to what we now called the second War for Power, or the First Crusade, I was hit pretty bad. I already told you about my experience with the Silver Magic.” Shane announced.
“Dixilynne used it to heal your mind from a Djinn attack.” Aimee announced. “So?”
“While I was being healed, I was vulnerable.” Shane said. “So vulnerable, I was hit by a poison arrow shot by a Warrior.”
Luna gasped. “Oh, Shane! I never knew!”
“Of course not.” Shane hugged her, kissing her lips. “The poison ran through by bloodstream quick as anything. In seconds, I was out. When I opened my eyes, I saw a woman sucking on a man’s wrist. Another man was above the first one, letting the first one suck his wrist.”
“Let me guess. The woman was Celeste Moondancer?”
“She was Celeste, yes, but she hadn’t married Chase yet.” Shane explained.
“Well, who were the guys?” Aimee was excited, interested in Shane’s story.
“The first was her brother Daniel. The other Ramon.” Shane said. “When she felt me wake, which I know she felt it, she sent her brother and Ramon away. She asked me how I felt, to which I nodded, staring. She didn’t deny what I saw. Celeste introduced herself and told me the truth. She was an Apprentice-Dweller. The Apprentices were the healers to the many Dweller kin-clans. She and her brother Daniel were the last of them. They live in the Dragon Nations during the daylight hours, when the Dwellers had to rest.”
“Are you telling me these Dwellers are vampires?” Aaron was incredulous.
“Yes and no. They drink blood, yes, but they don’t kill. They only hunt, as a wolf would.”
Ariana gasped this time. “Red Wolf.”
“So you knew?”
“Just about him and his family, yes.” Ariana nodded. “Wolf told me, and so did Celeste.”
“What do they hunt, if they don’t kill?” Aaron asked. “I mean, what’s the point?”
“You see, Aaron.” Ariana began. “Dwellers hunt in the night for their turned kin, who they call Stalkers.”
Aaron shut up, turning his attention back to Shane.
Shane folded his arms. “If I may continue?”
Ariana smiled, making him smile. “Certainly.”
“Anyway, they live in this world at night, in the country of Romania.”
“What were these Dwellers doing in the Dream Realm?” Derrick asked.
“They were helping in the Wars for Power both time-frames.” Shane supplied. “In the first, a lot of their clans died defending O’Dell. In the second, where the Crusaders got involved, they wanted to stop it from happening. So, they helped. Celeste helped by both healing me and telling me something in confidence that would change the way I fought.”
“What did she tell you, Shane?” Ariana’s voice was soft.
“His children are like you – Ancient Mystics.” Shane said.
“We knew that already.” Aimee announced.
“That’s not all, Amethyst.” Shane spoke louder. “They would ultimately have their revenge on us all. They could very well repeat their father’s actions, or worse, finish what he started.”
“Havens forbid history repeat itself.” Aaron said. Aimee nodded.
“If we don’t do something soon, it very well could.” Shane replied. “The Apprentice told me the Grand Shamus had a vision. We can’t let history repeat itself. I will not lose any of you in another senseless war.”
Luna hugged her husband. “You won’t lose us that way because we’ll never let that happen.”
“We’ve gotten this far, haven’t we?” Derrick pat him on the arm.
“We’re Crusaders.” Aaron announced. “We can handle anything that comes our way.”
Ariana had to speak up. “We almost couldn’t handle a Djinn that took over Kelly last week.”
Aaron stared at Ariana. “Why didn’t you tell me? I could’ve helped Exorcize it!”
Ariana shook her head. “I didn’t want to worry you.”
“We were working with some powerful magic.” Derrick defended his wife.
“Are you forgetting I know this stuff, too?” Aaron was outraged. He stood up and practically jumped down their throats for their mistake. “She’s my daughter, for Goddess sake! The least you could have done was told me about it!”
With that, he turned and huffed away. Ariana moved to follow him, but Derrick held her. “Leave him be. He’ll cool off on his own.”
Ariana looked pleadingly to Aimee, who was giving her the evil-eye.
She stood up as well, and she wasn’t smiling. “Don’t Amethyst me, Ariana Moon! You never tell him anything until it’s too late. Now if you all excuse me, I have to talk to my brother.”
She stood and raced off after Aaron.
Ariana stood and headed into the house with the baby in her arms. The three of them followed, worried. Shane and Luna stayed behind while Derrick followed her to the nursery.
Derrick stood at the door, waiting as she put him down for a nap. She stood over the crib, silent. He felt something hot on his chest and remembered the Pendant-Locket. He grasped it and closed his eyes.
In his mind, he saw a door. He turned the knob and found it was locked.
Come on, Love, open yourself up to me. Don’t retreat inside yourself, just because of him. We couldn’t tell him because it wasn’t our story to tell. Come back to me, Love. Come back to your sister, Luna. Come back to Shane, and the kids. All of them. Please, Ariana Moon Reading, come back to your family.
He heard a click, then the door disappeared. In its place, there she stood. Blond hair, silver-blue eyes, and dressed in her Guardian’s Gown that reminded him she was his angel.
He opened his eyes, keeping that image in both their minds, holding it in hers. As he took her in his arms in his mind, he did so in reality.
“I’m just so drained, Derrick.” Ariana sobbed. “So much has happened in such a short time. I don’t think I can handle it.”
Derrick sighed, kissing her forehead. “I know, Love. I know. I’m here for you. I’ll do anything I can to make sure you’re happy, you know that. Right now though, I believe Shane has some other explaining to do.”
“About last week?”
Derrick nodded. “Come on, let’s go back.”
When Derrick met Luna’s eye, she looked to her sister. “Is she okay?”
“She will be, after we find out what else you have to say, Shane.”
The couple sat on the love seat. Shane was sitting in the armchair, watching in silence.
“You’re right, Derrick. I do have something else to say.” Shane began. “The kind of Mind-dweller that attacked Kelly was called a Horde.” Shane said. “It serves to confuse the mind and feast on energies, magical and non-magical. The only thing that sets them apart from other Mind-dwellers is with each person they feed upon, they keep the essence of memories with them, confusing their next victim.”
“Why would Sabrina send one of these Hordes after Kelly?” Ariana asked. “She’s but a child.”
“A magical child no less. The Enchanted Child of the Dream Realm.” Shane supplied. “My guess is she wanted to get to us.”
“To me.” Luna corrected.
“Through Kelly.” Shane announced. He began to pace. “Ever notice when one of us is hurt or in need of help, the rest of us come running?”
“It’s part of the Crusader Oath.” Ariana reminded him.
“In a way, yes.” Shane replied. “It’s a basic concept. Strength in numbers. Get us alone, we have our own ways of fighting. Get us together, we have each other to lean on, strengthening the bond and combining fighting styles.”
“Wouldn’t that confuse them?” Luna asked.
“Never Sabrina.” Ariana supplied to her sister. “Obviously, we can’t beat her. She just keeps coming back for more. So, what do we do about her?”
“Keep fighting her.” Luna suggested, shrugging.
“With every fight, she gets smarter and stronger.” Derrick said.
“With every fight,” Shane smiled at his partner, “so do we.”
The smile on Shane’s face was one they all understood. The battle was on.
Omri of the Djinn
In another part of the vast dimensions of space and time, the Djinn god Omri scowled at the Horde Mind-dweller in front of him. By the look on Omri’s face, Horde Hallows could tell his god was not happy.
“Explain, Horde Hallows.” Omri demanded. “Now.”
Hallows opened his mouth to speak, but the sound would not come. He tapped his throat, giving Omri a pleading look.
“No voice.” Omri sighed. “Very well, hold still. I will get your memories for myself.”
Omri touched Hallows’ head, the energy from the Hordes’ mind was surged out of him like an electric current. Omri closed his eyes and listened to dead air, recalling the memories Hallows had in his mind. Dropping his hand from Hallows’s head, he announced. “The Maiden Sabrina called you, setting you free upon an Ancient Mystic Child. You were to feed on her sanity until the trap was set. Once set, a former Crusader of O’Dell’s thinks of a spell and calls it, returning you to me. Is that correct?”
Hallows could only nod.
“Did you give yourself away?”
Hallows shook his head. Once Omri gave him a mean glare, he nodded slowly.
“Do you know what Sabrina plans against them?”
Hallows nodded, touching his temple.
Again, Omri used his energy-stealing magic to read the memories. “For years, Sabrina has wanted Young Guardian’s power, but the Grand Magus?” He turned to the Horde. “You tried your best, but Shadow was definitely better. Have you learned your lesson?”
Hallows nodded ecstatically.
Omri smiled, waving an arm. “You may leave.”
With a last tight nod, the Horde Hallows was gone.
“Time to see Master Orthos about my payment.” Omri clapped his hands and disappeared for the Unknown.
After listening to Omri’s demands, Master Orthos was the one who wasn’t happy.
“You want to what?!?”
“I want free reign over the Earthbound Ancient Mystics.”
“Never!” Orthos fumed. “The Ancient Mystics are mine!”
“Consider it payment for my prior services.”
Orthos thought it over. “What will you do to them?”
“What you have tried to do for centuries.” Omri announced. “I will destroy them.”
“They have Magic! They have combined powers of Young Guardian and her Crusader family.” Orthos said. “They have the Shadow! How are you able to destroy such a powerful force?”
“Horde Hallows has told me about this Shadow person.” Omri said. “Every mortal has his weaknesses.”
“Very well, I give you free reign over the Earthbound Ancient Mystics.” Orthos sighed. “Do whatever you want with them; just leave the destruction of them to me.”
“As you wish, Master Orthos.” Omri clapped his hands and disappeared.
The first Earthbound Ancient Mystic he went for was the one who was at her weakest. Omri watched from the sidelines, learning about his prey before his attack. Already, Ariana Reading’s mind was in conflict. Should she go to Aaron, her longtime friend and loving confidant, or leave it until his temper cooled, and forget the whole thing?
Omri stood in silence, watching from the furthest corner of her room.
A young woman walked in the room after knocking only once. She had black hair and grey eyes. She was pretty, yet not important to the task.
“Mrs. Reading, please. Care for your children.” She begged.
“Leave me in peace, Juliet!” Ariana cried from under the sheets. She was curled in bed, blankets over her head. “I need time to think.”
“Two weeks is more than enough time to think.” Juliet supplied. “Besides, we worry about you.”
Ariana came out from the covers. “I wish everyone would just leave me be!”
“What will I nurse the baby with?”
The baby. Oh, gods, the baby. Ariana thought to herself. She sat up. “Fine. Bring him to me and leave us. I’ll call you when I’m ready.”
With a tight nod and a moment’s hesitation, Juliet left.
Time for Omri to make his move. Within feet of her bed, Ariana sensed his presence.
“Who’s there?” She both said aloud and in her mind.
You seek salvation for your sins. Was all Omri would say. The next you dream you will have it. Not from Lord Guardian or his kin, but from someone you would never expect or believe.
“Who are you?” Ariana asked into the air.
You need not know me to know what I am.
“Show yourself, coward.” Ariana demanded, searching the room using her sensors.
She couldn’t see him. Good. He only need her feel him to get his point across.
You call me coward when you yourself run away from responsibility.
“What do you know about me?”
More than you realize. My race has been well entertained with your exploits.
“Answer me this, Djinn.”
You know what I am now. Good girl.
“Stop stalling. Is there a reason for this visit? Or are you dying to drive me insane?” Ariana asked into thin air. She searched the room, keeping her voice down and her sensors open. “It won’t work, you know. I’m the Young Guardian. One of the most powerful Ancient Mystics in Enchantra’s line.”
I know who you are. That is why I am here. Omri supplied. Young Lord Aaron will be your demise. For your heart still aches for him, through your disguise.
For a moment, Ariana held her breath. She stood her ground.
“Clever rhyme. Want to tell me who you are so I can rid myself of you?”
“Love, who are you talking to?”
Even Omri was surprised to hear Derrick come in with the baby in his arms. She took the baby and begun to nurse.
“I wish I knew.” Ariana looked to the air.
He will not believe you, Young Guardian. Omri supplied smugly.
Let him decide that for himself.
“Something’s here. I can feel it.” She turned to her husband. “Can’t you?”
He shrugged. “What am I supposed to feel?”
I told you he would not believe. Omri supplied smugly.
Ariana groaned. “Nothing.”
“Then yes, I do feel it.”
Ariana looked at him and rolled her eyes. Whoever you are, I’ll meet you in the Dream Realm. If you want to mess with the Young Guardian, it’ll have to be on my terms.
Very well. If you insist.
Omri grinned as he disappeared.
He reappeared again in the house across the street, where the Young Guardian’s twin was looking after her children with her husband.
Ah, so this was what they are so worried about. A mere boy! Omri thought to himself as he watched the dark-haired man everyone called the Shadow. This ought to be good.
Shadow was the one to sense his presence.
“Lu. Something’s here.”
“Nonsense. I would feel it if there were. Now help me with Logan, will you?”
Shane lifted his son off the carpet and handed him to Luna.
“I mean it, Lu. Use your Empathy.”
“And face insanity?” Luna laughed. “I think not.”
Time to become the Shadow and see what was up. “If you won’t, woman, I will.”
Luna stared at her husband, watching. He grasped his necklace and looked around.
Omri frowned when their eyes met.
Shadow wouldn’t speak aloud. Rather, in his mind.
Get lost, Djinn. Your services aren’t needed or wanted here.
