By Michele Elaine Wilson © 2006
The fierce storm hammered on the windows like a drum. For a change most of the family was in residence at the Rainbow Palace. Brendan was lying on a couch close to the fire. His mother Queen Niri was sitting with his head on her lap and she was softly stroking his cheek. The deep gouges that marred his handsome face grew less prominent with each stroke. Heads turned as the door opened and Sean came in with his maternal grandfather, King Brendan. Queen Niri was the daughter of the elder Brendan and the mother of the younger.
"Father it is good to see you back and you too, son," the Queen said.
"I'm glad to be back," King
"How did you find traveling with
my big brother?" Brendan asked.
"An interesting experience I must
say," the King replied with a chuckle.
King Brendan came close to the fire and
sat in the chair next to his daughter. Even in traveling clothes he retained the
regal look that marked him as royalty. He was tall and slender with silver hair
and piercing blue eyes. "How are you doing grandson?" he asked his
"Healing," Brendan replied
"Not nearly as fast as I would
like," Queen Niri snapped.
"I'm much better then I was,"
Brendan told his mother.
"Don't fret so Niri," the
King said, "your son will be fine."
The White Mage came into the room. He
was a tall man with white hair. Like his father-in-law before him, he had spent
many of his years outside of the Mystic Realm so he had aged and he and his
father-in-law now looked similar in age. "Good evening everyone," he
said. He gave a slight bow towards the King. "I hope my eldest behaved
properly for you."
"Ah come on you guys ye act like
I'm a hot headed red head or something," Sean said with a mock scowl.
"You are," came a chorus of
voices. Sean just laughed.
"Well now that we have that
straightened out," said the White Mage with a smile, "you are also a
bard so make yourself useful, as well as ornamental, and tell us a story. This
storm is making the children nervous."
The White Mage sat down and smiled as
his youngest child, Bronwyn, climbed onto his lap. She spent most of her time in
the Mystic Forest with her mother and disliked the storms that came with the
world of time.
"I get to sit on Grandfather
King's lap," Crystal said. The little blue eyed blonde tyke was Sean's
adopted daughter. King Brendan laughed as he picked the child up and sat her on
Kira's youngest, Janos, declared that
he got to sit on Uncle Sean's lap.
"Okay now if we have the laps
sorted out and everyone is comfortable then this be a story about the two sides
to power," Sean began.
It is a conceit of men to think that
all intelligent beings took the humanoid form. In a far off land called Cataract
there lived a race of beings who looked like a cross between a humanoid and the
animal we call a cat. They were, for the most part, bipedal although they would
occasionally get down on all fours, especially when they were preparing to leap
or when running. Like our cats they were covered with thick fur pelts but they
wore some clothes, more for practicality then anything else, since clothes
allowed them to have weapons other then their claws available to use in a fight.
divided into five prides and each was ruled by an alpha male. In many ways these
prides were similar to the prides of an animal called a lion that you see on a
planet named Earth. The ruler of each pride was the strongest male of the cats
and he kept his rule by defeating other males who challenged him. Originally
there was only one pride but when that pride became too large to handle a male
was chosen who was equally strong as the leader at that time and the pride split
in two. In the course of time those two prides had each split in two when the
prides had again become too large. The fifth pride was the odd one out. That
pride was formed out of a rebellion when a strong male objected to the way one
of the prides was being run. This new leader had fought the pride's leader to a
stand still and in order to prevent all out war the leaders of the other three
prides forced a decision to let the challenger form his own pride. To keep the
prides even in size those that chose to go with the challenger were joined by
volunteers from the other three prides so that the fifth pride was of a similar
pride was called Allend and was led by Malik. Malik was the oldest and wisest of
the leaders. Second pride was called Bettand and was led by Norid, who was
Malik's son. Third pride was Costa and its leader was Reign. Lewister ran the
fourth pride Danulus and it was from this pride that the rebellion arose and
produced the fifth pride Haugh run by Titus. There was a joint council made up
of the pride leaders and their seconds as well as the head female from each
a difficult land to live in and the cats had several natural enemies. Fierce
predators roamed the land. It was a place where survival of the fittest was very
much the law of the land. The weather was harsh and the geography was even
harsher. The weak rarely survived past early childhood. The planet’s
livelihood consisted primarily of hunter and gatherer societies. There was
little there in the way of natural resources to build a technology on and magic
was not indigenous to the species on that planet.
