By Michele Elaine Wilson © 2005
Sean and the children had been playing in the snow and after being ganged up on by the five children he had declared a truce in the snowball battle. He was a huge man with twinkling sky blue eyes and flame red hair and beard which currently were spotted white with snow. Sean attracted children to him. His mother claimed it was because he was a big overgrown kid himself. His twin Kira said it was because he was a huge teddy bear. He was a Bard and in his home world of Caledonia that made him a teacher.
Seanís adopted daughter Crystal decided that snowmen were boring and she wanted to make a snow dragon. Kira and Stefanís four sons Damien, Misha and his twin Sasha and the youngest Janos thought that was a brilliant idea. The childrenís grandfather, the White Mage, had come out to watch them. The White Mage was recovering from a badly injured arm and needed to take it easy while the arm healed. Things were starting to quiet down currently in the realm and his father-in-law King Brendan was staying with them at the Rainbow Castle and as the previous White Mage he was able to take care of anything that needed special attention.
The snow dragon was huge. It ended up looking like a snow version of Master Khigh, much to the amusement of the White Mage. When the snow dragon was finished they went inside to the familyís favorite room. It was a place where they could read, talk or just relax. The windows were intricate stained glass and threw a rainbow design into the room when the sun hit them. The tapestries on the walls were of ancient times and lands and the legends they told. The huge fireplace warmed the room in the winter months. The strongest wards made the room totally secure from all attacks. This was a room of comfort and safety.
King Brendan joined the family as they sipped warm drinks. Until recently the King had not left the Mystic Lands, that were ruled by his daughter Queen Niri, for many years. He had been unique in the annuals of history as the only being to be both the head of the elves and the White Mage at the same time. He had fought the evil for many centuries and it was only through his bravery that they were able to contain the Dark One at all. The battle had left him weary and finally he turned over the rule of the elves to his daughter. He had been pleasantly surprised when the Source of Light had picked his son-in-law Angus to be the White Mage.
King Brendan had found himself being highly amused by his great granddaughter Crystal. The little blue eyed blond tyke intrigued him. The rest of his grandchildren and great grandchildren were still in awe of the fabled King but Crystal from the start had decided that he was going to be her special friend. King Brendan wasnít sure if it was the fact that the child reminded him of his youngest child, Niri, when she was at that age or if it was the childís sunny disposition that made it impossible not to like her. At the moment she was sitting on his lap telling him how they made the snow dragon.
The Kingís namesake entered the room. Sean looked up in surprise and said, "I didnít know you were home little bro?"
"Just got in a short time ago," Brendan answered. Brendan wasnít as large as Sean taking more after the forest elf side of the family then the mountain elf. He had reddish-gold hair and blue-green eyes. Like his older brother he was an excellent swordsman and a fierce warrior. Brendan had a brilliant mind for strategies and spent a good deal of time helping plan the campaign against the Dark One. He jokingly gave his profession as spy but Sean suspected that Brendan was more serious then he would ever admit to.
"You look tired son," the White Mage said.
"Yeah well things have been a bit hectic but they should settle down for a while at least," Brendan said with a sigh. He sat down next to the twins. Like Sean he loved children. He had a son and daughter of his own but they and their mother never left the Mystic Forest and when he was in Caledonia he enjoyed being Uncle to Kira and Stefanís four boys.
After telling her great-grandfather all about the snow dragon Crystal became intrigued by a new tapestry. With a puzzled expression she turned around to look at her great-grandfather and asked, "Grandfather King why is that bird on fire?"
"That my child," replied King Brendan, "is a phoenix. I bet if you ask your daddy real nice he could tell you a story of the firebird."
"Please Daddy," Crystal asked with a smile.
Sean, as usual, melted when faced with his daughterís impish grin and he shook his head and with a chuckle said, "All right then this be a story about never giving up hope."
The fires were dying. It was coming into the coldest time of year where the fires were needed the most.
"I know he is using dark magic but I canít for the life of me figure out how he is doing it," the White Mage said.
"Their arenít enough beings that can make fire to keep all of the fires lit," Queen Niri sighed. "It is as if all the fire is being sucked out somehow. It doesnít make sense!"
"It is the magical fires that are dying that worries me," the White Mage replied.