“Shane, what is it?” Luna inquired.
Shane turned on her, eyes black as coals. “Djinn. Close your thoughts.”
So you know of my race.
Your race have nearly lost the Ancient Mystics one of their own. Shane thought with vehemence. His now black eyes serious, and mind focused on eliminating the Djinn.
My apologies for Horde Hallows. He was useless.
So are you. He thought in his mind.
“Light as day and black as night, show yourself within our sight.” Shadow called, his necklace turning gold.
Luna gasped, holding onto her husband. She saw Omri’s distinct figure now.
Omri spoke. “Nice trick, Shadow.”
Shadow’s eyes narrowed. He pulled his wife closer to him for comfort. Whether it was hers or his, he didn’t know. All he knew was this Djinn knew him. “How do you know me?”
“The Wars for Power,” Omri announced. “Where you saved your precious Lord Guardian from death.”
“He did so with honor, which is more than I can say for you and your kind, Djinn.” Luna cried.
“You know me, Shadow.” Omri demanded with a grin. “Tell the Grand Magus exactly who I am.”
“He is the Djinn god Omri.” Shadow growled to Luna. “He’s the Djinn who attacked me during the First Crusade.”
“You remembered.” Omri supplied. “It happened so long ago. I am impressed.”
“It’s hard to forget who ordered O’Dell’s death.”
“He ordered Lord Guardian’s death? How?” Luna asked. “He’s only a Djinn!”
“True. I am only a Djinn. I need a master to tell me his just desires.” Omri agreed. “Now tell the good girl who was my master.”
“I can guess this one myself.” Luna announced. “Master Orthos of the Dominion.”
“My, you have been paying attention!” Omri laughed. “Enough reminiscing, I’m afraid.”
“Whatever you’re planning, do it already.” Shadow commanded.
“Very well.” Omri supplied. “Unlike Orthos, I play fair. I am to meet Young Guardian in the Dream Realm tonight. If you wish to know what I have in mind, I suggest you find us.”
With that, Omri was gone.
Luna and Shane looked at each other.
“You’ll have to go on alone.” Luna supplied.
“Like hell I am!” Shane spat. “Who do you think put me through such pain while we fought Dominionites?”
“Omri and Orthos?” Luna asked.
“Orthos sent Omri to fuddle the minds of our Companion fighters.” Shane supplied. “If you love me at all, Aluna Star, I suggest you come with me.”
“I can’t. I haven’t found Princess Tempest yet.” Luna announced. “Lord Max takes me from my own patrols when I’m not looking and demands I bring her back to the Grey Area.”
“This is important, Lu!”
“So’s this!” Luna spat. “I’m the one who sent Tempest to the Unknown. Therefore, I’m the one that has to bring her back. Any complaints?”
Shane sighed, kissing her. “We’re stronger together, you know.”
“I know. Just this once, though, I believe we have to split.” Luna studied him. “Or are you scared of Omri?”
“You’re the Shadow. You can handle anything.” Luna supplied. “I’ve gotta run. I’ll see you later.”
When at last she was gone, Shane tended his children. Busying himself with the kids, he almost forgot about the Djinn god Omri. He felt Omri’s presence, but chose to ignore it.
Omri hadn’t forgotten. In fact, Omri never left the Morehouses. He hovered in a corner and listened in to their conversation.
So, the great Shadow fears me, does he? Omri thought in his mind. He stared at Shadow, who was taking care of his children. Listen you closely, Shane Morehouse. You may have helped save O’Dell from death in the Wars, but you have never contended with Omri, god of the Djinn! Dixilynne and the Dwellers are not here to protect you now!
On that thought, he was gone.
At last, Shadow was able to relax. For the moment, that is. He didn’t know what to do without Luna by his side tonight. He’d have to face Omri alone.
Maiden and the Princess
Deep in the Unknown, hidden in her secret quarters, she stared into her Dark Mirror. Its image showed her worried distress. She didn’t hear when a female voice shrilled.
“So, this is the Maiden in all her magnificent splendor?” Sabrina turned to see her step-sister, the Dark Lady Albrath. “What are you contemplating this time, sister? Power, glory, or perhaps love?”
Sabrina snapped at the last word. “What do you know of either, Dominionite? Your powers are useless and you have yet to see true glory or love.”
“It only seems that way on the surface, I assure you.” Albrath shrugged.
Sabrina turned back to her Dark Mirror.
Albrath sauntered into the room, positioning herself behind her Maiden sister. To the Dominionite, Sabrina was staring into the Mirror’s image with a look of longing on her face.
“Rumor has it a certain Dominionite too pure for this Realm wishes to capture your romantic attentions.”
“Rumors lie.” Sabrina snapped. “Have you come to annoy me or is there a point to this visit?”
“Always a point, Sabrina.” Albrath supplied. “Have the Warriors told you who is kept in the dungeons?”
“Aye. They say there is a girl they call the Ghost Child.”
“I took her there myself.” Albrath was proud of herself. “Would you care to meet her?”
“Why? She is useless if caught so easily by a has-been like you.”
“You scoff now.” Albrath said, the smile on her face turning devilish. “Wait until you set eyes on her.”
Sabrina’s attention was peaked. “Show me.” She demanded.
At the dungeons deep below Dark Tower, Sabrina stared at the one called the Ghost Child. Her eyes met those of the defiant child’s.
“Release me at once!” The Ghost Child demanded.
“I think not.” Sabrina laughed. Albrath laughed with her. One stare and her sister was silenced. “Tell me, who was fool enough to Exile you?”
“No one. The Grand Magus sent me here.”
“I ran from the Grey Area.” The child remarked. “Now release me!”
Sabrina shook her head. “Albrath.”
Eyes not leaving the Ghost Child’s, Sabrina said. “Leave us.”
Albrath disappeared and Sabrina folded her arms.
“Bossy little chit, are you not?” Sabrina sneered. “What is your name, Child?”
The child stood proudly, staring into her captor’s eyes. “I am Princess Tempest of the Dream Realm’s Grey Area.”
“Princess?” Sabrina asked. “I was not aware Lord Max had a daughter your age.”
“As I told Young Guardian, I was adopted by Queen Jezebel!” The Princess cried.
“You are the traitor!” Tempest cried.
“Do you even know who I am?” Sabrina asked. “Do you know nothing of the Wars for Power and the Crusades?”
“You are the Maiden, Sabrina. Half-Ancient Mystic, Half-Wizard.” Tempest supplied. “You led Dominionites against the Ancient Mystics in the Wars for Power, killing a Crusader in his own world during the Crusades.”
“What else did she tell you of me?”
“You are her daughter.”
“Aye.” Sabrina supplied. “Now you know why I call her traitor.”
“You were the one against your own heritage, Sabrina.” Tempest said.
“Oh, and what heritage can you claim?” Sabrina countered. “You are white as death, hair and eyes black as night with skin as cold as the winter snow. The only heritage I see in you is the Grey Area’s Lord. You have the eyes of a Wizard yourself.”
“None of the powers.” Tempest supplied. “If I did, I would use them on you.”
“I doubt that.” Sabrina stated. “Why did the Grand Magus send you here?”
“I came in search of my parents.” Tempest said softly. “Instead, I am accosted by a shrilling Dominionite and bound by a strange magical cord.”
“The Witch’s Cord?” Sabrina asked. “Aye, she has at least learned something from her witch of a mother.”
“You stall!” Tempest cried. “Release me at once!”
“Grant me this first.” Tempest and Sabrina met eyes. “In exchange for your freedom, I must have your loyalty.”
“I will not!”
“You do not want to search for your parents?” Sabrina turned from her. “Fine.”
“Nay–Aye!” Tempest cried. “I ran from the Grey Area for that one purpose. I cannot search while being held in a cage.”
“Join me, Princess.” Sabrina met the girl’s eyes. “In the destruction of the Ancient Mystics.”
“The Ancient Mystics are no threat to you here!”
“No difference.” Sabrina shook her head. “They wronged me by sending me here – twice, no doubt!”
“That has naught to do with me!”
“My mother left me to be Exiled. Yours left you for dead.” Sabrina supplied simply.
Tempest thought of her words before nodding. “Aye. I will join you.”
Luna returned to the Unknown, following her sensors to the dungeons of the new Dark Tower. Sabrina was there, and to no surprise, so was Albrath. They were guarding the cell that contained the Princess Tempest.
Looks like I’ll have to get rid of Albrath, Luna thought to herself. Not an easy task with Sabrina in the way.
Luna stood outside the dungeon wall. She changed to her Grand Magus cloak and robes before barging in using Magic.
“Young Guardian!” Albrath saw Luna as the Grand Magus, but didn’t recognize her.
Grand Magus groaned, folding her arms. “I swear, you bad guys can never tell us apart.” Sabrina scoffed and Albrath was dumbfounded. “I am the Grand Magus. I wear deep blue, sometimes indigo robes with a dark-colored cloak hanging over my shoulders. The hood of which is on my head during rituals and ceremonies. I earned my title, unlike you, Sabrina.”
“I know who you are.” Sabrina remarked. “I want to know what you are doing here.”
“I’ve come to rescue Princess Tempest.”
The Princess stirred at hearing her name. Grand Magus looked to see the Princess shaking her head.
“See? She no longer wishes to leave.” Sabrina remarked. “She is happy being my slave.”
“I believe you have no choice in the matter.” Grand Magus supplied. “Neither of you do. Hand her over, Sabrina. Now.”
“You think to boss me around?” Sabrina cried incredulously.
“In a word. Yes.” The Grand Magus was no longer smiling. “Hand her over. Now.”
“What will you do to us?” Albrath taunted.
The Grand Magus was fed up. She waved a hand, making a thin leather rope appear to tie Albrath’s mouth shut. “That.” She supplied. “I’ll tell you one more time. Hand Princess Tempest over. Now.”
Sabrina stood in front of the Grand Magus, glaring into deep silver-blue eyes. When she tried to move, she found she couldn’t.
“What are you doing to me? I order you to take off the Freezing Charm now!”
“I’m not doing it. You are!” Grand Magus cried. “I can’t move either.”
That’s when she saw the thick grey ribbon of smoke circling both their waists like a rope, forcing them to disappear.
They reappeared, with the Princess in the Dream Realm’s Grey Area. When the rope disappeared, they found themselves in Lord Maximaniac’s main Throne Room. The Grand Magus saw him on his throne, and he wasn’t happy. Neither of them said a word, letting Lord Max speak first.
“Kneel.” Was all he said. All three knelt to the floor, avoiding his silver-eyed glare. He spoke again. “Princess, you may leave. Go directly to the Queen. She will be wishing to speak with you.”
Tempest stood and gulped, nodding. “Aye, Lord Maximaniac.”
Maximaniac stood from his throne, stepping down the carpeted stairs to greet them.
“Grand Magus, perhaps you would care to explain yourself.”
Grand Magus looked up at her Lord. “My Lord?”
“Why did it take you so long to retrieve my daughter?”
Sabrina gasped. “I knew I smelled you on her!”
Max roared. “Silence niece!” without moving his eyes away from the Grand Magus. “Answer me!”
“Lord Maximaniac, I beg for your forgiveness. The Crusaders have been in kind of bind since Young Guardian and Sire Wolfton brought back the Renegades and Revolutionaries.”
Max was quiet, then. “Explain.”
“Lord Max...” Sabrina whined.
“I said, silence! Surely, you know the command?”
Sabrina was silenced.
“I am waiting, Aluna Star.” Max announced. “As you know, I am an impatient man.”
“May I?” She gestured for him to allow her to stand.
“Oh, aye, of course.” Max supplied.
The Grand Magus stood, telling him all that happened in the last two weeks.
“You mean to tell me Orthos is up to his old tricks again?” Max asked. “Will there be another War?”
“I don’t know, my Lord.”
Max turned to his niece. “Sabrina?”
“I know nothing of my father, Lord Maximaniac.” Sabrina supplied.
“That’s because you’ve been too busy bothering us.”
“Grand Magus!” Lord Maximaniac retaliated. “There will be no bickering in my court, is that understood?”
“Aye, Lord Max.”
Sabrina only nodded.
“I have something to discuss with you, niece.” Max supplied. Sabrina’s eyes widened. “For once, you are not in trouble.”
Sabrina nodded again.
He turned to the Grand Magus. “Now then. You made me think at our last meeting.”
Grand Magus stood her ground. “About the Princess, I hope.”
“Aye.” Max supplied. “The time has come for them to know the truth.”
“Would you like me to leave?”
Max shook his head. “Nay. Young Guardian should be here shortly to join you.”
“Why us?” Grand Magus asked.
“Not only do I desire your company, Grand Magus, I also value you as an Ancient Mystic leader.” Max supplied. “Both Young Guardian and yourself have shown impeccable loyalty to the Lords and Ladies of this Realm.”
Grand Magus grinned, relaxing. He nodded to her, silently telling her to rise.
“Sorry for the delay, Lord Max.” They heard Young Guardian’s voice from behind them. When she reached the group, she saw Sabrina kneeling at Max’s feet. “Sabrina, cousin, I’m actually happy to see you.”
“What do you know of what he has to tell me?”
Young Guardian smiled at her cousin. “More than you think.”
“What is going on, Lord Max?” They heard Tempest’s voice as she and Jezebel entered the room.
“Do not be afraid to approach me, Princess.” Max replied softly. “The reason I called you all here is to bear witness to a revelation of truth. A truth on a matter that recently demanded an explanation.”