It is not the
habit of the Council of Magic Users to interfere in the running of another land
unless that land showed signs of going over to the Dark One's side. The Council
of Magic Users and the elfin Tuathan Council were the first line of defense
against evil. The recent rebellion in Cataract had given the Council cause for
concern. The lands to the east of Cataract had fallen under the sway of the Dark
One and the Council needed to make sure that the prides of Cataract remained
committed to keeping their lands free from the Dark One's influence. The forces
of light were stretched thin trying to keep the Prince of Evil from trying to
expand his power and the Council needed the help and cooperation of the
inhabitants of many lands to keep their own countries clear of the Dark One’s
The man and
his brother had camped for the evening on a bluff over looking the pride lands.
They had made their way up from the South to get to their destination. It was a
longer route but it was the best way of avoiding the Dark One's agents. The two
men were accompanied by a female blue-green dragon and a demon in humanoid form.
tell me again my pretty lady," Cariben said with a grin to the dragon,
"why was it I let you talk me into leaving my comfortable headquarters to
accompany these two fighters of yours?"
Mei-Lin answered, "you were bored and wanted a change of scenery and you
have always had a fondness for cats."
to be sure that we have things straight,” Cariben said, “you are sure that I
won’t escape, why?”
looked at the demon and said with a smile, “The boys will shish-kabob you with
their swords and I’ll provide the flames to make sure you are extra crispy.”
course there is also the pleasure you get," Brendan continued, "in
aggravating the Dark One and continuing to keep Cataract on our side will really
The demon gave a hearty laugh, "Ah yes it is fun to
have the ability to put a wrench in that one's plans. Besides this gives me a
chance to see my favorite dragon."
dragon who can still outwit you every time," the man added.
Cariben admitted with a sigh. "She is old Khigh's granddaughter after
all.” The demon looked at the man with a smirk on his face,” It is worth the
inconvenience of roughing it to see you have to dress up."
glared at the demon.
have a point, bro," Brendan said. "You do manage to make yourself
scarce on formal occasions."
for a very good reason," the man said with a growl as he shoved his coronet
back in place, "these things drive me nuts."
much unruly hair," the dragon giggled.
The two men
were princes in their home world and it had been decided before the trip started
that their traveling attire should reflect their royal status. For Brendan this
wasn't too much of a change because he spent more time with their mother, the
Queen, at the elfin royal court then his brother did. The man was a bard and a
traveler and spent more time doing surveillance jobs for their father, so he was
more use to traveling clothes that hid his identity as royalty.
Cariben at one time had quite a following among creatures drawn towards evil.
After the rise of the Dark One he had retired with his ill gotten goods to a
life of luxury. The dragon and the two elf princes had no delusions that Cariben
was in this for the cause of the Source of Light. Cariben served one cause, and
one cause only, himself.
The pretty dragon was named Mei-Lin and she was the favorite grandchild of the famous Master Khigh. He was one of the oldest of the dragons and was the closest thing the dragons had to a leader. While she was considered very young in dragon years, Mei-Lin was also considered to be the dragon most like her revered grandsire. The man and his brother had traveled before with her. She could be hot tempered and was fiercely opinionated but in the crunch she was an experienced fighter both physically and verbally. She had the mental agility of her revered grandfather. Mei-Lin gave a sigh and turned towards her elf companions.
Brendan,” the dragon said, “sometimes I think it is a shame you were born an
elf instead of a dragon. You and I would have made a formidable match.”
“Oh come on
Lin,” the man said with a laugh, “you know you are considered beautiful by
all dragon standards. Ye can’t tell me ye don’t have male dragons lusting
easy being me you know, Red,” Mei-Lin said with a sigh. “The intellectuals
just want me for my mind. The rogues want me for my body. The ambitious want me
because I’m Master Khigh’s granddaughter. I need someone who just wants all
of me just because I’m me.”
understand Mei-Lin,” Brendan said with a gentle smile, “but you know the
Council would never have let me permanently morph into a dragon.”
Council for that,” Cariben said with a chuckle, “I shudder to think what an
off- spring of you two would be like.”
when did you start dating rogues?” the man asked with a frown.
was Grandfather’s idea,” Mei-Lin said. “He figured that I could get some
valuable information from the rogues that his stuffy old dragons couldn’t
Cariben asked with a wicked grin.