"I was hoping that Cassie could see what is going on but he has all sight blocked," the Queen said. Their daughter Cassandra had the gift of foresight and was able to see into multiple timelines.
"Maybe when the boys get back they might have found a clue as to what is going on," the White Mage replied.
The man looked over at his brother and he said, "I donít know Brendan, this looks more and more like we are going to have to go down into the Southern Wastes to find the answer."
"I hate it down there," Brendan replied. "Unfortunately I think you are right. Whatever is causing this isnít coming from up North. Something he is doing down there is acting as a conduit to focus his attack up here."
"Think Grandfather might have an idea what is going on?" the man asked.
"It wouldnít hurt to ask him I suppose," Brendan answered.
As high born elves and magic users the man and his brother were given life crystals at birth. The crystals came under the protection of whoever was the head of the elves in this case their mother Queen Niri. The crystals were a means of communication and a focus to concentrate magical energies. Healers used them to concentrate the healing energies. The man and Brendan pulled out their life crystals, which gently pulsed with the rhythm of their heartbeats, and holding them at eye level concentrated on them willing communication with their grandfather. They soon were looking into the Mystic Forest at their motherís father King Brendan. The King was a tall silver-haired man with piercing blue eyes.
"Well, well, how are my two grandsons today?" King Brendan asked.
"Puzzled sire," Brendan replied.
"Ah and you want some answers from me I take it?" the King asked with a chuckle.
"If you would be so kind," the man answered.
"Well in that case you and your horses had better come through," the King said. "I have a feeling we will be discussing things that shouldnít be overheard if you take my meaning."
The man and Brendan stood up and went and got their horses. The manís horse was a huge roan stallion named Sunset and Brendanís horse was an equally large black stallion named Midnight. They led them to the circle of light that their grandfather was holding open. Stepping forward they found themselves in the Mystic Forest. With their grandfather were two of their sisters, the twins Desiree and Danielle. The girls were identical twins with red hair and green eyes.
"We will take the horses while you guys talk with Grandfather," Desiree said.
"Thanks," Brendan replied. Normally he would never let anyone else try and care for the hot tempered Midnight but the twins had the gift of animal empathy and their was no animal, either warm or cold blooded, who wouldnít respond to them.
"Make yourselves comfortable boys," King Brendan said. "We will be having a council later this evening. Your call saved us the trouble of calling you."
"Have you any idea what is happening, sire?" Brendan asked.
The King looked over at his namesake, smiled and said," I have a clue but Iím not sure if I know how to go about fixing it. That is why we are calling in the troops to pool information and see if we can determine what our next course of action will be. In the meantime you two get some rest and food. I fear what will follow is going to be strenuous and dangerous for all involved. His being able to cancel out white magic is a most ominous situation. Iím hoping your father can get an answer from the Source of Light."
The great elfin hall was used for special occasions when there was a need for a space that could hold dragons and unicorns as well as elves and humanoids. As the High Queen of the Elves Queen Niri headed the table. On her right was her father King Brendan and on her left the White Mage, who was also her husband. Queen Maeve led the contingent from the unicorns while Master Khigh represented the dragons. He had only brought along his granddaughter Mei-Lin. The other dragons were kept busy trying to reignite the fires that were going out all through the North.
"As far as the Source of Light can tell," the White Mage said, "this is a two pronged attack. Normal fire is being affected so that it can not stay burning and magical fire is being sucked away somehow and to somewhere. This is the most worrying to the Source because it means black magic is being used."
"As I mentioned to Stefan, my daughter and son-in-law I have an idea what may be going on. I would like to ask my granddaughters, Desiree and Danielle," said King Brendan, "if they have had any contact with the phoenix lately."
"I havenít seen him in close to three years," said Desiree.
"Once he got back to full strength," said Danielle, "he left to explore the outside world."
"He doesnít like to stay in one place," Desiree continued.
"Sounds like a certain Bard I know," the White Mage said as he turned to the man and asked, "have you seen him on your travels, son?"
"Iíve caught sight of him a few times," the man replied. "He doesnít come too close to wooded areas and he favors lakes. He is very careful not to start fires."
"When was the last time anyone saw him?" Queen Niri asked.
"I saw him about a month ago," Mei-Lin answered. "We flew together for a couple of days. He was curious about an eruption close to the border and wanted to make sure that fire wasnít going to destroy the homes in the area. He is very conscientious."