“What would that be?”
The question came from the Princess, who stared at Max intently.
“You have always wondered who your parents were.”
“Always told it were Queen Jezebel who adopted you.”
“Aye, but –.”
“I am not finished, Princess.”
“You should be.” Max was smiling.
Young Guardian and her twin grinned at each other. This was the Lord Max they’d met in the Crusades.
The Princess relaxed.
“I know who your parents are.”
Tempest’s eyes widened. “Please, Lord Max. Tell me.”
“Certainly.” Max supplied. “I am your true father.” He touched her to turn her gaze toward Sabrina. “And that, my dear, is your true mother.”
“Impossible!” Sabrina cried. “How can she be my daughter? I would have known I gave birth!”
“On the birthing bed, I chanted a special spell over you to make you sleep and forget.” Max explained. “Only one other individual was present to witness the ritual.”
Sabrina’s eyes went to Young Guardian.
“Nay, not Young Guardian.” Max shook his head. “It was a man-child named Mark Grey.”
“Aye, niece, Panther Grey himself, before you ordered his death.”
Tempest gasped. “How could you do such a thing?”
“I am the most vile of all Dream Realm Creatures.” Sabrina shrugged. Tempest stared. “You would do the same if put in my place.”
“I could never kill for fun!” Tempest shook her head, astonished. “I am not capable of it!”
“Your offspring has a heart, even if you don’t.” Young Guardian quipped. Grand Magus giggled.
Even Jezebel and Max found humor in the statement enough to smile.
“What will happen now, my Lord?” Tempest asked.
“You will choose, my dear.” Max started. “Either you go back to the Unknown to live with Sabrina and Orthos, or stay here in the Grey Area’s Shady Kingdom with the Queen as your mother and myself as your father. If you choose to stay, we will leave the truth of your parentage as it is. No one but those of us who already know will know. Is that understood?”
Tempest nodded, grinning. “Aye, Lord Father.”
Max smiled. “To have you stay would be a pleasure. Your are my daughter and I love you very much. The Queen may be Sabrina’s mother, but she sees you as her own. We will support your decision, whatever it may be.”
“Choose, Tempest.” Queen Jezebel looked into the girl’s black eyes with a gentile smile.
Tempest’s eyes went to Sabrina, who avoided them. Then they went to Max, who was smiling. She thought of her imprisonment in the dungeons of Dark Tower and shuddered. Her mind was set. Bad as it may seem sometimes, compared to Sabrina’s orders and treatment of her, the Shady Kingdom wasn’t really that bad.
To Jezebel’s surprise, Tempest wrapped her arms around her and hugged her.
The Grand Magus had to say something. “Now, that’s what I call true affection.”
All but Sabrina agreed. “She made her choice. Can I go now?” Sabrina huffed.
“Very well, Sabrina. Go.” Max remarked. “I don’t want to hear of your meddling in the affairs of others, is that clear?”
Before Sabrina could agree or disagree, Jezebel took her daughter’s shoulders. “I will see to her, my Lord husband.”
Once Jezebel disappeared, Max grinned. “Now, you may go. Thank you for staying as witnesses.”
“Our pleasure, Lord Max.” Young Guardian replied. “As long as you warn us ahead of time.”
Max laughed. “Certainly.”
“Does this mean you’re not mad at me anymore?” Grand Magus asked.
“Lu!” Young Guardian laughed. “Forgive her, my Lord.”
Max was happy. “Forgiven, now go visit the kits before sunrise.”
“Yes, Lord Max.” The twins chorused as they fled the room.
Tempest couldn’t help giggling aloud. Max cleared his throat, staring at her.
“I believe you have duties, Princess.” Max said sternly as he tried to keep from smiling.
Tempest knew what he was doing, so she obeyed and raced out. Max, on the other hand, was happy at last.
Djinn God Omri’s Curse
Young Guardian wasn’t happy when she met up with Omri in the Dream Realm. Though she couldn’t see him in her own world, she could only feel him, she knew him by sight.
“You’re on my turf now, Djinn.” Young Guardian was all warrior. Mean, unrelenting, and determined. “You shroud yourself in riddles, hoping I would get a clue as to what you’re talking about. When you mentioned Aaron, who I might add is my closest, dearest friend, I couldn’t help wondering what you were up to.”
“I merely wish you to see the truth beneath the surface.”
“No more riddles!” Young Guardian cried. “I’ve had enough to last me all the days of forever. The truth, Djinn. Here and now. Who are you and what do you want from me?”
“Ask the Shadow.” Omri could see the faint smoke that signified the Shadow made his appearance.
Ariana looked, nodding her greeting. Shadow’s face was plain, but so were his feelings. He was scared.
“Who is he?”
“Omri, god of all Djinn.” Shadow’s eyes met Omri’s. Omri smiled while Shadow kept his frown.
“What does he want with me?”
“He knows your weaknesses, and will do anything to use them against you.” Shadow replied. “Don’t give in to petty words, Young Guardian.”
“Thanks for your faith in me.” Young Guardian said. She turned back to Omri. “Your turn. Who sent you and why?”
“Shadow is right. I know all weaknesses in all mortals. Even Ancient Mystics.” Omri announced. “He has personal experience.”
“Can it, Omri!” Shadow cried.
“Fear. Resentment. Hate.” Omri supplied. “Aye. I know you fear me. You resent and hate me for what I had done to your friends, family, and self.”
“What about me, Omri?” Young Guardian announced, covering Shadow. “What weaknesses do you read in me?”
Omri just laughed. “Shall I name them all? I am not interested in any of them save one. Aaron Theodore is your main weakness. The others you have conquered.”
“What about Aaron?” Shadow asked. “The fact he’s still in love with her? That’s no secret. Everyone in the family knows.”
“They do. It’s hard to ignore how he looks at you, wanting you.”
“He’s come to terms with the fact I’m happily married.”
“Not as much as you, I am thinking.” Omri announced.
Both turned to him. “What are you talking about?”
“Don’t tell me you still want him!” Shadow cried. Ariana didn’t answer. She only turned away from him. “I don’t believe this!”
“Believe it Shadow.” Young Guardian said softly.
“No! This isn’t for me to get involved in. Leave it for your husband.”
With a cloud of black smoke, Shadow was gone.
“Why bring that up?” Young Guardian yelled at Omri, who only smiled.
“It is deep in your soul.” Omri replied. “I only brought it to the surface.”
Without another word, Omri was gone, leaving her standing alone, pondering her thoughts.
Shane woke up instantly. He knew what Omri was up to, and how to stop it. If only –
“Shane.” Luna murmured from beside him in bed. “Why are you shaking?”
“Djinn Omri’s on his own this time.” Shane explained.
“Well, what does he want with us?”
“He wants to destroy the Ancient Mystics.”
Luna sniffed, snuggling closer to him. “No chance in that.” She supplied softly, kissing him. “We’re too strong now.”
“It started already, and it may have been my fault.” Shane whispered.
“How do you figure that?”
“I told you my story of the Wars.” Shane replied. “Aaron was only half-listening until we let the Djinn takeover of Kelly slip.”
Luna pondered that statement. “We should have told him, Shane.”
“It wasn’t ours to tell.” Shane said.
Luna sat up in bed, glaring at him. “Whose, then?”
“It was up to us to tell him, and you know it!”
“Luna, you’ll wake the kids.” Shane sat up, placing a hand over her mouth. “It doesn’t matter now. All that does is that Omri trying to destroy the Ancient Mystics.”
How’s he doing that? Came the cry to his mind.
“By first destroying our family.” Shane announced. He took his hand from her mouth.
“We can’t let this happen!”
“Now do you see why I wanted you there?” Shane asked. Luna nodded. “As it was, he riled both Ariana and me up. As usual, she fought with words as her Young Guardian self.”
“You were the Shadow.”
“Aren’t I always?” Shane attempted to smile. “Anyway, he brought up Ariana’s secret love for Aaron, and she got upset. I stormed out of there before I could get involved any further.”
“Darn right.” Shane supplied. “Your turn. Any luck with Tempest?”
Luna shook her head. “We were too late.”
“She already met Sabrina.”
“Isn’t that what she wanted?”
“You’re ignorant, you know that?” Luna chided. “She met Sabrina, but Young Guardian and I returned her to Lord Max. Now she knows exactly who she is. She’s not happy with being Sabrina’s daughter, you know. Other than that, everything’s back to normal in the Grey Area.”
“So you’ve been forgiven for whatever Max was mad at you about.”
“Great.” Shane supplied. “That means you can return with me to Ariana’s Dream Realm.”
“Something tells me Omri’s not done with her, or us, yet.”
Luna and Shane found themselves back in Young Guardian’s own Dream Realm. She was standing alone, staring into the void. Luna dared to touch her twin’s shoulder to get her attention. Since their earlier confrontation, Shane as the Shadow stood behind and watched from the distance.
“Young Guardian.” Luna whispered.
Ariana the Young Guardian turned to her sister. “I don’t know what to do, Lu. I’ve always loved Aaron, and yet I love Derrick.”
“Don’t let Omri get to you.” Luna supplied. “I’m here now. Let him return and face me.”
Young Guardian shook her head and turned to her sister. “No, Grand Magus. I can’t let you face him alone. He’s one powerful being.”
“On that we agree.” Shadow supplied.
Young Guardian and the Shadow met eyes. “Who is Omri to you?”
“He ordered a Horde against me, making me think the death of my parents was my fault.”
For once in a long time, Young Guardian was speechless. She never got the chance to open her mouth but to gasp. Shadow and the Grand Magus turned around to see the Protector walking up to them with both Schmidt twins. Neither was smiling. The trio could see the colors of their eyes. Protector had golden-red eyes and the Schmidts had glowing green eyes.
“Any luck with Tempest, Grand Magus?” The Protector asked.
“She’s found out who she is, and we’re running out of luck.” Grand Magus supplied. “Look at her and tell me what you see.”
The Protector looked to his wife and love. He could feel her emotional pain. The tug on his soul was magnified by the Pendant-Locket. “What happened, Love? Tell me.”
Young Guardian shook her head, snuggling closer in his arms.
“Why were we all brought here?” Aaron asked.
“One moment I was in bliss and the next, here with you guys.” Aimee remarked. “What’s going on?”
The male voice of the Djinn God Omri boomed in the air. “Wonderful question, Over-Seer. I have the answers.”
Young Guardian tore herself from the Protector’s embrace enough to look to the sky. The Grand Magus, Protector and the Shadow all stood beside her in battle gear, waiting for Omri to make his move. Aaron and Aimee stood, wondering who or what this genie-looking man was, and what it wanted with them all.
“Say nothing now, children.” Omri supplied, cutting off their thoughts.
“Children!” Aaron cried. “How dare you call us children?”
“I don’t think goading him is a good idea.” Shadow supplied, keeping his eye on Omri.
“I dare for all, I dare indeed.” Omri announced. “I am Omri, God of all Djinn.”
“At least we know who’s in charge of the madness.” The Protector quipped, sticking close to Young Guardian’s side.
“Djinn...” Aaron started. He raised his voice. “You’re the one who sent a Horde after the Enchanted Child! I ought to destroy you!”
Omri laughed. “There is no destroying me.” He remarked. “I was around long before those you call Originators. Long before mortals and the Big Lizards roamed the earth.”
“How did you get here?”
“Centuries ago, we were released from our heavenly homes to serve men.”
“The whole granting wishes thing turn bad, huh?” Shadow growled. “So Orthos wasn’t the first to call on you during the Wars?”
“He and O’Dell were also Djinn once-upon-a-time.” Omri explained.
“Stop stalling!” The Grand Magus was getting angry. “Why did you bring us here?”
“To show you mortals what petty thoughts cloud your mind and take hold of your lives.” Omri supplied, eyeing them. “To make you see what weaknesses threaten to destroy,” he glared at Aaron, “what little power you think you may have.”
“We’re Ancient Mystics.” Young Guardian announced proudly. “Do you think to dissuade us?”
Omri continued to laugh. “Dissuade you? I have told you many times before. Djinn exist to serve those who call upon us. It matters none whether our masters are good or evil. All that does matter is what is demanded of us.” He turned back to Aaron. “As for you, Unicorn-Man, blame only one being for Horde Hallows.”
“Sabrina.” Aaron growled under his breath, clenching his fists. “I knew it.”
“Other than Horde Hallows, there hasn’t been anything from Sabrina in months.” Shadow remarked. “She’s no threat to us. You, on the other hand, are.”
“I am glad you see that.” Omri said. “I am disappointed in you, Shadow. I thought you knew better than to underestimate an opponent. You are a strong man, but even strong men have their weaknesses.”
The group looked to Shadow, who stared at Omri with black eyes.
“Don’t let him get to you, Shadow.” The Grand Magus remarked. “He’s just psyching you out.”
“I like that assumption, Grand Magus.” Omri replied. “Do not be so quick to assume you are without weaknesses. None are immune to weakness. It eats away at the very fabric of your soul, threatening to unveil itself to those around you. You may think you have it under control, but be aware. It lurks, lying in wait for the precise moment to destroy you.”
Each of the Crusaders were silent in thought. They knew Omri’s words rung true, but they didn’t want to admit it. Young Guardian feared one thing above all else. The Crusaders were about to be pit against each other’s inner secrets and desires.
Omri was pleased at his handiwork. Now, to seal his actions with a spell.