“If you had
ever spent an evening listening to some of the old one’s philosophize you
would understand,” Mei-Lin replied. “If it could be bottled I could corner
the market on jewels selling it as an insomnia cure.”
came the four made their way down towards the plain. The dragon checked her
speed and flew directly above the three mounted males. The demon rode between
the two elf princes since he figured in case of trouble they would be able to
protect him. He had been among the prides many centuries ago when Malik’s
great-great-great grandfather had been one of the leaders. He had tried to
persuade the prides to come over to his side in his struggle against the growing
power of the being now referred to as the Dark One. He had been unsuccessful
mainly due to the influence of his traveling companions’ grandfather. He had a
great deal of respect for the elfin King Brendan but he had not forgotten his
frustration when every move he had made had been countered by the King. He had
agreed to come with the King’s two grandsons mainly because they intrigued
him. The older brother was a bard and he enjoyed listening to his tales. It was
the King’s namesake who fascinated him however because he couldn’t figure
him out. He knew Brendan was a fierce warrior and brilliant military strategist
but he could sense there was much more to him then that. The demon enjoyed
trying to figure out enigmas. The dragon was an added bonus because she amused
him. From their first meeting he had liked the saucy dragon. He had been
defeated by the girl’s grandfather Master Khigh but he didn’t hold that
against her. In fact he kind of regretted that he wasn’t a dragon because she
was a prize worth capturing.
## It looks
like they have a greeting party, ## Mei-Lin said telepathically to the two
Mei-Lin, ## the man sent back. ## Have they seen you? ##
made sure of that, ## the dragon chuckled.
## Great, why
don’t you come on down and we will all come in on the ground together, ## the
circled around and came in to land a short distance in front of the horses
making sure she was far enough away to keep from startling them. She walked in
front of the mounted men as they made their way towards the cats’ greeting
party. When the expedition had been planned the White Mage had decided that his
two sons would impress the pride leaders. Both men were warriors and the prides
respected strength. In addition both had experience in negotiating with various
species. The cats were in awe of the huge dragons and Mei-Lin was added to the
group since she was a striking asset to her species. The only controversy had
been sending the demon Cariben along. That had been heatedly debated and finally
it was King Brendan who had convinced the Council that it would be an advantage
to have the demon there. Cariben was capable of show off magic that could
impress the cats and this would hopefully allow the elfin warriors to avoid
doing real magic of their own. They wanted to keep that advantage in reserve in
case of danger. King Brendan had also argued that Cariben would be remembered
from the time of the rise of the Dark One and it would look impressive if the
demon was shown to have been convinced to work for the side of the Source of
party came at last to the representatives of the prides. The three males
dismounted and the dragon gracefully reclined on the ground with her jeweled
eyes sparkling in the sun.
greetings to the prides from the Council,” the man said to the waiting cats.
Cataract your highness,” Malik said with a bow. “We are honored by your
presence. It has been many years since your kind have visited and we look
forward to the renewed relations between our people.”
over at the demon and for a moment a puzzled expression crossed his face. “If
I am not mistaken you are the being known as Cariben,” he said to the demon.
am,” Cariben said preening. “It has been a very long time since I have been
working for us now, Malik,” Brendan said, “and you have our promise of his
Malik made a
short bow towards Brendan, “As you wish your highness. If you say we have your
promise of his good behavior then that is all the reassurance we need.”
called Mei-Lin, daughter of Liang, granddaughter of Master Khigh,” the dragon
said in a throaty purr.
“An impressive lineage my
lady,” Malik said, “you are most welcome.”
Malik introduced the other four
pride leaders and invited them to dine with them. The cats led their visitors
towards a clearing where a feast had been set up. Malik fell into step with
Cariben. Norid, Reign and Titus walked with the dragon who was doing a little
judicious flirting. The man and his brother couldn’t help but notice that
Lewister kept himself at a slight distance from the other four pride leaders.
“He is going to be trouble, big
brother,” Brendan said to the man in a whisper.
“Dad says he is the most likely
to defect,” the man whispered back.
The welcoming dinner took several
hours and the visitors listened to the problems that the prides were facing.
There had been battles along the northern borders of the pride lands. What was
even more disturbing was the wanton destruction of some of the feed herds that
the prides ate. Malik and some of the others believed that this was a deliberate
attempt to try and starve the prides and force them into an alliance they
didn’t want. Brendan promised the pride leaders that they would look into the
situation and see if there was a way that the Council could help.
Late that night the man and Brendan
sat close to the fire and talked. Cariben was engaged in a game of chess with
Mei-Lin and both sides were cheating like crazy.
“I have to hand it to
Grandfather, he knew what he was doing in insisting that we take Cariben with
us,” the man said. “His displays of magic certainly have left the pride
leaders a little on the leery side. It helps alliances if they are a little
afraid of your powers.”