"Did you accompany him to the eruption?" Master Khigh asked.
"No Grandfather," Mei-Lin replied, "I was delivering your message to the Red World and you had emphasized the importance of getting it there so I felt it wouldnít be prudent to take any side trips."
"Quite right my dear," Master Khigh said chuckling. You could see the pride he felt for his granddaughter in his face.
"Anything going on in the Red World that we should know about Khigh?" King Brendan asked with a smile.
"The Red World is calm enough," Master Khigh said, "I was recruiting some of their dragons to help survey down South. I figured foreign dragons would be easier for him to overlook."
"Getting back to the phoenix has anyone seen him since Mei-Lin?" Queen Maeve asked.
"I saw him briefly in the sky," Brendan answered, "right before we started having trouble with the fires."
"Where were you at son?" Queen Niri asked.
"Checking on our favorite demon," Brendan said with a laugh.
"Ah and how is dear Cariben?" King Brendan asked.
"Enjoying himself immensely," Brendan answered.
"Mother," the man asked, "why all the interest in the phoenix? He went through his cycle four years ago. He is very young and strong."
"We think," Stefan said, "that somehow the Dark One has captured the phoenix and is using him to destroy the fires." Stefan was one of the most brilliant Healers the multiverse had ever known. A tall fair haired elf he had been instrumental in fighting the evil for centuries. He had finally wearied of the fight and had retreated to the Mystic Forest. He had never expected to leave again until a vivacious redhead named Kira had captured his heart.
"Weíre going to have to go down South and rescue him arenít we?" the man said with a sigh.
"We will have to affect a rescue certainly," the White Mage said, "but we also have to protect the fire we have left. We are going to be spread very thin."
"Could they be holding him in the same place they had you father?" Brendan asked.
"No, he would have to be with the Dark One himself," Master Khigh answered.
"Why?" Kira asked.
"He is one of the primal magical beings," Stefan answered as he looked at his wife with a tender smile on his face. "The only way to affect a primal magical being is to be in close proximity to it. As all of us in the room are aware the primal magic is very strong. It is what we use and it is considered pure white magic. If the Dark One wants to try and counteract or subvert primal magic he needs to be close to the Well of Darkness. He corrupted his life crystal and poured all of his hatred and knowledge of black magic into it. He replenishes it with evil drawn from beings who have given over to its lure. It is his perverted answer to the Source of Light. It is evil, pure undiluted evil."
"No offense father," the man said, "but why did he have you in a holding cave rather then by him in the Well of Darkness? Certainly he would have wanted that power in order to try and defeat you."
"I have no idea," the White Mage said with a shrug.
"I do," King Brendan answered. "Even having you near the Well of Darkness wouldnít have given him the strength to defeat you at that time, Angus. He had expended too much energy in the months previous and you could have overpowered him. He will never put himself at that kind of risk."
"You make him sound like a coward, Grandfather," Brendan said.
"He is," the King answered simply.
"Why isnít he afraid of the phoenix?" Kira asked.
"The phoenix is still young and inexperienced in the ways of magic," Queen Niri answered. "In many ways he is still a child. He wouldnít know how to fight the Dark Oneís magic as he hasnít yet encountered black magic."
"This one is head strong," Stefan continued, "and he really should have stayed longer then he did so that we could instruct him better but he was so anxious to see the worlds."
"I thought they had the memories of the previous phoenixes to draw on," Deirdre asked. The pretty little white Healer unicorn had accompanied her Grandmother Maeve to the meeting.
"The only memory they strongly retain is when they are at the end of their cycle," Master Khigh said. "They know how to make the nest that will bring them rebirth."
"What happens if the cycle is interrupted early?" Kira asked.
"I think we are seeing it," Queen Niri replied.
The meeting lasted long into the night. In the end they decided on a three prong plan of action. A beacon needed to be established that would be constantly tended by the three main magic users, elves, dragons and unicorns. They would keep the fire going hoping to lure the phoenix to it if possible and to give fire a foundation that it could draw from. The White Mage would accompany his oldest son in searching for the lair of the Dark One in hopes of freeing the phoenix from its captivity if that was indeed what was happening. King Brendan had agreed to leave the Mystic Forest and with his namesake grandson also help look for the phoenix. The two teams would approach from different directions. The dragons, elves and unicorns that were fire makers would spread out into the worlds to try and keep fires burning by magical means so that the people would not freeze with the coming winter weather.