“What’s deep inside, resurface to see.
“There are secrets that lie in wait for thee.
“In your waking lives, the spell is spoken,
“May the silence within now be broken.”
At the last word, Omri disappeared. The Crusaders returned to their beds, left to wait and see what morning brought.
The Second-generation Dream Realm Crusaders awoke to a brand new day in the Outer Realm. Derrick Reading was the first to wake up after Omri’s trance-like spell. He thought first of protecting Ariana, and seeing how she was doing. She was still sleeping peacefully in the bed beside him.
Good. She’s unaffected, for now. He thought.
Another voice in his head, quite unlike his own, cried. You know she doesn’t love you. Aaron’s her lover, did you know that? Always has been, always will be.
The Pendant on his neck glowed, but he ignored it. Instead, he listened to the second voice more as he started his day.
Aren’t you tired of protecting the one you love, only to realize she loves another?
This voice was getting out of hand and a little annoying.
She loves me, not Aaron. Derrick argued with himself. Ariana married me, didn’t she?
All the while thinking about Aaron. The second voice growled.
That statement had Derrick thinking.
He tried not to speak to his wife at breakfast, Ariana tried her best to get him to speak to her, and the children were worried for their parents. So was the new addition to the house, Juliet. It seemed the Reading parents were oblivious to their children in their silent fight with each other.
All through breakfast, once the rest of the family was awake, dressed, and finished eating, he ignored the looks he felt her giving him.
Let her think something’s wrong. The second voice supplied. Maybe she’ll pay attention to you instead of someone else for a change?
Be quiet, you. Whoever you are, stay out of my head.
I’m only telling you the truth. Why won’t she?
Good point. Derrick announced in his head.
After breakfast, he set his breakfast dishes on the sink. Ariana was silently washing them by hand, her mind on something else entirely.
“When were you going to tell me?” Derrick asked quietly.
“Tell you what?” She asked, just as quietly.
“That you were still in love with Aaron.”
“Derrick, stop it!” He turned to see his stepdaughter, Kelina Erin. Ariana’s daughter by Aaron when she was only thirteen.
Ah, the ever-popular Enchanted Child...the voice in his head sneered.
“Stay out of this, Kelina Erin.” Derrick growled.
“I won’t because she’s my Momma.” Kelly supplied. “She loved Daddy because of me. She loved him because of Mrs. Gertrude’s anger and hate. She loved him because he and Aunt Aimee stuck by her when Mrs. Gertrude was mean and wanted to hurt them.”
“Honey, how would you know such a thing?” Ariana asked her.
“I’ve heard the story many times. I know because I listen.” Kelly said. “Please, Derrick. Don’t blame her for still loving him. She loves you in the way of the soul, and that’s all that matters, right? Let it be for now, please? You’re scaring the twins and Melody, and I’m pretty sure Theo feels it, too.”
Ariana perked up. “He does? He’s just a baby!”
“If you’d pay attention to him, you’d see he’s one amazing baby.” Kelly replied. “Juliet and I have noticed he’s more empathic than telepathic. He sends us pictures in our heads of what he wants instead of words.”
“Really? That sounds almost like...”
“Unicorn Magic.” Kelly confirmed. “For now, will you kiss and make up? I’m tired of feeling like I have to walk on eggshells around here.”
Ariana and Derrick looked at each other. What Kelly said was true, but it didn’t change what was bothering them both.
When Kelly left the kitchen, Ariana refused to look at him. Closing her eyes tight, she began to cry.
Don’t let her tears get to you. Say something! Let her know who’s boss.
“I’m not falling for the innocent act this time, Ariana Moon Reading.” Derrick supplied. “You can shut off the waterworks right now.”
Her tears may have stopped, but not the numbing empathic pain she was feeling from him. “I meant to tell you sooner, but...”
“No excuses. I mean it this time.” Derrick announced. “You’ve done this to me before, remember? Mark Grey? At least Panther finally found Marie.”
Ariana collapsed at the kitchen table, silenced. She shook her head. “Please, you don’t understand.”
“I never understand, do I? And why not? Because my wife, who I happen to love, never tells me the truth of things anymore. Instead, she decides to hide it inside herself until she can deal with it on her own.” Derrick replied. “What’s an Earthly Protector for, anyway? Good looks and companionship?”
“Don’t take that tone with me.”
“Derrick!” It wasn’t Ariana’s voice alone that called his name.
He turned to see his brother-in-law, Shane Morehouse.
“Stay out of this, Shadow.”
“I won’t.” Shane supplied. “Freeze him.”
“Do it!” Shadow startled them both.
Ariana obeyed and froze her husband with a simple movement of her arm and a word. “Freeze!”
Derrick noticed he couldn’t move from the neck down, and growled. “Unfreeze me!”
Ariana moved to touch him, but Shane took her hand.
“Unhand her, Shadow!”
“‘Unhand her’?” Shane smiled. “Is that the best you can do?”
“What are you doing?” Ariana questioned.
“I’ll explain later.” Shane supplied softly in her ear. He looked to his brother-in-law before taking Ariana to another room. “We’ll be back. Promise.”
This only made Derrick growl louder, struggling to unfreeze himself by trying to move his body.
Once they were out of Derrick’s earshot, Shane asked. “What’s going on here?”
“He picked a fight with me.” Ariana supplied. “I was doing dishes and he brought up Aaron, which led to a short discussion on Mark.”
“And how you love each of them?”
“Yeah, how did you know?”
“I had to listen to butt in, if you know what I mean.”
Ariana groaned, sitting herself on the couch in the study. Shane sat beside her.
“What’s wrong with him?” Ariana wondered.
“Do you remember anything from last night?”
“Only Omri’s spell.” Her eyes flashed in realization. “That’s it!”
“Didn’t it effect you?”
“Not really.” Ariana replied. “I blocked him before he could call the spell. What about you?”
“Not a chance.” Shane remarked, showing her the Pendant-Locket. “I’m too powerful with this thing. I knew how to block myself with it. I only wished Luna and the others knew.”
“Me, too.” Ariana said. “I do have a couple of concerns, though.”
“The twins next door?”
“Shane...” She started with a smile.
Shane shrugged. “Tell me about it.”
“They refuse to talk to me, thanks to what happened after your story the other day. They think I’ve betrayed them somehow.”
“You did, but you didn’t.”
“Listen, instead of asking incredulous questions.” Shane teased her. “You betrayed them, or at least they think you did, because you didn’t tell them about the Djinn haunting Kelly.”
“Yeah, go on.”
“You didn’t betray them because it wasn’t your tale to tell. Get it?”
Ariana nodded. “What am I going to do about them? They’re like my brother and sister, not to mention my closest friends. I don’t like seeing them like this, or even being away from them. It’s not like them to act like this.”
“Remember, Omri got to them, too.”
Ariana groaned. “Shane.”
Shane ignored her groan and stood up, outstretching his hand to her. “Let’s see how Derrick is, shall we?”
“Do you think I should Un-Freeze him?” She took it and stood with him.
“Certainly, once I give my okay, that is.” Shane supplied. “Come on, let’s go.”
They headed back to the kitchen, where Derrick still stood, staring at them.
“Go, talk to Aimee.” Shane supplied.
“What about Derrick?”
“After you unfreeze him, I’ll take care of him; okay?”
She nodded, unfreezing her husband with a kiss on his cold lips. She winked at Shane before leaving next door.
Shane smiled at his brother.
“What did you do with my wife? What did you say to her?”
“Relax, Derrick. It’s going to be okay.”
“I won’t relax, and no, it’s not going to be okay.” Derrick cried. “I want to know what you said to Ariana.”
“At least you’re somewhat back to normal.” Shane replied. “You’re acting like the Protector again.”
“Did a Djinn get you, because you’re not making any sense!’
“Not me, brother. You, Luna, and the Schmidt twins.” Shane replied. “Heard any extra voices inside your head today?”
Derrick calmed. “Come to think of it, yes, I did.”
“Ignore it.” Shane said. “It’s a part of Omri’s spell, only it didn’t effect me and Ariana.”
“We don’t have any secrets to hide from anyone.”
“What about her love affairs with Aaron and Mark?”
“She told you about them, didn’t she?”
“Then they weren’t unearthed secrets. They’re secrets she herself has told you about.”
“Oh’s right.” Shane remarked. “If you continue to listen to that extra voice in your head, it’ll take over. Not only that, brother boy, but your true self, your Protector self, will no longer exist.”
Derrick was struck with the knowledge.
“It’s what Omri wants.” Shane said softly. “To split the Crusaders apart from the minds out.”
“Just like Sabrina did in the Crusades.”
“And Orthos did in the Wars for Power.” Shane replied. “Now do you get my drift? Are you going to listen to me?”
“On one condition.”
“Tell me what you said to Ariana.”
“Fine.” Shane replied. “All I told her was to talk to the twins, and that I’d talk to you.”
“Wonderful.” Derrick groaned, feeling more like himself now Shane explained it all to him.
Kelly Reading couldn’t concentrate on her school project, and her best friends were worried. Her mind drifted to the past Saturday, where she overheard my parents fighting. Again.
She was in the school library with stepbrother Bradley, best friend Cara, and Brad’s best friend Josh, working on their project for English class. They were supposed to look through and use newspapers from the past to see how they influenced writers and journalism in the present.
Only Bradley noticed her silence. She felt him looking over her shoulder to her notebook, where she’d written only “Past to Present: Themes in Society”. Underneath, she’d drawn a picture of an eye. She wasn’t paying attention to the teacher in the front of the group or Cara’s gossip about her family.
“Kelly, snap out of it.” Bradley tried, nudging her.
Kelly shook her head and turned to face him. “I’m sorry, Brad. I’m a little spaced out lately.”
“That’s an understatement.” Josh joked.
“It’s not funny.” Kelly spat. “My parents are fighting again, and I hate it.”
“They never fight!” Cara cried in a whisper just short of her normal voice.
“Aunt Aimee and Mrs. Reading are fighting, too.” Bradley put in.
“They’re fighting over Daddy.” Kelly pointed out. “Aimee, Momma and Derrick have never fought like this before.”
“Do you know what caused it?” Cara asked.
“I only know what’s wrong with Derrick.” Kelly supplied knowingly. “It’s a Djinn.”
“What’s a Djinn?” Josh asked, confused.
“A magical being that attacks mortal minds, making them go crazy.” She told him.
“Yeah, right.” Josh said, skeptic. “Let’s just get on with this project. Mrs. Matthews is looking this way.”
“We can talk more about this at lunch, anyway.” Cara supplied.
Kelly picked up a newspaper and skimmed through it.
Cara asked after a few minutes. “Have you found anything, yet?”
Her attention was diverted again. This time, by a vision.
Cara saw her friend’s face. Kelly’s eyes were closed and a hand was on a picture of a man the caption called “The Hill View Bomber”.
“Hey, what is it?” Bradley tapped her out of the vision. “What do you see?”
Kelly’s attention went directly to the paper again. “They never found him. He’s still in Hill View.”
“How can you tell?” Cara asked. Josh stared, unsure of what to make of it. “I read that article, too. It doesn’t say either way.”
“I just had a clairvoyant vision.” She told them. Cara and Bradley shared a look.
“What’s a clairvoyant vision?” They heard a voice above them. It belonged to Kelly’s guy-best-friend, Steve Edwards.
“She sees visions of the past.” Bradley supplied as Steve sat down.
“Where have you been?” Josh asked.
“Principal’s office.” Steve remarked. “Seems someone put a dung bomb in the bathrooms again.”
Cara giggled. “I bet that someone is you?”
“They can’t prove it.” Steve smiled. “This time, it wasn’t only me.”
“Who else would put dung bombs in the bathroom toilets?” Josh asked with a grin.
“You’re kidding!” Cara supplied with a giggle. “Way to go, Krysti.”
“She almost got caught.” Steve remarked. He turned back to Kelly, who was patiently listening. “So, what did you see?”
“The Hill View Bomber, and what he did.”
“The article says they couldn’t find him after five years.” Cara replied.
Steve looked to the newspaper, taking it out of her hands. “Kel, this is from five years ago. That would mean...”
“Ten years ago, he bombed the Pell Corp building. The police on the case were warned, but not able to get to the scene in time.” Kelly rattled, not knowing how she knew. “I know differently. Something went wrong at the Pell Corp building. I can feel it.”
“Here we go.” Bradley groaned. He hated when she “felt” things. It usually meant he was going to be in trouble soon.
Kelly, on the other hand, was excited. She had what her parents playfully called the “Sleuthing Bug.”
Innocent, she asked her brother. “What?”
“Whenever you say you can feel something, that means Empathy, right?”
“Usually, but not in this case.” She pointed out. “I want to find out what happened, and catch him before he strikes again.”
“I bet the police already caught him.” Steve remarked.
“He’s probably rotting behind bars by now.” Josh supplied.
Kelly shook her head, adamant. “I saw him in my vision. He was never caught.”
“Let the police handle it after you tell them your vision.” Cara remarked. “That’s their job.”
“How is she going to tell them? It’s not like she can tell them her vision.” Bradley said.
“They’d never believe me anyway.” Kelly replied. “I’d go to Uncle Shane and Derrick on this, but they have too many troubles of their own dealing with Djinn.”
“You can try telling them.” Bradley supplied. “I’m sure they’ll listen.”
“No, I want to do this on my own.” Kelly said. “If things get too tough, I’ll go to the Detectives for help, like it or not.”