“I’m glad that we have Mei-Lin
to distract Cariben,” Brendan replied. “It will make your and my job easier.
The art of misdirection I believe.”
“I don’t fully understand what
mother was saying about the stone circle though,” the man said. “I’m not
sure who was supposed to have built it. I’m familiar with the ones back on the
planet Earth but I didn’t think we had any migrations to this part of the
“Master Khigh has theorized,”
Brendan answered, “that there was a group of wanderers that never made it back
to answer the Tuathan Council’s call. He thinks they separated from one of the
main groups in order to explore a phenomenon that was causing a disturbance and
for some reason never made it back. Either they were wiped out or they were
prevented from returning to the Mystic Lands.”
“What would they want with this
backwater though?” the man asked.
“I don’t know,” Brendan
answered. “As usual Master Khigh brings up questions and then refuses to
“The story of our lives with the
Ancients. Any theories little brother?” the man asked with a grin.
“No theories just a gut feeling
that we will find an answer and it won’t be pretty,” Brendan replied.
“Why do you fawn over them?”
Lewister demanded of Malik. “Their kind have no concern for us.”
“Sit down, Lewister,” Reign
demanded with a growl. “They are elfin royalty and related to both the High
Queen of the Elves and the White Mage. Between those two we can get the support
and help we need to stop the border raids and the killing of our food.”
“Since when did we need to count
on others to do our job?” Lewsiter hissed. “Are we no longer prides but just
servants for the beautiful ones? What happened to our strength? This alliance
has never done anything for us.”
“This alliance,” said Malik
firmly, “has kept us alive for many generations. They have kept the man folk
under control for us. You delude yourself if you think that we can go at it
alone. The evil grows and only they know how to defeat this evil.”
“I am puzzled why they brought
the demon, father,” Norid asked.
“According to the elder
prince,” Malik replied, “they are using the demon to sniff out some strange
evil. Because he has been here before he can tell them if something doesn’t
“What doesn’t smell right is
them you old fool,” Lewsiter growled. “I for one have no intention of
allowing their kind to rule my pride.”
“They have no intention of ruling
your pathetic little pride,” Titus snarled. “If you had bothered to listen
to them tonight they are here to offer us assistance in securing our borders and
in getting us the food we need to keep our people alive while we find and
destroy the predators who are destroying our food herds.”
“I suppose you think they are
doing this out of the goodness of their hearts,” Lewister sneered.
“No they are doing this so that
they have one less place they need to fight the evil from,” Malik said.
“They are not offering us charity. They need us strong enough to hold our
borders secure and stop the encroaching spread of the Dark One.”
“There are others who offer us an
alliance,” Lewister said, “why do you ignore those around us who can be of
much more use to us?”
“We have always followed the
White Mage and we always will,” Malik roared. “There will be no discussion
of following anyone else.”
Lewsiter sat back with a sour
expression on his face. He knew that no one else in the Council would support
It was very late when the man and
Brendan silently made their way towards the standing stones. Cariben was safely
asleep and Mei-Lin was on guard at their camp. They had waited until the prides
had settled down for the night. They had politely declined the use of one of the
pride caves and had made their camp far enough away to give them privacy. It was
easy for them to slip past the cat guards who watched the perimeters. Their
mother had given them the jewels of invisibility that cloaked them from all
sight, sound and smell.
The standing stones were
impressive. All of them were still standing upright in a circle that could be
used to track the movement of the seasons using the stars as guides. Upon closer
inspection the man and Brendan admired the workmanship. The stones were expertly
made and were in perfect alignment for the star patterns in this part of the
universe. The planet’s one moon would also come into conjunction with the
stones placements as the solar year progressed.
“These stones may not be
indigenous to this area,” the man said. “As far as I have seen this kind of
rock doesn’t exist above ground and I haven’t seen any evidence of a quarry
where these could have been dug up from.”
“Magic had to be used to cut
these,” Brendan added. “There is no way they could have been chiseled this
straight. These stones are so heavy that special equipment would have to have
been used to place them and this planet has never had that kind of
“We know the ancients were able
to do this type of work,” the man said, “the question is why would they want
to do that here? I can see why they wanted the circles on Earth but why here?
I’ve never heard of the Source having a conduit this far out. The three
ancients certainly never had a presence here.”
“I’m not getting any sense that
there is any sort of a conduit to the Source of Light here,” Brendan answered.