"Father?" Queen Niri asked softly.
"Iím here," King Brendan said as he turned from the window.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" Niri asked.
The King answered, "Do I want to do this? No. Will I do this? Yes. Angus is good, very good but no one knows that oneís mind like I do. I didnít think he would get the strength to try something like this."
"Where do you think he got it from?" his daughter asked.
"I fear their are creatures who were drawn towards evil that will never see the light of day again," her father answered. "He has to have drained evil from something in order to replenish the Well of Darkness. If only the bird were more mature!"
Niri went up and put her arms around her father. They stood silently for a while with arms entwined.
"I know how hard this is for you father," Niri said. "I wish I could be with you but I have to be with the beacon fire."
"Your strength is needed there, my golden child," the King said. "You are giving me a fascinating substitute though. I am looking forward to travelling with my namesake."
"I knew what I was doing when I named him," the Queen replied with a smile.
The plateau stood overlooking the vast northern sea to the east. To the north and west you could see Caledonia proper. To the south you could see the beginnings of the Southern Wastes. The lands between the North and the Southern Wastes were held by some of the fiercest fighters in Caledonia. Baron Agronsky and his ancestors had waged a determined battle to keep the Dark One down in the South and away from their lands. His loyalty to the White Mage would never be called into question.
"This can be seen from North and South," Master Khigh said. "If our firebird can get free it should call him."
"I hope we get him back in one piece," Deirdre said. After her Grandmother Queen Maeve had helped to light the magical fire she had appointed her granddaughter Deirdre to be her representative. With Queen Niri also at the fireís site it was thought that it would be best to have one of the rulers of the three ancients in the safety of the Mystic Forest. Queen Maeve was helping her daughter Rhiannon, who headed the Healerís Guild, in organizing the efforts to reach people who would be in danger from the cold.
"So do I, Deirdre," Queen Niri said. "I must say I feel more secure knowing that your father and brothers are near us. I have no idea what may follow."
"You arenít afraid are you my Queen?" Deirdre asked. "You are one of the most courageous beings I have ever met and one of the wisest."
"I once asked my father what was wisdom and courage and how do you find them," Queen Niri said. "He told me Ďwisdom is understanding real fear. Stupidity is ignoring real fear. Courage is overcoming real fear. Cowardice is giving into imaginary fear. You will find courage when you allow something to be more important than yourself.í I have never forgotten that."
"King Brendan," said Master Khigh, "is the most remarkable being I know. I canít think of another being who has had to carry the burden your father has that would have survived the way he has."
"I just wish he didnít have to go on this mission," Queen Niri said as a tear trickled down her cheek.
"No tears, Niri," Master Khigh said softly. "Your father will be fine. He has more courage then any one I know and fortunately the wisdom to go with it. Now your hard headed husband and sons on the other hand."
The Queen started to giggle. "Thatís enough Master Khigh," she said with mock severity. "They may be bull headed but they are my bull heads."
"Dad," the man said, "in case you havenít counted too carefully their are two of us. Just you and me. It would really be better if we make sure that no one knows we are here."
"Son," the White Mage replied, "I have been doing this since before you were ever born. All I am saying is that we need to look around and see if there is any danger that I need to alert General Brand about."
"Ah yes," the man said, "is this the General Brand who has probably as many spies as there are stars in the sky?"
"Donít exaggerate," the White Mage huffed.
"Dad Iíll make a deal with you," the man said, "why donít we get the bird to safety and then we can reconnoiter."
"Of course that is our main object," the White Mage said, "but do keep your eyes open and anything you see that is out of the normal remember the site so we can get the information back to the army."
"Dad!" the man said. "We are in the Southern Wastes, everything is out of the normal!"
"Honestly son," the White Mage said in his most reasonable voice, "you and your sister get so emotional."
King Brendan and his grandson Prince Brendan were lying on their stomachs looking down at a series of caves. They had pinpointed the one that they were interested in but needed to wait for night before going any further.
"So," said the King, "how far do you think your Dad and brother got before they started fighting?"
Brendan chuckled and said, "Oh I would say probably just out of earshot from mother."
"You know why they fight so much donít you?" the King asked his grandson.