“You may have to.” Steve supplied.
Secretly, she knew he was right. She’d have to tell the Detectives about it soon.
Kelly only hoped it wouldn’t be too late.
Shane went across the street after talking to Derrick some more. He found his wife reading a book in a chair. His Pendant jumped, warming to his touch. She was depressed.
Luna closed the book. “I can’t do anything right.”
“I mean it Shane. I’m always in trouble with the Sisters and Lords in the Dream Realm.”
“They expect more from you than anyone else.”
“They expect nothing more from me than from Ariana.”
Shane studied her. “Is this what it’s all about? Ariana?”
Luna nodded sadly and continued. “I’m the one with all the power, yet she’s the Young Guardian. I knew about the Ancient Mystics and a thing called Destiny before she did. I’ve learned more magic than she has, yet she’s the Ancient Mystic’s favorite.”
“Stop. Right now, just stop.” Shane announced as the Shadow. Luna stared. “Enough of the pity party, Aluna Star. I mean it. I’ve had enough!”
Luna didn’t know what to think. “What happened across the street?”
“So, the perfect couple isn’t so perfect anymore, is it?” Luna supplied with a satisfied grin.
“They never were. What, did you think Ariana and Derrick were perfect? That they didn’t fight? You’re wrong, Lu. Even we fight sometimes, don’t we?”
“I guess so, yeah.”
“It’s all a part of being married. I’d seen my parents fight numerous times before I was even four years old.”
This caught Luna by surprise.
“You never talk about your parents to anyone. Not even me.”
“I told Ariana,” before Luna could start raving about her twin again, he silenced her with a hand over her mouth. “Only because she and I had the one thing in common that mattered. We were made orphans by our families.”
He released his grip once he was finished.
“But you’ve never told anyone about your family before, when we were in the System. Why now?”
“After what I’d seen and heard across the street, and with you just now, I’ve decided enough was enough. No more secrets from my family. I’ve seen enough in my short life now to realize when trouble’s near. It’s coming soon, Lu. I can practically smell it.”
“There’s nothing we can do, is there?”
“Practice your magic, all of it. Practice, practice, practice.”
Luna thought of something; of how her husband always knew when things were going to happen that impacted the entire family. Of how he always knew what to do in any crises. Of how that reputation earned him the nickname the Shadow.
The Shadow continued. “In short, history will repeat itself, Luna, and I want us to be well prepared.”
“Time we had another Crusader meeting. This time, without the stupidity.”
“On that, I agree. Totally.”
Attacked and Detained
Damian’s Final Scheme
Orthos, now stuck in the Unknown with his son and daughter, wasn’t happy with either of them at the moment. “I have been looking all over Dark Tower for my new Queen.” He announced, oddly calm. He turned to his son first. “Where are Gloriana and her daughters?”
“Am I my stepmother’s keeper?” Damian shrugged. “Shenara rests in my quarters while Albrath is on duty in the dungeons.”
“Shenara told me of your plot to rid her of her mother.”
“What plot, Father?” Damian asked, acting innocent. “I need no plots to do what she wanted in the first place.”
“Stop speaking in riddles, Damian. What did she want to do?”
“Simple, really.” Damian began. “She heard Lord Byron returned to Dream Realm society. She just wanted to, uh, greet him accordingly.”
“Why would she do that?”
“She claims you ignore her.” Damian said. “I guess she wants to show you just how deceitful she has become.”
Orthos eyed his son, then turned to his daughter. “Is this true, Sabrina?”
“I know not, Father.” Sabrina supplied. “My duties were to the Ghost Child. Did you know she was my daughter?”
This was a new statement on Orthos. “On that, we will speak in a moment.”
He turned his back away from his children. Both Sabrina and Damian could tell he had something on his mind. Something devilish and evil.
“Father...” Damian started, but Orthos shook his head.
“No” He said. “Damian, leave.”
“I said LEAVE!” Orthos roared in his dragon’s tone. “NOW!”
“As you wish, Father.”
As soon as he was gone, Sabrina looked at her father. She was now scared of him. “Father? Did you want me to leave?”
“Did I do something wrong?”
He didn’t seem to hear her. “How could you let them get away?”
“The Grand Magus and the Ghost Child.” Orthos wasn’t happy Sabrina was back in the Unknown without the one the Dominionites called the Ghost Child. “How could you let them get away from you? Have you lost your mind? Are you turning good after all these years?”
“Nay! Of course not!” Sabrina cried in her best Maiden tone. “They–”
Orthos stared at his daughter.
“Oh, never mind.” Sabrina huffed. “I know. No excuses, just do it right next time.”
“There will be no next time for you, my girl.”
“What? Whatever do you mean?” Sabrina asked. “What are you talking about, no next time? Of course there will be!”
“You have screwed up long enough, Sabrina!” Orthos cried. “What was this nonsense about the Ghost Child being your daughter?”
Sabrina explained what happened in the Shady Kingdom before she was sent back by her mother. “So you see, Tempest is my daughter by none other than your own brother Lord Maximaniac!”
Orthos turned away, looking into his cauldron for answers to his silent questions. “I see...the Forget-Me-Now Ritual. Aye, aye, I remember now.”
“Father?” Sabrina was confused by his behavior.
“Sabrina, I need one last favor from you.”
“Aye. I need you to get my brother’s Spell-book and bring it to me.”
“What brother do you think, dear Sabrina?” Orthos asked sarcastically. “Max!”
“In that case, I will need a few small favors of my own.”
Orthos stared at her again. “You are in no position to be demanding favors.”
“How am I supposed to get it when he is in the Shady Kingdom and I am here?”
“I do not care how you get it, just get it!”
Without asking another question or even squeaking another word, Sabrina, too, disappeared. Orthos grinned after his daughter.
In Orthos’ mind, the War was well on its way to being won.
Damian ran into the Djinn god Omri on his way back to the Dark Tower dungeons. “What are you doing here?”
“I come and go as I please, Merchant.”
“How did you get here?”
“Greater magic than you realize.”
Greater magic, is it? Damian thought to himself. “Who is your master now, Djinn?”
“I have no master.”
“Something tells me you are up to something. Tell me what.” Omri tells him what he did. “Is that all? Do you have a plan for destroying them indefinitely?”
“I told Master Orthos I would leave him to it.”
“Leave him to it? I know Father, and he never would let a minion like you handle his affairs, especially when it comes to the Ancient Mystics. Let me be your master, Djinn.”
Omri laughed. “What makes you think I want a puny child like you as my master?”
“I will tell Father you plan on destroying the Ancient Mystics yourself.”
“It would be a lie. A Djinn cannot destroy unless they are ordered by their masters.”
“Exactly.” Damian pointed out.
“Very well.” Omri sighed. He folded his hands and looked down at the Merchant. “What do you wish of me, Master?”
“I want the Protector, the Shadow and the Unicorn Magic-holding Over-Seer Aaron in my dungeons. Can you do it?”
Omri nodded his head, disappearing when he said. “As you wish, Master Merchant.”
Sire Wolf’s Greatest Fear
While this was going on in the Unknown, the Dream Realm’s problems almost doubled.
Wolfton Stargazer knew he had to talk to his Page about his Dweller powers. It was inevitable, not meant to be ignored. Red’s Dweller powers have been surfacing a lot lately, especially during training sessions when his anger got out of control. Wolf had been learning from Chase and Celeste about the Dweller Magic inside of Chikité “Red Wolf” Moondancer.
Wolf saw Red Wolf with the beagle pup Ronan BrownPatches and the foxhound Nicola HeartLily. Ronan was practicing sword work with Red Wolf while Nicola was paired with a white tiger kit Wolf knew as his nephew, Tiger.
What was Tiger doing with the pups? Wolf thought to himself as he made his way to the group. Does he not know it is taboo for a feline to practice with canines?
“Tiger White-Snow!” He cried as he made his way to the small group.
Tiger stopped sword-playing with Nicola long enough to turn and face his uncle. “Uncle Wolf!”
“He is your Uncle?” Nicola asked, awed.
“Aye, and one of the nicest Companion leaders, too!”
“Spread no lies about me, nephew.” Wolf said with a slight smile. “I am certainly not nice.”
“Sure you are, Uncle.” Tiger announced, proud of Wolf.
Wolf harrumphed. “What are you doing here, Tiger?”
“I’ve come to join the Canine Army.”
“You are a feline.”
“Your parents would not approve.”
“It was Papa’s idea, Uncle.” Tiger was insistent. “He senses something out of place in both the Valley and the Village.”
He does, does he? Wolf thought with a frown.
“Why does he not form his own army, with felines?” He wondered.
Tiger smiled. “He claims you were always the better leader.”
Wolf groaned while Red Wolf chuckled.
“The kit does have a point, Sire.” Red Wolf pointed out.
“You, I will get to later. How does my nephew fight?”
“Judging just on what I see here, I would say he would make an excellent swordsman.”
Tiger beamed, sharing a grin with Nicola and Ronan.
“His enthusiasm is astounding, Sire.” Ronan chipped in.
“He never lets the other pups get in his way of learning the sword.” Nicola nodded.
“The kit has a long way to go, but I say he would make a fine addition to the Army.” Red Wolf supplied, agreeing.
“I did not say he could join.”
“Please, Uncle.” Tiger whined. “Let me be in the Army. I will try my very best, and I promise not to let you down.”
Wolf studied his nephew. “Are you certain you can handle it, Tiger White-Snow?”
“Oh, aye!” Tiger cried enthusiastically. “Does that mean I can join, Uncle?”
Wolf looked at his Page. “Train him hard, like a Warrior.”
“He is only a boy, Sire.”
“He will be trained like a Warrior. Is that understood, Page?”
Red Wolf gave his Knight-Master a red-eyed glare that was enough to make Wolf think twice about messing with the Dweller in Red Wolf. “Aye, Sire.”
Tiger whooped, hugging Wolf. “Thank you, Uncle!”
Wolf pulled away from the embrace. “There will be no familiarity when you are training, is that clear? You will call me by my title, giving all respect due to that title. This goes for Katherine as well.”
Tiger nodded, bowing. “Aye, Sire. I am at your command.”
“Very well. HeartLily, BrownPatches.”
“Aye, Sire?” They chorused.
“You will oversee his training and continue to be his partners until I say otherwise.” Wolf commanded lightly.
“Aye, Sire.” They said together.
“All three of you; go train with the other pups.”
Tiger stood and followed his new friends to the rest of the trainees.
“Red, I will need a word with you once the training session has ended for the day.”
Red Wolf gulped, nodding. “Aye, Sire.”
With another nod, Red Wolf Moondancer went back to the training group and its only feline member, Prince of the Feline Village, Tiger White-Snow.
Ariana Reading could stand the ugliness no more. She wanted to do something about it. Never in all her years of knowing Amethyst Schmidt has her almost-sister acted the way she was acting now. Shane’s story of the Wars for Power triggered something in Aimee that Ariana couldn’t explain.
Enough was enough.
Ariana knocked on the door and walked in, not waiting for a reply. “Amethyst Theresa, I know you’re here!”
Aimee came out from another room, frowning at her. “Get out of my house.”
“Not until I have my say.”
“Your say? In what?”
“What’s gotten into you lately?” Ariana asked. “What did Shane say that upset you so much, you refuse to talk to me?”
“It’s not what Shane said. It’s what you didn’t.”
Ariana was confused. “What do you mean?”
“You didn’t tell us about Kelly’s Djinn.” Aimee supplied.
“It wasn’t my story to tell.”
“Kelly’s Aaron’s daughter, and you didn’t tell him about it!” Aimee cried. “That’s not what upsets me the most about you, Ariana Moon!”
Aimee faced Ariana, voice calm and determined. Her usual brown eyes were glowing dark green, and her Unicorn Magic was triggering. Ariana could feel it.
“Calm down or the Unicorn Magic will take over, and neither of us will like it.” Ariana supplied. “Tell me what upsets you so I can understand and change.”
“You want me to tell you? I’ll tell you!” Aimee cried. “Ever since you did this,” she showed Ariana her arm, where the small scar was left from the Blood Pact years ago, “we’ve had to learn on our own. You were never there to help us with whatever Magic was hidden inside of us. Aaron and I had a hard childhood too, you know, especially after you left. Once the other children found out what we could do, we were shunned, even from Mrs. Gertrude herself. We went five years learning this Unicorn Magic on our own, and we’re mad you never told us what to do.”
“I was always there in thoughts, and you knew it.” Ariana protested. “At least Aaron used the connection. You didn’t.”
“I was too busy learning everything I needed to learn about this stuff so it wouldn’t kill us.” Aimee replied.
“I had to learn on my own, too, you know.” Ariana supplied. “I never knew what or who I was until I met Luna and Shannon. They were the ones that taught me control and power. They were the ones to enlighten me of my so-called destiny. You had it easy compared to me.”
“Yeah, right.” Aimee crossed her arms.
The women were quiet until Ariana said something.
“Amethyst, I can sense your feelings, even without using Empathy.” She started. “You’re hurt because I left you two alone in that orphanage years ago. You’re mad because you had to learn what little power I gave you. You’re angry because I never let you in on what you thought were the important things. You have every right to be hurt, mad and angry. I understand completely.” Ariana opened her arms to hug her. “If you accept my apology, I’m sorry. Really. I never meant any harm. We’re together now, and I promise to tell you about things ahead of time, if you don’t sense them yourselves, okay? That’s all that matters, isn’t it?”