“The dark One is making a presence here now so there may have been a time in
history when he wanted something here. Maybe they needed a way to escape from
“They could have just called on
the Council,” the man said with a shake of his head. “This is almost an
“It is a mystery, big brother,”
Brendan said with an answering shake of his head.
As the two men talked they walked
around the area that the stones enclosed. They could both feel the old magic
that still permeated the ground. They extended their senses trying to see if
there was a message that had been left by the ancients for someone to discover.
“Anything, bro?” the man asked.
“I’m getting faint sensations
of hurry, fear, desperation,” Brendan said, “but no real answers. Whatever
it was that caused them to build this isn’t making itself known.”
“If you want to probe deeper
I’ll guard your back,” the man told his brother.
“Okay,” Brendan replied.
The man took out his sword and
stood facing towards the stones. Brendan sat on the ground and took out his life
crystal. He held the pulsating crystal at eye level and slowed his breathing
while concentrating on the flashing light. Slowly he let his consciousness drift
towards the ground upon which he sat. He could see the stones as they stood now
and as he concentrated he watched the seasons go back in time until he came to
the point in time when the stones were new. He forced his will upon the scene
and slowed down the vision. He watched as the stones suddenly disappeared. One
moment they were there and the next moment they were gone. He replayed the
moment over and over again to see if he could figure out what had happened.
Finally he let go the vision and slowly shook the stiffness out of his body and
rose to join his brother.
“This whole thing is weird,”
Brendan said. “They made the stones from the molten lava in the depths of this
planet and pulled them to the surface where they cooled rapidly and then they
opened a gate and all went through it sealing the gate as they went.”
“Did you see any danger? What was
the reason for their actions?” the man asked.
“I couldn’t see outside of the
stones,” Brendan answered. “For some reason they have blocked the outside
world from the visions.”
“Can you overcome the block?”
the man asked.
“I can’t,” Brendan replied,
“I’m not sure if anyone can. All of them poured their magic into this
project. I can sense the fear but not what they were afraid of.”
“We better report this to the
parents,” the man said with a sigh.
While the elfin princes were busy
with the stone circle, a stealthy figure slipped out of the Danulus pride cave.
Lewister had been very careful to make sure that their guard had not seen him.
He knew this particular guard claimed to be his man but he didn’t trust him
completely. In fact he trusted no one since Titus had come close to taking the
leadership away from him. He continued his stealthy movement until he came to
the hunting grounds and knew he was away from any prying eyes. Dropping to all
fours he took off at a run towards the woodlands where he was to meet the agent.
Mei-Lin, blessed with the keen
eyesight of dragon kind, saw the cat leave his lair. She woke the demon and told
him to wait for the elves and let them know what was going on and warning the
demon to stay put she silently took to the air and followed her prey. Lewister
had run for quite a distance stopping only when he was in the safety of the
trees. Slowly he got onto his back legs and made his way towards the center of
“You’re late,” the agent said
“The visitors over stayed their
welcome,” Lewister snarled. “The old fool Malik then called a meeting that
lasted too long. I got here as soon as I could.”
“Are you sure you weren’t
followed?” the agent asked.
“Of course I wasn’t
followed,” Lewister growled. “I am the top hunter of all the prides so
I’ll tolerate no more of your insults.”
“Keep your fur on,” the agent
said, “it is my job to make sure.”
“So what do you want now?”
Lewister asked with bad grace.
“My Master grows impatient and
wants to know when you are going to be able to give him what he asks for,” the
“I’ll deliver the prides as
requested,” Lewister sneered. “They are so blind that they fail to see the
obvious. The hunger is growing and if the other leaders don’t start delivering
on the food rebellion will soon take place.”
“The Master doesn’t like the
presence of the two elves,” the agent replied.
“How could he possible know about
them?” Lewister asked. “They just arrived and we didn’t even know of their
arrival until yesterday. You said he lived far from here. There is no way you
could have gotten information to him that fast.”
“My Master knows all,” the
agent said with a cold smile. “You have no concept how powerful he is. He has
heard of these visitors and you are instructed to kill them.”
Lewsiter stepped back and looked at
the agent with startled eyes. “You must be kidding,” he hissed. “How am I
supposed to kill magic users? I’d never get close to them. Besides they have a
demon and dragon to protect them.”
“Dragons have a vulnerable spot
on their breasts,” the agent answered. “This is a young inexperienced dragon
so you can take him out too.”
“Her,” Lewister said, “the
dragon is female.”