"They are too much alike," Brendan answered.
"Partially," the King said, "but also because your Dad would love to see your brother succeed him as White Mage."
"Thatís NOT going to happen," Brendan said firmly. "No one could talk my brother into that."
"The Source would pick him as successor if he were willing," the King said, "but because he genuinely does not want it the Source will not thrust it upon him."
"He would make a good one though," Brendan said. "Do you think so Grandfather?"
"Iím sure he would," the King replied. "In a way though Iím glad he doesnít want it because he has a greater gift as a teacher. Their are others who would make a good White Mage and even though you would be a good one grandson, yes, I know that you want it even less then your brother."
"Iím not afraid of the responsibility," Brendan said. "I just think I could be more useful elsewhere."
"Oh I think," King Brendan said, "when the time comes you will have more responsibility then you can possibly imagine."
Mei-Lin settled down next to her grandfather. She looked very tired. "We have every dragon that is capable of doing so trying to keep fires lit," she said. "The problem is that they go out so fast. Even dragons have to recharge their fires. We canít flame constantly."
"I know my dear," Master Khigh said. "You have done a remarkable job of organizing and getting the dragons where they need to be."
"Mei-Lin," said Queen Niri, " dragons can generate heat with their bodies do you think they would be willing to let the people huddle next to them for warmth?"
"The dragons would be willing," Mei-Lin said, "but Iím not sure of the people. Their are so many that are scared of the dragons."
"They are just going to have to learn not to be," Rhiannon said sternly. She was the Head of the Healerís Guild and mother to Deirdre.
"Shannon has been teleporting all over the worlds," Deirdre said, "trying to convince people that they need to put aside their fears." Shannon was Deirdreís older sister and specialized in mental healing.
"I have every mental healer that is able out trying to calm the panic," Rhiannon said. "People are scared and rightly so. Their are many that are leery of magic users and here we are trying to tell them to trust us."
"They have no choice but to trust us Rhiannon," Queen Niri said. "We are their only hope of surviving."
"It doesnít mean they have to like it though," added Master Khigh. "Hopefully when this is all over they may have learned to be a little less afraid."
"What I am hearing," Mei-Lin said, "is that they are more afraid of the Dark One. As long as they remember that we are fighting him then they should be able to get through this okay."
"This would be easier if you were a shapeshifter Dad," the man said.
"Sorry son that is your Motherís side of the family," the White Mage answered.
"It is strange that out of the twelve of us that only Brendan, Rory, Daria and I can shapeshift. Not even my twin can do it," the man replied.
"I think the different talents you children have," the White Mage said, "are so strong that there wasnít room magically for all of you to have the shapeshifting ability. It is your strongest magical ability but doesnít interfere with you being a Bard. Rory is an incredible artist and Daria is a wonderful singer. Again neither talent would interfere with being a shapeshifter."
"How about Brendan?" the man asked.
"Brendan blows the theory all to pieces," the White Mage answered. "However I think we can redeem part of the theory by saying that there is only one Brendan and he is one of the biggest puzzles I have ever known."
"I think if he werenít my brother," the man said, "I would probably be afraid of him."
"He is my son," the White Mage said, "and I do find him a bit frightening. I am so thankful he is on our side. I couldnít imagine having to oppose him."
On the evening of the fifth day King Brendan had set up a conference with his son-in-law and two grandsons via the life crystals. The four had reached their destination and were poised to enter the realm of the Dark One.
"Okay it is agreed then," King Brendan said.
"Right," the man answered, "Dad and I will enter first and start a diversion. You and Brendan come from the opposite direction and try to free the phoenix."
"Angus be careful because he can move extremely fast," King Brendan said.
"Iíll remember that," the White Mage answered.
"Brendan," the White Mage said, "you let us know when you are ready."
Brendan had been sharpening his sword Lughian. He had a special crystal that gave the sword a double edge one practical and one magical. They would need the magical cutting power to get through the web surrounding the phoenix.
"Go ahead," Brendan said. "We will give you enough time to get there and start your distraction. My brother has tuned his life crystal to show us what is happening so we will be there when the time is right."
"When this is over you do need to show me how you figured that out," King Brendan said.
"It is something my daughter asked about and based on something she said it just made sense," the man said.