Aimee stared at her for a moment. “I guess so.”
Ariana nodded her head, silently telling Aimee to embrace her. “I love you, Amethyst Theresa. You’re my sister. I don’t want to fight with you.”
“Will you tell us from now on?”
Ariana smiled, kissing her cheek. “It’s a promise. And a promise made. . .”
“I know, a promise made by the Young Guardian is a promise kept.” Aimee smiled, feeling better.
“Goofball.” Ariana said simply. “Why don’t you show me what you’ve learned? You’ve obviously learned a lot about the Unicorn Magic, or I wouldn’t be here now.”
“What do you mean?”
“If you hadn’t healed me those many times in the past several months, I wouldn’t be here to talk to you at all.” Ariana replied. She thought it over. “I had to learn on my own, too. It’s what made me a better person.”
“If I would have known more during the Crusades, I would’ve been able to help more.”
“You were there as a sister.” Ariana pointed out. “That’s all that mattered to me.”
Aimee stared, smiling at her. “You really mean it?”
“Come on, Aim, you know me.” Ariana laughed. “I mean what I say, don’t I?”
Aimee shrugged. “I guess so.”
It was at that moment the front door swung open, revealing Ariana’s daughter Kelly and Kelly’s stepbrother Bradley.
“I knew I’d find you here.” Kelly replied to her mother.
“Did everything go alright?” Bradley asked.
Ariana and Aimee looked at each other, then at the two kids.
“How did you know?” Aimee asked.
“Visions?” Ariana asked Kelly.
“Visions.” Kelly responded, nodding.
Ariana looked to Aimee. “Of course. Visions.”
Aimee couldn’t help smiling.
“I haven’t seen you smile in days, Aunt Aimee.” Bradley remarked as he and Kelly sat at the kitchen table. They got out their school books and started their homework.
“It’s a refreshing change, isn’t it, Amethyst?” Ariana teased.
“So you made up?” Kelly asked, smiling. “Good!”
“About time, too.” Bradley remarked. “We might need both of you for this.”
“For what?” Ariana asked.
Bradley and Kelly both told their stories of the Hill View Bomber, and how Kelly had a vision in school.
“We were wondering if you could help me out, Momma.”
“I can’t.” Ariana supplied to her daughter. “It’s your vision, therefore, you have to follow it through.”
“The Gods gave you that vision for a reason.” Aimee said.
“Told you she wouldn’t be able to help.” Kelly said to Bradley.
“Hey, why not go to Derrick and Shane?” Aimee asked.
Kelly shook her head.
“She’s right. Derrick’s not exactly acting himself lately, either.” Ariana replied. “Shane, on the other hand, is looking into something that may defeat the Djinn.”
She looked to the children, who were listening and watching intently.
“Let’s go into the other room and talk about this more.” Ariana said, steering Aimee away from the kitchen table.
Neither Bradley or Kelly needed to be in the middle of the Djinn battle. Therefore, Aimee couldn’t agree more.
Chikité “Red Wolf” Moondancer knew he was getting into trouble with his new Knight-Master. His old friend would never talk to him in such a way as to get Red’s Dweller powers going. There had to be something wrong.
“You needed to see me, Sire?” He asked, bowing to Wolf.
“Rise, Red. You need not bow to me.” Wolf supplied. “I only wish to speak to you as a friend.”
Red Wolf understood. “Speak, then.”
“First, walk with me to the Feline Village Castle.” Wolf told him. “Oh, and bring your survival gear. I have a feeling you will need it.”
“Aye. Friend Wolf.”
Wolf couldn’t complain. At least, not about the title. In moments, the wolves were on their way to the Feline Village.
“Why are we going to the Village?” Red Wolf asked.
“To find out what Toby knows.” Wolf supplied.
“Is that why you carry Warrior gear?” Red Wolf teased. “To find out what Toby knows?”
Wolf finally looked into the eyes of Chikité Moondancer. “Aye. A query, if I may?”
“Why do you ignore your Dweller side?”
Red Wolf shook his head. “It kills without thinking. Do you not remember the Warriors, and both Wars for Power?”
“Despite Damian having your Companion Magic, you still had your Dweller powers.”
“Do you not remember that episode in the woods, with the mortal Dreamer?”
“Clearly.” Wolf replied. “I even told Young Guardian about it.”
Red Wolf frowned and growled. “It was a secret between us.”
“A secret that had to be told to Young Guardian because it is part of her duties to look after the Dream Realm.” Wolf remarked. “And looking after the Dream Realm means its inhabitants.”
“Meaning me?” Red Wolf asked. “What does this have to do with your query?”
“That episode in the woods was the result of your ignorance of what you are.” Wolf replied.
“You have spoken to my mother.” Red Wolf growled under his breath, just loud enough for Wolf to hear him.
“She told me more about the Dweller kin-clans.” Wolf said. “And how, no matter what happens to you, you must not lose yourself in either Companion or Dweller forms. Remain balanced, Red. That is all I ask.”
Red Wolf continued to walk, holding his bow over his shoulder. “In that case, what about your own balance?” He remarked. “The Wolf Magic in you is strong; I can smell it.”
“That it is, I admit.” Wolf nodded. “I have been too long without it.”
“The Amethyst-Diamond helped you revive it, did it not?”
“It also helps me control it.” Wolf said. “For now, we seek Toby.”
Sure enough, as Red Wolf looked up, he saw the Feline Castle. Its Sire, Tobias White-Snow waved at the two canines as they came up to him.
“Both of you at my doorstep.” Tobias “Toby” White-Snow joked. “To what do I owe this pleasure?”
“Business, Tobias.” Wolf replied seriously.
“Business?” Toby repeated. He saw the gear both wolves wore. “What sort of business, to bring weapons of war?”
“Did you know your son wished to be in the Canine Army?” Wolf asked.
“Of course. He watches the training every chance he gets.” Toby nodded. “Kit noticed him watching one day and told him to see you about joining.”
“That is not what the young Tiger told me.” Wolf said. “He confessed you sense something out of place around here.”
Toby stroked his whiskers in thought. “I do.”
With that, he turned and headed inside the Castle. When the wolves didn’t follow, Toby turned around, his necklet aglow. “If you want to know, follow.”
The males headed to a small room where they met with Kit. She was rocking in a chair, a baby kitten in her arms.
“Our daughter, K’Sarra.” Toby announced. He turned to his wife. “Kit, if you can feed her somewhere else...”
Kitten’s Claw looked up and saw the serious looks on their three faces. In attempt to cheer them up, she smiled. “Certainly, my love.” She stood and kissed Toby before leaving the room. “If you have need of me; ask.”
“If I need a mis-matched Ancient Mystic Companion, I will come to you.” Toby teased his wife in a serious tone. “For now, this is Warrior’s work.”
Kit frowned at the word “Warrior.” “Very well, Sire. If you insist.”
At that, she left the room.
“Tobias?” Wolf got the feline’s attention.
“Aye.” Toby was alert. “You wanted to know what I sense?”
“That was the reason for our visit,” Red Wolf supplied sarcastically.
“You teach your kin-packs insolence?” Toby replied to Wolf. Red Wolf growled. “Relax, old friend. I only tease.”
“This is serious business!” Red Wolf cried. “No jokes, Tobias. This is a time to be a leader, not a joker!”
“As I told my son, the two of you are more suited to the roles of leader.” Toby remarked.
“Is that why you do not form your own Feline Army?” Wolf asked. “Because you could not lead them?”
“Not now, anyway.” Toby remarked. “Not after what I sensed.”
“What did you sense?” Red Wolf was afraid to ask.
“Whatever was in the Canine Wood, grew.” Toby supplied. “I sense more danger to come, and so does Kit.”
The wolves look at each other, then back at their feline friend.
“Does she have visions?” Wolf asked.
“Does Kat?” Toby asked.
“What does she see?” Red Wolf asked. “What does she tell you?”
“It is hard to explain; as it always has been.” Toby replied. “She keeps a close eye on both Tiger and now K’Sarra. She fears for their safety.”
“I have noticed the same in Kat.” Wolf agreed. “Ever since the kit-pups were born, she has been with them night and day. She refuses to come out of the Castle for hours at a time.”
Red Wolf nodded, agreeing with him. “So, what can we do about it?”
“Whatever it is, lies in wait for now.” Toby supplied softly.
“There is naught to do but wait for it?” Wolf asked.
“Nothing, Wolf.” Toby looked his good friend in the eye. “If that is all you came for, I am sorry you have to leave so soon.”
Wolf wasn’t listening. “I agree. Come, Page. Time we plan.”
At that, all the gear disappeared and both canines shifted form.
Toby stared after them, afraid for the Canine and Feline parts of the Dream Realm. Especially his own home, the Feline Castle.
Missing In Action
After a night of patrolling the Dream Realm, Ariana Reading was well aware of what was going on. Between Red Wolf’s Dweller powers threatening him, something threatening the Canine Valley and Feline Village, and the way Tiger White-Snow was acting, she knew she had her work cut out for her. Wolf told her everything that happened the next she wanted a report.
“Where is the Protector?” Wolf asked before she returned home to the Outer Realm.
“I’m not worried about him right now, Sire Wolfton.” Young Guardian had responded. “I’m just worried at what’s bugging my husband.”
Wolf agreed, waving goodbye as she disappeared between the clouds in the sky.
When she woke up, Ariana was herself again. She wanted to do something to make him forgive her, and forget it all happened.
At first, she thought of the Ancient Mystic’s Forgetfulness Spell, and thought again. No erasing of Derrick’s memories. She couldn’t bring herself up to do it. Then, she thought of a surprise for him.
She made sure to wake up first that morning, to get a head start. Her necklace buzzed and felt warm as she touched it. It had been acting like that for a while, ever since the Djinn God Omri put the spell on them. All but Shane and herself were affected. Shane knew enough in his Dream Locket-Protectors’ Pendant to fight back, and so did Ariana with her own Ancient Mystic powers. It seemed Derrick, Luna, Aaron, and Aimee were affected the most. It hurt her to think about it, so she shut her Empathy off, not allowing herself to feel the necklace’s warning glow.
Being the Dream Girl of his past, she made him breakfast in bed. As she took it into the bedroom with her, her Empathic sensors opened up.
“Derrick, honey. It’s time to wake up.” Ariana said in a low voice. Usually, that would at least get a grumble out of him.
She placed the tray down on the bed beside him and tried feeling his head. It wasn’t hot, so he wasn’t still asleep. In fact, it was cold, telling her something she didn’t want to know.
Ariana! Come quickly! It was Aimee’s voice in her head. She sounded alarmed.
Sister! Luna’s this time. Something’s wrong with Shane!
Ariana blocked them out for the moment, trying to think. Using compulsion to wake the woman up, she sent a message to Juliet. Come to my room, Juliet.
In moments, she was there. “Is something wrong, Mrs. Reading?”
The woman was all Caregiver. Good, Ariana thought.
“I need you to wake Kelly.” Ariana instructed. “Tell her to come in here and watch him while I head to my sister’s.”
“What about the other children, and the baby?”
“After sending Kelly in here, look after them for me.” Ariana looked to her silent husband. “Something tells me I’m going to be busy for awhile.”
Juliet nodded. “Yes, Mrs. Reading.” She said, leaving.
Ariana checked a few things on her husband.
Necklace, pulsating gold. Okay, something’s fishy there.
She took it in her hands and closed her eyes. Immediately, she saw a vision of the one being she despised above all others. “Damian.”
Ariana opened her eyes, seeing her daughter standing next to her.
“What do you want me to do, Momma?” Kelly asked.
“Watch over him while I check on your aunts.”
Kelly sat in the chair beside the bed, watching. “Go.”
After a kiss on her daughter’s cheek, she was on her way.
Derrick Reading was disoriented and confused. Where was he and why was it so cold?
He looked to the Pendant-Locket around his neck and saw it glowing gold.
What was going on?
As if reading his mind, Damian answered. “I will tell you what is going on.”
Derrick looked but said nothing. He could see the faint form of a leering Djinn God Omri, lurking behind the Merchant.
“I ordered a Djinn to capture you.”
“Why?” Derrick asked. “Run out of ideas already?”
“Now, that was not very nice.” Damian replied, ticking. “Omri, fry him.”
“Yes, Master.” Omri conjured up a round fireball in his hand and threw it in Derrick’s direction. It hit his arm, lunging him to the ground of the cage.
“What is with you, anyway?” Shane remarked from beside Derrick. His question was aimed at Damian. “What have you got against us?”
Damian shrugged, bored. “Only the fact your Over-Seer Crusader sent me here.”
“You belong here.” They heard Aaron’s voice remark.
“Is that reason to kidnap us?” Shane asked, tending to Derrick’s arm with a cloth he’d ripped off his shirt. “Or are you just holding us until your sister gets back?”
“Ha!” Damian cried. “Sabrina has nothing to do with this.”
“Orthos.” Derrick managed to growl.
“Nay, not him either, I admit.” Damian said. He ran a fingernail against the bars, making a clicking sound on the bars as he walked the width of it. The noise echoed the dungeons. “Nay, I did this all on my own.”
“Do not forget the help of a powerful Djinn god.” Omri reminded him with a frown.
Shane couldn’t help chuckling. “Still can’t hack it, can you Damian? You always were the faulty Merchant son of a decaying Master. Can’t you do anything right?”