“Even better,” the agent
laughed. “She should be quite helpless then. The elves are in the world of
time now and can be killed like any mortal. You have bragged what a good hunter
you are so prove it. Kill the elves.”
“How about the demon?” Lewister
“My Master will deal with the
demon,” the agent replied. “Rid him of those others and he will come over to
our side. Don’t fail me and don’t even think about betraying me. My Master
can be generous to those whom he favors but betrayal is dealt with by hideous
“He then snuck back into the
cave,” Mei-Lin said to the two elves. “Cariben was persuaded to sniff around
and he came up with a human scent.”
“From the sulfur stink,”
Cariben said lazily, “I would say that you have one of the heads down here.”
He held up his hand to stop questions, “Don’t bother asking me what he wants
here because I couldn’t tell you. Even I, at my height of power, wouldn’t
have bothered with this place. The only fact I can give you is that it is one of
his absorbed ones.”
“This is not good,” Brendan
said. The Dark One was a large serpent in form and he surrounded his head with
twelve stalks upon which appeared the heads of beings that he had absorbed into
himself. The bodies of those beings became his generals and chief agents. They
had direct access to their dreaded master which made them doubly dangerous. The
deluded beings who accepted the absorption thought only of the power but the
price of failure was eternal damnation and torture in the Well of
“We will deal with Lewister
later. We have another problem. How about the stone circle?” the man asked.
“Are you sure you can’t enter into it?”
The demon paled at the question. “I tried but I can’t deal with that amount of white magic,” Cariben said shakily. “You can’t imagine what it does to one such as I. I would be destroyed before I could even get to the middle.”
“He is right,” Brendan said,
“there is raw magic there and his kind can not be around that magic without
severe damage or even death.”
The man sighed. “I don’t trust
ye one bit Cariben but I don’t want ye dead either. You do have your uses.”
Mei-Lin looked over at the demon
and asked, “Could any of your kind enter the circle?”
“No demon could,” Cariben
“I not asking about demons,”
Mei-Lin replied, “could anyone who has gone towards evil enter the circle?”
“Hold that thought,” the man
said. A moment later there was a soft “pop” and Queen Niri was standing
“Mother,” Brendan said with a
smile, “I take it my big brother has filled you in as to what has been going
“Yes,” the Queen said with a
smile, “and the answer to your question Mei-Lin is a qualified yes. Demons and
certain other creatures of darkness can not go into the circle but men can enter
even if they have gone over to the darkness.”
“That circle is very strange. Was
Cassie able to come up with anything Mother?” the man asked.
“It took a while but finally with
your grandfather’s help,” the Queen answered, “she saw a slip stream that
led to a stray conduit.”
“Not a conduit itself?” Mei-Lin
“No, she saw a time warp,” said
“Very good, my demon,” Queen
Niri replied. “What else have you figured out?”
“Nothing other then the fact that
I haven’t a prayer of using the knowledge to enrich myself, my lovely
Queen,” Cariben said as he bowed. Cariben was a demon but he was a practical
demon and knew that there was no way he would ever take on this ethereal beauty.
The High Queen of the Elves was one of the most powerful creatures who ever
lived. She was as dangerous as she was beautiful.
“Can we play the compliment game
later,” Brendan said with a sigh. “Mother I sensed fear and desperation in
those grounds. What were they afraid of?”
“They were afraid that the Dark
One could get to a conduit from the Source of Light and try to corrupt it,”
Queen Niri said. “He couldn’t twist it to his own use but he could prevent
us from using certain aspects of it for a while and any interruption would give
him an edge.”
“The grounds are sealed so what
would his agents be doing here?” Brendan asked.
“I think I know,” Cariben said.
He smirked as all eyes turned towards him. “Now I know none of you trust me
which shows great wisdom on your part. I don’t even trust me. Oh I hate
betraying evil like this but a bet is a bet.”
Mei-Lin started to laugh. “I bet
him that I could out cheat him at chess. If he won I’d give him a jewel he has
his eye on. If I won he was to give some knowledge to fight evil that only he
“Oh all right my pretty one, you
won with a cheating maneuver that was worthy of me,” Cariben said with a grin.
“When your Tuathan Council issued the ‘come home order’ we creatures of
evil knew that your people were split into several groups because you had
wandered all over the multiverse. As you know one group took the Southern route
through the Veil of Tears. Part of that group splintered to check on something
that the White Mage needed checked on, and for this golden child you need to ask
your Daddy,” Cariben said with a bow towards Queen Niri. “They came out this
far,” he continued, “and since they were a small group, that thing sent
agents after them. Not being large in numbers he felt he could safely take them
on. Remember at this time he didn’t have the stronghold he has now and a lot
of us were fighting him for dominance. He was looking for anything that would
give him an edge. He wanted to know what had caught the eye of the White Mage
and see if he could use it to his advantage. As you well know at that time
period his main thrust was to try and destroy the King of the Elves any way he
could. This is all I know.”