The underground cavern stank of sulfur. A large pool of oily liquid bubbled around the obsidian throne of the Dark One. The huge sea serpent sat coiled on his throne and his vaguely humanoid central head had a cold beauty to it. The twelve stalks that surrounded the head held the heads of the deluded beings who felt that the power they thought they gained by joining forces with the Dark One was worth the price that they paid. The beings who huddled next to the wall tried to make themselves invisible to that dreaded being.
The Dark One was laughing at the struggles of the phoenix who was trapped in a web that was slowly smothering out his flames. So intent was he on his amusement that he failed to notice the arrival of one of his worst enemies until it was too late to throw up barriers.
The man arrived with his sword Nuadias out and was dispatching the guards that surrounded the Dark One. The White Mage had placed the crystal that would allow their escape and turned towards the enemy of all people.
"You canít be here," the Dark One bellowed. He turned to his servants huddled against the wall. "After him you cretins!"
"There is no where you can hide that the Source canít find you," the White Mage said.
"You are in my domain now and my Well can beat your puny little Source," the Dark One hissed.
"You are delusional if you think you can beat the Source," the White Mage answered calmly.
"I have defeated you White Mages before," the Dark One hissed, "and I can do it with you!"
As the two were speaking they were each calling on the energy to push towards the other. The man was meanwhile dispatching the beings that were streaming at him. A veteran of the wars against evil the man had the stamina and skill to fight a beserker army.
"What you have failed to understand is that there will always be a White Mage, you can strike me down but another will take my place," the White Mage said.
The main head of the Dark One was getting purple with rage. He turned to the bodies of his auxiliary heads and with a surge of energy threw them at the man knocking him to the ground. The White Mage turned towards the beings and with sword in hand fought them until his son could get to his feet. With his opponent temporally distracted the Dark One threw himself towards the White Mage coiling himself around the arm that held the sword and squeezing with all his might he felt the bones crush. In spite of the pain the White Mage was able to call up enough magic to keep the serpentine head away from him.
A blinding flash of light rocked the cavern. King Brendan stood there with his white elfin armor shining and his sword in hand. With a gesture he grabbed the Dark One by the throat and flung him onto his chair. The White Mage crumbled to the floor but with his good arm he continued to keep the control that pushed the Dark One back.
With a scream of rage the Dark One tried to lunge at the King. Of all his enemies he hated King Brendan the most.
"Get out!" the Dark One screamed. "This is my realm you can not be here! I wonít allow it. This is mine. You were given all else. You canít have this."
The King smiled and said, "You will never learn that there is no place you can hide from me. Where you go I can follow."
The Dark One kept throwing himself towards the King only to bounce off of an invisible wall of white energy. With the attention of their leader focused on the elfin King the beings he commanded to fight the man pulled away and again shrank against the wall. The man stood over his father with sword held at ready to protect him in case someone found enough courage to try and attack again.
While the struggle between black and white magic took place between the Dark One and King Brendan and the White Mage, Prince Brendan was crouched near the web that held the phoenix captive. He projected calming thoughts towards the firebird as he cut through the web that held him. The bird that tumbled out was a far cry from the magnificent bird that had emerged four years earlier from its nest of myrrh and sweet herbs. The fires had diminished to the point where the bird barely glowed. Brendan could see the phoenix was dying.
"Release me," the bird whispered.
"How?" Brendan asked.
"Let go the fire, release me," the phoenix asked again.
On the plateau the heads of the three magic users were trying to keep the magical fire alive. They had come to the decision that it might be prudent to have one of them in the safety of the Mystic Forest but that it was necessary for all of them to be at the fire.
"Mother," the voice of Brendan was heard to say, "let go the fire."
Queen Niri looked startled. "If we let go the fire it will disappear from the world," Niri said. She had been surprised by the voice of her son.
"He sees the bird," Queen Maeve said. "I think we need to trust Brendan on this."
"Niri," Master Khigh said, "we must do as he says."
The three magic users turned towards the fire and released their will upon it The flames were slowly extinguished.
"Enough," King Brendan commanded. With a surge of white magic he again grabbed the Dark One and flung him to the ground. "Serpent you became and serpent you will remain. You will crawl on your belly like the worm you are."
Prince Brendan held his sword with the point heading towards the ceiling. He was perfectly still as he watched the last of the flames die on the phoenix.