“I caught you, did I not?” Damian cried. “Enough! You may think you can fool Sabrina with mind games, but I assure you. I am not so easily fooled.”
“You’re only the fool, right, Damian?” Aaron quipped. “Why did you kidnap us now? Are we a threat to you?”
“I said, stop!” Damian growled, turning into a giant black dragon. Even Omri was frightened of the Merchant. Damian the dragon blew a wave of fire at the cage.
Aaron knew enough of his Unicorn Magic and was fast enough to stop the flames from hitting them. He shielded them with a wave of his own made of Unicorn Magic. The two waves canceled each other out, extinguishing the flames and keeping the three men from harm.
After that, Aaron was weak. He could do nothing but faint.
Derrick was hurting from the pain in his arm, he fainted as well.
This just left Shane and the dragon-man Damian, with Omri staring from a distance and unable to interfere without a command from his master.
Back in the Outer Realm, Ariana met her sister Luna in her bedroom.
“Something’s wrong with Shane.” Luna announced as soon as she sensed her sister near.
“I know.” Ariana whispered. “Derrick, too.”
Luna stood. “Is his Pendant-Locket glowing gold?”
Ariana nodded. “What do you think it means?”
“I don’t know.”
“I do.” Came a voice from the doorway. It was Aimee’s, and the woman looked as if she’d been crying. “Aaron sent me a telepathic message. He used great Unicorn Magic to shield himself, Derrick, and Shane from a fire attack by Damian. After that, he fainted.”
The twins looked at each other.
“I’ll try to locate him.” Ariana closed her eyes. After a moment, “Sorry, no go.”
“What did his necklace look like?”
“It was glowing green, as it always does when he’s working the Unicorn Magic.” Aimee dried her tears with a tissue.
“So, what does it all mean?” Luna asked.
“They’re in the Unknown, deep in the underground dungeons.” Aimee supplied. “Oh, what are we going to do?”
“We’ll think of something.” Ariana remarked. “On that, you can rely.”
“You stare at me, wondering what I am up to.” Damian was the first to break the long silence. He changed back to his human-male form before continuing. “I know what you are thinking. Unlike you, I can read minds.”
Shane got a grip on his Protector Powers, and become the Shadow. He was silent, listening and scowling at the former Merchant.
“You are thinking to destroy me.” Damian supplied. “But wait, you cannot destroy me.”
“Make a bet?” Shadow growled.
“You see, you need me, Shadow.”
“Like a hole in the head.” The Shadow quipped.
“You need me and those like me to keep you on your toes.”
“I’ve had enough dancing, thanks.”
Damian laughs. “Humor. What mortals use to make themselves feel better.”
“Seeing you dead by my hands would make me feel a lot better.” Shadow remarked.
“Ah, but it would also leave an empty gap in your very soul. One that only I could fill.”
Shadow stood face to face with Damian. “I don’t like playing games, Merchant. For years, you and your Warriors have been demolishing innocent Dreamers’s worlds.”
“All so you can pick up the pieces and start again.” Damian interrupts. “Face it, Shadow. You need me.”
“Why would I need you?”
“I am the Chaos before the Calm. The Storm before the Rainbow. The night before the dreary day.” Damian explains. “I am your nemesis. Without me, who would you fight? Who would be there to create the chaos that makes the world go ‘round? Who would be the one to taunt you, forcing you to use your wit and whatever pathetic power you think you have?”
Shadow gave that thought. “There are others out there. Like Gloriana and her daughters. Your father. Other Dominionites who didn’t exactly obey the call of duty. Other Dominionites who were forced into exile in the Dream Realm once the Dominion Wall fell. Your Dominionites that were left in the Dream Realm’s Grey Area who may not see eye to eye with Lord Max. Believe me, Damian. I’ve got plenty to fight. You, on the other hand, I have plans for. No, I won’t destroy you. Not yet. I’ll let my successors do that for me.” Shadow’s eyes turned black as the night. “I only warn you. Watch your backs. The Ancient Mystics are multiplying, as with our strength and power. Be aware at all times. You never know when one of us Crusaders happen to be watching you.”
Suddenly afraid, Damian and Omri disappeared in a wind of black smoke. For now, Shadow, the Protector and Aaron were safe.
Shadow turned to his Crusader friends. The Protector was barely conscious, but breathing steadily. He was trying to tend to Aaron, who was silent on the ground.
“Hey, man.” Shadow croaked, getting the Protector’s attention.
The Protector looked up. He was silent as he nodded.
“You ok?” Shadow sat next to him.
The Protector shook his head. “How could I have been so cruel?”
“It wasn’t you, honest. It was Omri’s spell.” Shadow explained. “He got the four of you pretty good.”
“I shouldn’t have listened to the voice.” The Protector’s image faded, leaving only a younger version of Derrick Reading behind. “Ever since I met Aaron, I’ve been jealous of his and Ariana’s relationship.”
“I know. It’s almost over, I promise.” Shadow stayed calm. He knew Derrick was reverting his mind back to the Crusades, therefore back to his younger days. He just had to talk him out of it, that’s all.
No easy task.
Shadow felt for Derrick. Once, he, too, was jealous of another male presence in his Sweetling’s life. Coincidently, that presence was Derrick’s.
Before past memories could creep up in his mind and leave him easy prey for Damian and Omri, Shadow stood and crossed the room.
Shadow knew what he had to do. He had to call upon the magic in his Protectors’ Pendant-Locket. Sitting with his legs crossed, he held onto the necklace and closed his eyes.
He only hoped it would work in time.
Back in the Outer Realm, Luna felt something around her neck. She reached for the Dream Pentacle and saw its glow. She closed her eyes and dared to use Empathy to sense what was going on. She opened her eyes and gasped.
“Luna, what is it?” Aimee asked.
She and the twins were in the same room with Shadow, Derrick and Aaron’s silent bodies. The children were with Juliet across the street. Kelly and Bradley were helping with the younger ones.
Luna looked to her husband’s body and saw the necklace pulsating gold. “It’s Shadow using the Golden Magic from his Pendant-Locket.”
Keep your Empathy open, Grand Magus. Came Shadow’s call in her mind.
Ariana heard it, too. “Shadow. Something’s wrong. I can’t sense Derrick, or Aaron.”
“Me, neither.” Aimee replied softly. “Even Derrick’s necklace is pulsing gold.”
“Not as bright as Shadow’s.” Luna pointed out.
Ariana looked. “I see it.”
“What does it mean when they pulsate like that?” Aimee asked.
“They’re using power.” Ariana supplied. She looked to her frightened twin. “What do you sense?”
“He’s using power, alright.” Luna supplied, nodding. “He’s calling to me in my mind with the necklace.”
“Why do I have the faint suspicion we’re in for a rescue mission?” Aimee remarked.
“Because, my dear Amethyst, we are.” Ariana smiled.
“I was afraid you’d say something like that.” Aimee groaned, laughing.
Ariana turned to Luna. “So, did he tell you where he is?”
“In the dungeons of Dark Tower; only, they’re hidden away where no one can find them.” Luna supplied. “Of course, finding them shouldn’t be a problem for three powerful Ancient Mystics.”
“Who else besides the two of you?” Aimee asked. The twins stared at her, smiling. “You can’t mean me?” The twins were silent, smiling. “You mean me. I’m no Ancient Mystic.”
“Thanks to me, you are.”
“Wasn’t it you that said blood ties are just as powerful as family ties?” Luna pointed out with a grin.
“I knew that would come back to bite me sooner or later.” Aimee shook her head. “Fine. Let’s rescue the guys. Where do we start?”
Sabrina paced her quarters, wondering how she could get back to the Dream Realm. The spell she used to get there last time had left her memory, and she couldn’t get it back. There had to be a way....
“Damian.” Sabrina whispered into the darkness.
The only light that pulsated in the room was her orb, the source of her power’s rejuvenation. The simple word became a incantation on its own, taking her instantly to her brother’s side.
She saw the dungeon and what was held in it.
The Protector looked a little worse for wear as he rested against the wall, the Unicorn Over-Seer was as if dead on the floor in the corner, and sitting in the middle of the room was the Shadow, his eyes closed and necklace glowing. She’d learned long ago what that man was capable of, and what both the Protector and the Unicorn Over-Seer were capable of.
They seemed a little weak. The thought made Sabrina smile. Then it occurred to her.
What did the three of them have to do with Damian? Where was the Merchant now, and why were the three Earthbound Protectors being held here? What was the point? And how did any of this have to do with Sabrina’s orders to get Lord Max’s Spell-Book?
She froze when she heard footsteps.
Something told her to sit quietly and she’d learn all the answers in time. She just had to wait.
“This place gives me the creeps.” Aimee shivered once they arrived.
“A lot of places give you the creeps.” Luna remarked. She pointed. “There’s the door.”
Ariana stopped and put her hand on it. “Powerful Dominionite Magic.”
“There haven’t been Dominionites around for years!” Aimee cried.
Ariana outstretched her hand to her sister. “Help me with this, will you?”
Luna shook her head, smiling. “I’ve got a better idea.”
Both Ariana and Aimee were curious.
“A Three-fold Circle.” Luna supplied.
Ariana understood, but Aimee was clueless. “Three times the power, three times the Magic.”
Aimee nodded, understanding. She joined hands with the twins and faced the door.
“Repeat after me,” Luna said. “What was there before, be there no more. Let us through the magic door.”
“Sounds like a Pagan spell to me.” Ariana teased.
“Just say it.” Luna said. “And hold on tight, because the burst we’re about to get will be a big one.”
Together, hand in hand, the women stared at the door and called the spell. As predicted, a burst of bright light and wind almost knocked them to the ground. The sisters stood tall, waiting for the wind to subside and the door to open.
“Can you sense them?” Aimee asked as she held Ariana’s arm and looked inside. The room was dark, with only a candelabra lit in the corner.
“No. Can you?” Ariana asked. Once Aimee shook her head, she asked. “Lu?”
“You know how my empathy is!” Luna hissed.
“For Shadow and the Protector, use it.” Young Guardian demanded.
“Please.” Aimee supplied.
Luna huffed “Very well,” as she concentrated on her untamed empathic power. “Shadow’s okay, but the Protector’s injured.” She reported, opening her eyes. “I can barely feel Aaron at all. His aura is really weak.”
Aimee gasped. “No!”
“Where are they?” Ariana asked in her Young Guardian’s tone.
“Follow me.” Luna supplied, leading her sisters in the direction her Empathy was taking her. Using telekinesis, she brought the candelabra to her hands.
“Neat trick.” Aimee tried to joke.
Ariana smiled at her as she took a candle stick. She handed one to Aimee. “I wonder why we can’t sense them?”
“I can.” Luna supplied.
“It’s up to you, sister.” Ariana told her twin. “Sense them so we can get them out of here.”
“Why should I?”
“Three reasons, and they’re all in there!” Ariana cried, pointing.
Again, Luna closed her eyes and opened her empathic sensors. “The guys aren’t the only ones here.”
Ariana and Aimee were confused.
“Doesn’t that girl ever die?” Aimee said sarcastically.
“Apparently not.” Luna said. She grasped the Dream Pentacle around her neck. “I don’t sense anything mean about her. That’s strange.”
“That’s Sabrina for you.” Ariana quipped.
“We should be careful, though. Just in case.” Aimee supplied.
“Just in case she wants to start something?” Ariana asked. “You think, maybe she’s just lying in wait?”
“Lying in wait? Where’d you get that from?” Luna asked.
“Never mind.” Ariana gave up, not wanting to argue with her. “If you don’t sense anything brewing in her demeanor, I don’t see why we should be careful.”
“You, of all people –” Luna started, facing her twin.
“Stop it, you two.” Aimee replied, coming between them. “The guys?”
“Right.” Luna said. “The guys.”
She turned around and led the way.
Ancient Mystic’s Rescue
Sabrina was indeed lying in wait, watching for the right clue. The right spell. She listened and watched patiently in the shadows while Young Guardian, Grand Magus and the Crusader’s Over-Seer made their way to Damian’s underground dungeons.
The three women faced the cage the men were being held in.
“Shadow!” The Grand Magus cried.
Shadow stood from his spot and greeted her. “About time. What took you so long?”
“We couldn’t sense you.” Young Guardian said. “I had Grand Magus use her Empathy to find you.”
Shadow smiled. “I knew it would work.”
“What?” Grand Magus asked. She folded her arms. “What are you talking about?”
“Never mind now.” Shadow replied. The Grand Magus looked to her sister when she stifled a laugh. He smiled with them. “Fun’s over; get us out of here.”
Young Guardian saw her husband in another corner, nursing his bloody arm. “What happened to him?”
“And Aaron?” Amethyst gasped once she saw him lying on the floor, body and necklace glowing deep green.
Shadow looked to them. The Protector was awake now and back to his old self, thank the gods. He sat above Aaron’s lifeless, glowing body. “No time to explain. Without touching the bars, get us home!”
“Quoting my favorite person,” Young Guardian began. “I’ve got a better idea.”
Amethyst and the Grand Magus stared at her.
“Whatever it is, hurry up.” Shadow supplied. “They don’t look so hot.”
Young Guardian had her fighting gear on for a reason. She reached behind her back and pulled her sword out. “I suggest all of you stand back.”
In her shadowed hiding place, Sabrina gasped at the sight of Young Guardian’s red eyes.