“Why was he targeting the
elves?” the man asked. “The unicorns and dragons were fighting him also. The
White Mage before Grandfather was a dragon.”
“At this point in time,” said
Queen Niri, “that knowledge would be too dangerous for you to know. When the
time comes you will be told all.”
“And in the meantime we continue
to fight and risk our lives while you ancients keep things from us like we were
little children,” Brendan snapped as he glared at his mother.
“Don’t be angry, Brendan,”
the Queen said softly. “There will come a time when you will know all but now
isn’t the time.”
“Who knows all besides you,
Mother?” the man asked.
“Your father, your grandfather,
Queen Maeve, Master Khigh, and Stefan,” Queen Niri answered. “It would mean
death for anyone else to know at this time. Be patient my sons. You will be told
all some day, just not now.”
“Do you know demon?” Mei-Lin
“I once knew,” Cariben
answered, “but that knowledge was taken from me.”
Queen Niri walked up to her son
Brendan and placed her hand on his cheek. “Brendan please trust me on this,”
she said. “I’m doing what any mother would do. I’m trying to protect my
own. I am also acting as your Queen. I will tell you all in time. I promise.”
Brendan lifted his hand to his
mother’s and took her hand and kissed it. “I trust you my Queen,” he said
The Queen left before morning.
After leaving fulsome compliments with the cats Cariben and Mei-Lin had
departed. The demon had told them everything he could about the lands around
them and the predators who were plaguing the cats. He was returning to his
headquarters with some very fine new jewels courtesy of his favorite dragon. It
had been decided that the two warriors should stay for a couple of more days to
see if they could discover what Lewister was up to and for the time being
nothing would be said to the other pride leaders regarding their suspicions. At
the invitation of the pride leaders the man and Brendan visited the main caves
and spoke to their citizens. The man and Brendan had been impressed with the
efficient way the prides were run. Discipline was tight because of the dangers
but the cats seemed content and with the knowledge of how to fight the predators
that were decimating their feed herds there was a renewed hope for the future.
“Malik seems to have tight
control over the council,” the man said to his brother as the walked towards
the last of the prides to be visited.
“He is a good ally,” Brendan
replied. “I get the feeling that he hopes Norid will succeed him as head of
the council but I think the one to watch is Titus.”
“Titus is a very interesting
being,” the man said. “I discovered that he didn’t challenge Lewister for
the regular alpha male reasons. Something about the way he was running the pride
stuck in his craw.”
“Well we will soon find out what
the problem was since we are heading to Danulus now,” Brendan said.
Lewister and his second, Hart,
greeted the two elves at the entrance to the main Danulus cave. The two brothers
passed a look between them registering what they thought of the arrogance of the
The two men walked through the main
cave giving greetings to those whom Lewister deigned important enough to be
introduced. They couldn’t help but notice the aura of fear that permeated the
## Something is definitely not
right here, ## the man projected telepathically to his brother.
## They are afraid of the stones so
in case of problems we teleport there, ## Brendan thought back.
“I would like to meet your
Healers,” the man told Lewister.
“What do you want to meet them
for?” Lewister said haughtily.
“Our mother is a Healer,”
Brendan said, “and she asked us to check and see if any medicinal herbs are
needed here that we can supply.”
“Perhaps they should see
Leone,” Hart said. “If their mother is a Healer then maybe they have some
Lewister glared at his second and
for a moment it looked like he was going to strike him. Finally he shrugged and
ordered the two men to follow him. They went into an inner cave that held a foul
odor. An elderly female was sitting next to a young male cat who was lying on a
bed of reeds. The men could see that the youngster was covered with sweat-laden
matted fur. He was obviously very ill.
“My son was attacked and
foolishly suffered a gash on his leg,” Lewsiter said glaring down at the
youngster. “These women have not been able to fix it.”
The woman started to say something
but quickly stopped when Lewister rounded on her with fist raised. Brendan
grabbed the cat’s wrist and staring him in the eye said firmly, “You touch
her and you will answer to me. Healers are never to be harmed. That is the law
of all lands, including this one.”