The phoenix slowly rose into the air and looking at Brendan he softly said, "thank you." He then plunged down onto the sword and fire died from the world.
Knowing that his son had succeeded the White Mage released his control and allowed blessed oblivion to remove the agony of his wounds. The man gently picked up his father and waited for the signal from his Grandfather.
The Dark One sensed the death of the phoenix and crowed," Iíve won."
"No," King Brendan said quietly, "you have lost but you donít have the wisdom to realize it."
King Brendan signaled his two grandsons and with another blinding flash of light they disappeared from the Dark Oneís lair and reappeared on the plateau where the heads of the three magic users were waiting.
"Angus," Queen Niri cried as she rushed towards where her son had gently laid his father. She and Queen Maeve set to work trying to heal her husbandís terrible wounds.
The hours wended their way towards sunset. The Healers had made the White Mage as comfortable as they could. General Brand and his sons Pwyl and Lyr guarded the perimeter.
King Brendan stood with his arms around the shoulders of his twin granddaughters Desiree and Danielle. They watched as the sun sank below the horizon. "So it begins," the King softly said, "the long darkness that will test our faith."
The children of the White Mage and Queen Niri spread out into the worlds bringing comfort and hope to the frightened peoples.
Daria sat with her back to the dragon Master Po and sang for the people about the rising of the sun. Her clear beautiful soprano voice wrapped itself around her listeners and urged them to believe.
Rory painted pictures in the air of warmth and fires and their beauty urged the people to believe.
The seductive voice of Cassandra told her listeners of the visions of warmth and fire and urged her listeners to believe.
The tiny little Bronwyn visualized fire for those surrounding her and urged them to believe.
Ian projected the healing calm that would make him one of the best mental healers that the elfin race would ever know and in that calm he urged them to believe.
As always Seamus and Nigel worked as a team and the two of them convinced the most hardened skeptics to believe.
The dragons spread throughout the worlds radiating heat to keep the peoples from freezing. The unicorns projected heat from their horns. The Healers made sure that those most vulnerable were kept safe from coldís harm.
Everywhere the people were comforted. Everywhere the word believe was heard. At the plateau the strongest practitioners of white magic stood watch. The Queen of the Elves had five of her children with her. In addition to the man were Brendan, Kira, Desiree and Danielle. Queen Maeve had finally ordered her granddaughter Deirdre to stay with her when it became obvious that the little unicorn was going to collapse if she continued trying to do so much healing work. Master Khigh was the sole representative of the dragons although dragons did flit in and out giving him reports.
On the morning of the third day as the sun made its way over the horizon a solar flare erupted from the top of the sun and detached itself from the orb. Those gathered watched as the flare started towards the planet.
"Heís frightened," Desiree called out.
"He remembers the pain," Danielle cried.
Master Khigh sat up on his haunches and raising his head towards the sky he gave an undulating cry that echoed through the land, sea and air. Suddenly an explosive thunder was heard as a thousand dragons materialized in the air over the water. In front was Master Khighís granddaughter Mei-Lin.
"Go to him" Master Khigh ordered, "he will remember you. Bring him safely to us,"
The dragons spun in the air and shot towards the sun. Those watching could see the dragons as they winked into place surrounding the firebird.
King Brendan turned towards his grandson and said, "Brendan get ready. He will need you."
Brendan looked at his grandfather in surprise and said, "He has always wanted Stefan in the past."
Stefan helped his brother-in-law put on the heavy gauntlets that would protect him from the fire and said, "You gave him release from the pain and he needs your help in the rebirth."
The tiny eagle flew towards the upraised arm of the being he considered his protector and landing on it he gave a small cry.
"You are safe little one," Brendan crooned to the baby bird. "No one will harm you. We will take you to where you will be safe. Donít cry little one Iíll protect you."
As he calmed the phoenix Brendan gently stroked his tiny head. The birdís eyes finally stopped flashing with fear and as he calmed down he started to coo. A tiny feather came loose from the phoenixís head and slowly drifted towards the ground. The feather touched the cold wood and flames came into being as fire was returned to the world.
In the lair of the Dark One a crystal flared and showed the flames. The Dark Oneís scream of rage echoed throughout the Southern Wastes.
"So you see," said Sean, "if you have faith and you believe, really believe, that faith will sustain hope even during the darkest times."
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