Grand Magus, Amethyst and Shadow all stood away from the sword’s reach. Using the Silver Magic, she made the opal on the pommel glow. The three watched and listened as she spoke in a tongue neither of them knew. The chant made the entire sword glow in a rainbow of pastels, swirling and wrapping the blade. The glow grew brighter at the tip, which she pointed at the cage. Raising the sword with both hands, she swung the blade at the bars, forcing the Dominionite Magic to disappear.
Once the cage was gone, Grand Magus embraced the Shadow. Young Guardian slid the sword back in its sheath and headed to Aaron’s lifeless body. Amethyst knelt to her brother, trying to use her Unicorn Magic to wake him.
“Help me with him.” Aimee pleaded, tears in her eyes.
“I can’t.” Young Guardian whispered. “Not until we get out of here.”
“Let’s go home then.”
“No. We go to the Dream Realm.” The Protector moaned.
Young Guardian helped him stand.
“We need answers.” The Protector supplied, glowering at Young Guardian.
“And you need healing.” Young Guardian announced, glowering back. “Grand Magus, help Aimee with Aaron. Shadow, help me with him.”
“Gotcha.” Shadow said. Grand Magus nodded, heading over to Aaron and Aimee.
“What about Sabrina?” Amethyst asked.
“We’ve got more important things to worry about.” Young Guardian announced. “Let’s just call the Dream Chant and get to the Palace.”
They called the Chant and disappeared.
Little did they know, Sabrina was right behind them.
Once the guys were healed by Lord Guardian and Enchantra, they left for home, tired and worn. Back in the Outer Realm, all wasn’t as peachy as it seemed.
“It was almost too easy.” Aimee remarked. She was sitting on Aaron’s bed, next to his nearly-lifeless body. “We’ve dealt with Damian for a long time. He and his Warriors have never been this easy to beat.”
“Maybe we’re not done with them, yet?” Shane asked.
Aimee didn’t know what to think. She was too busy staring at her brother.
“Cheer up, Aim.” Shane announced, hand on her shoulder. “He’ll get better.”
“I don’t understand why he hasn’t woken up yet.” Aimee said, shaking her head. “All three of you returned to the Dream Realm with us.”
“There are a lot of things we don’t understand, Amethyst.” Ariana said. “This could be another version of what happened to me. Who knows?”
“He’s not on a quest or journey. I know that.” Aimee said. “I can’t even sense him.”
“Neither can I.” Ariana remarked.
“What’s happening with him?”
Ariana shook her head, telling her almost-sister she didn’t know.
“How’s Derrick?” Shane asked.
“He’s okay now that I’ve used my Healer’s Power on him.” Ariana said. “We talked, that’s all I can say.”
“That’s good.” Shane supplied. “What about you and Lu?”
“She didn’t tell you?” Ariana asked, surprised. He shook his head and she continued. “We’re fine now, too, thank the Gods. I don’t know what I’d do without her.”
“Let her know how much she’s appreciated once in a while.” Shane replied. “That’ll get her thinking.”
Ariana looked to Aaron’s body. After brushing a kiss to his cheek, she followed Shane out the door.
“Do you want to know my opinion?” Ariana asked Shane once they were outside. “This isn’t over, yet.”
“What makes you say that?”
“The way Tobias White-Snow’s acting, the way his son Tiger wanted to join the Canine Army. Heck, even the fact Wolf wanted to form an army to begin with has me worried.” Ariana remarked. “I’m even confused that I couldn’t sense you guys in the Old Dominion. Not to mention why Aaron won’t, or can’t, wake up.”
Shane put an arm around her shoulders. “Follow me. We’re going to figure it all out, right now.”
Ariana was suspicious, but agreed. He was the Shadow, and there was no denying his every whim.
Shadow took her to the Dream Realm, where they met up with the Lord Guardian himself, O’Dell. He and Enchantra were just as worried once Young Guardian and Shadow explained their feelings. The Protector and Grand Magus were there as well.
“I agree. This is far from over.” O’Dell remarked.
“You do not think Orthos...” Enchantra supplied, worried.
“He’s still in the Unknown, Mistress.” Shadow said. “Damian claimed he was on his own.”
“That’s what we thought about Shenara at first, remember? And Sabrina?” Young Guardian pointed out.
“So, what are we to do?” The Protector asked. “We can’t just sit around and do nothing!”
“I say we plan.” Grand Magus remarked. “If a fight is what they want, a fight is what they’ll get.”
“We’ll have to learn how to defend and fight, Warrior-style.” Shadow remarked.
“First step was forming the Canine Army.” The Protector supplied.
“I should have known!” O’Dell roared out of the blue.
“O’Dell?” Young Guardian asked.
“The Canine Valley’s Army has worked hard since its assembly.” O’Dell told her. “Sire Wolf seems to believe something else is bothering the Valley.”
“Whatever it is has gone past the Dark Mist in the Canine Wood.” The Grand Magus supplied. “I say, it was only a tiny beginning to a much bigger problem.”
“It has all Companions and Grey Areans scared of their lives.” Enchantra said. “Sire Wolf has told us both Kit and Katherine fear for their newborn kits’ lives.”
“Now with Sire Tobias in on it, something’s got to give.” The Protector said. He turned to Young Guardian. “You’re the one who agreed to the Canine Army. What are your thoughts on this?”
Young Guardian paced in her Fighter’s Gear, absently fingering the wand in her waist pouch. “Grand Magus is right. They want a fight, bigger than the Wars for Power themselves.”
“Will we be able to handle it, though?” Grand Magus asked. “If I can’t even use my Empathy power in our world, how am I supposed to use it here?”
“Not to mention, during the rescue, neither Amethyst or I could sense anything or anyone.” Young Guardian remarked, looking at Shadow.
He failed to meet her eyes, instantly telling her he had something to hide.
“Not to mention that little stunt you pulled using that sword of yours.” The Protector replied, glaring at his wife. “I saw the color of your eyes. You used Dark Magic in your sword, didn’t you?”
“I had to. It was the only way.” Young Guardian remarked. “I had to fight fire with fire. I wasn’t about to let the Dark Magic get to me, and you would have known it if you would just trust me every now and then.”
“Trust is something you earn, Ariana Moon.” The Protector cried in her face. “As of late, you’ve lost my trust of you.”
“Enough!” Enchantra’s voice startled them out of their argument. “Listen to yourselves! It is exactly what Omri wanted.”
“Enchantra is right.” O’Dell said. “We must be stronger than the Djinn if we are ever to beat them. In order to do this, we must be together in all things.”
Young Guardian and the Protector stared at each other. Tempers that flared from everywhere soon dissipated, and Shadow could feel it. Before another fight could start, he cleared his throat, silently telling his family to calm down.
Young Guardian caught his eye and sighed, looking at the group of family and Originators around her. “I have a funny feeling we’re about to be in way over our heads here.”
In silence, they all agreed.
Back in the Outer Realm the next day, while the children were playing and Juliet was watching them, Luna gathered the Crusaders together.
“All right, everybody.” Luna stood above them with Shane beside her.
Aimee was still depressed about Aaron not waking up, Ariana was comforting Aimee, and Derrick couldn’t look at his wife without feeling some anger and confusion toward her. Ariana and Shane shared looks, as if they knew something the rest didn’t, and that just drove Luna crazy.
She got their attention and continued, arms crossed and expression even more so. “Explanations are in order. Does anyone want to tell me what happened to us? Why we’re bickering at each other? Why even my own children don’t want anything to do with me? Why I had to be the one to sense the guys deep in the Old Dominion because my two sisters couldn’t?”
“Enough, Luna!” Derrick cried. “Why don’t you ask your husband and twin sister? They seem to know everything these days.”
“We do not.” Ariana argued.
“Sure act like it sometimes.” Derrick mumbled.
“Hey!” Ariana cried in her own defense.
“Knock it off, both of you!” Shane cried in his best Shadow voice. “No more bickering and arguing, you got that?”
“I’ll stop once I know exactly what happened after we woke up from Omri’s spell.” Derrick supplied.
“You already know what happened.” Ariana mumbled. “Omri cast a spell that made us against each other in every way possible.”
“Why weren’t you affected by it?” Luna remarked. “And what happened to Aimee’s and your Empathy powers during the rescue?”
“Why did you use Dark Magic in your sword to rescue us?” Derrick asked.
“One thing at a time, okay?” Ariana asked. “First of all, it’s like this. Omri cast the spell, I recognized it, and so did Shadow. We each must have protected ourselves in different ways. That’s why we weren’t affected by it.”
“Why didn’t you protect us?” Derrick asked his wife. “If you knew what was going to happen, why didn’t you warn and protect us from it?”
Ariana shrugged. “I didn’t know how. Honest.”
“Moving on, when we woke up, our minds were focused on only one thing.” Shane supplied. “Our deep thoughts and desires against each other.”
“Why punish us?” Aimee cried. “Why punish Aaron?” She cried in Ariana’s embrace. “Why won’t he wake up?”
Shane sat next to her. “I don’t know what’s going on with your brother.” He looked at the group. “We had such hateful thoughts of each other, secret thoughts, I might add, Omri used them to pit us against each other.”
“With you four, it worked.” Ariana supplied. “Point number one: Luna was jealous of me because I was named Young Guardian, and she wasn’t.”
“I was not only jealous, but mad and angry at the Ancients.” Luna remarked. “I was the one with all the power. I was the one who told her who she was, and taught her most of the control of what she knew. Why wasn’t I the one the Ancients named Young Guardian?”
“Because who would be the Grand Magus?” Shane pointed out, putting his arm around her. “Who would be the one to bring warnings of the bad guys through her dreams? Who would be the one to learn different kinds of Magic and actually use it when necessary?”
“Ariana can do all that!”
“I can’t and you know it.” Ariana cried. “I had a hard time learning my powers until you guys came along. Before all of you, I had only the twins to help me.”
“But you weren’t there to help us when you left us for dead!” Aimee spat.
“I didn’t leave you for dead, which brings us to point number two.” Ariana counted on her fingers. “You were angry at me for not teaching you anything about the power I gave you during the Blood Pact. Aaron was mad at me because I failed to tell him about Kelly’s own Djinn takeover.”
“Now he’s lying in some kind of coma, and it’s all your fault!”
“Aimee!” Shadow tried, but was ignored.
“Will you stop it?” Ariana yelled. “This is what Omri wanted. He wanted us against each other. Well, I’m not going to stand for it.”
“Ariana’s right.” Shane supplied. “It’s hurting us more and more.”
Ariana stood up. “You want explanations, Luna? We’ll give them to you.” She looked to Derrick. “I had to do what I did to rescue you, and take you out of there. My empathy powers were out of whack. Neither Aimee nor I could sense a thing.”
“I’m still wondering why.” Aimee said.
“That, I couldn’t tell you.” Ariana shrugged.
“Good thing I can.” Shane spoke up. “I’m the one who did it.”
“What did you do?” Luna asked. “Cast some kind of spell?”
“Sort of, but not really.” Shane replied. “I used the special magic I learned in the Locket-Pendant, and used it to block Ariana’s and Aimee’s Empathy powers.”
“It forced me to use my own, even though they’re still unstable.”
“You got it.” Shane remarked. “A stroke of genius, I might add.”
“Genius?” Derrick echoed. “You call forcing Luna to use her untamed Empathy to sense us, genius? You call forcing Ariana to use her Dark Magic-laced sword to rescue us, genius?”
“How was I supposed to know she’d do that?”
“Couldn’t you tell in that locket of yours?” Luna remarked sarcastically.
“What of Aaron?” Aimee asked. “Why didn’t he wake up? Can you answer that, Shadow? Why can’t my brother wake up?”
The group was silenced long enough to look at each other, then to a hysterical Aimee.
Shane hugged her while she cried. He looked to Ariana, who was sitting at the opposing side of the couch. She failed to meet his eyes. Her sister and his wife Luna was still standing across the small living room. She was covering her mouth in a silent gasp, the emotion of fear clear in her eyes. He looked to Derrick, who had sat down and was now holding his head, refusing to talk to anyone. Shane could tell his brother-in-law and best friend was struggling with his own private demons inside.
Shane shook his head. “This has gone far enough.” He hugged Aimee tighter to him, whispering in her ear. “We’ll wake him, Amethyst. I promise.”
She pulled away just enough to look in his eyes. “Thank you, Shadow.”
Shadow nodded before addressing the group. “I won’t be able to do it alone.”
Ariana, Luna, Derrick, and even Aimee perked up to listen.
“I’ll need all of your help to revive him.”
“We don’t even know where his mind is, Shadow.” Ariana supplied softly. “How are we going to revive him if we don’t know that?”
“We form a healing circle.” Shadow said.
“A healing circle?” Luna asked. “How?”
“Is that where we all join hands or something?” Aimee looked around for answers.
“You got it.” Shadow supplied. “Come on. We’ve no time to lose.”
For one last effort of unity, Shadow gathered his family and friends, the Dream Realm Crusaders, to use their untapped powers to save one of their own. With chanting of a special spell the three women wrote, the Crusaders held hands, closed their eyes, and focused all Magical energies toward reviving Aaron.
It took several tries, but it finally worked.
Shadow only hoped the future was going to be easier to bear. If things between the Crusaders and their Over-Seer didn’t improve soon, there was no hope against what he believed was history repeating itself.
If they didn’t get it together and truly learn what they had to do, they would all die in the Dream Realm.
Publication Date: 08-12-2009
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