The man knelt down next to the
Healer and was talking softly to her. Looking at the youngster’s leg he could
tell that infection had set in. The wound oozed a sickly green pus and the child
was running a dangerously high fever.
“Brendan,” the man said,
“this is beyond our skills. I’m going to bring Kira through. We need a
Master Healer if we are going to save him.”
Lewister had stepped back once
Brendan had let go of his arm. The two elves ignored the scowl on his
“Go ahead,” Brendan said,
“I’ll keep guard.” Brendan pulled out his sword and stood facing the
opening of the cave. The look in his eyes made Lewister keep his hands by his
The man stood up and moved away
from the youngster to give himself some room. He took out his life crystal and
concentrated on it for several minutes. A flash of light lit up the cave and
standing there beside the man was a petite red headed woman dressed in
Healer’s blue. Her name was Kira and she was sister to Brendan and twin sister
to the man.
Kira knelt down next to the
youngster and with her life crystal’s light she probed the wound. She turned
to the old woman and said, “I need plenty of water, a fire, and clean cloths.
Isn’t there someplace cleaner then this cave where we can move the child?”
“I can have a place prepared for
you my lady,” the old woman said softly.
“Do so,” Kira replied as she
handed the woman a small bag. “Put this in clean water and use it to scrub
everything. Once that is done wash all the cloths I will need and boil them in
clean water. Make sure all of the containers that you use are also cleaned. In
the meantime I need the coldest clean water you can get me and some clean
A young female cat brought in a
cauldron of cold water and some cloths. She placed them next to the Healer.
“What is your name child?” Kira
“Leisha,” the girl replied.
“Okay Leisha,” Kira said, “we
need to get his fever down. I want you to soak cloths in the cold water and help
me wipe him down.”
The two women worked for almost an
hour. They replaced cloths as soon as they heated up from the boy’s fever. The
old woman finally came back and told Kira that the room she had asked for was
ready. The man picked the boy up and carried him into the clean room.
Kira gave instructions to Leisha
and the old woman to put hot compresses on the boy’s leg to draw the infection
up to the surface. The Healers worked for several hours. The man and his brother
kept watch outside of the cave to make sure that no one disturbed their sister
while she worked.
Towards sundown an exhausted Kira
came and stood by her twin. They watched the sunset for a while in silence.
“Will the boy be okay, Sis?”
the man asked.
“He should be,” Kira replied.
“It is amazing that he isn’t dead. Their stock of medicine is almost
depleted and they haven’t been allowed to either hunt for the herbs or ask the
other prides for some. To make matters worse, according to the old woman, Leisha
has the Healer’s gift but the Leader refused to let her be sent to us for
proper training. The old woman is the only other Healer in the pride. The others
left and went with Titus when Hough was formed.”
“This must be taken up with our
Council,” the man said. “It is against the agreement we have with these
people to refuse Healer training to the gifted.”
“I know one unicorn who will be
over here in a hurry when she finds out what is going on,” Kira said. Rhiannon
was the head of the Healer’s Guild and nobody argued with her. The White Mage
and her husband General Brand obeyed her when it came to healing. She could
overrule anyone when it came to the matter of health and she had quite a temper
“Sis,” said the man, “I want
you out of here. Is it safe to leave your patient?”
“He is out of danger,” Kira
said slowly, “but I’m not sure I want to leave him just yet in case there
“I don’t like you being here,
Kira,” Brendan said as he walked up to his siblings.
“She isn’t going anywhere,” a
voice snarled. Suddenly the three elves found themselves surrounded by armed
cats. Lewsiter was standing with a weapon pointed at Brendan’s chest. Another
had grabbed Kira’s arm. The next moment he was grasping air as she teleported
away from him.
“Oh really?” Brendan said with
a smile as he teleported behind Lewister. The cat found that a blade was held to
his throat. “My sister is going home now to report your behavior.”
“You do not tell Healer’s where they can or can not go,”
Kira said, eyes flashing with temper. “You have violated the accord and the
rights of the Healer’s Guild are sacrosanct. I’ll get reinforcements,”
Kira said as she teleported away.
“Stone circle, bro?” the man
said. Brendan nodded and the two teleported away.
“They are scared of this
place,” the man said. “Their legends of living stone growing out of the
ground and swallowing people are used as bogeymen to keep the children in
“It may be enough to keep them
away tonight and us safe,” Brendan said. “I wish the other leaders had been
quicker and hadn’t let Lewister and his cronies get away. Come morning they
plan to send warriors out to capture him but I fear it will be too late. I must
admit it was a surprise though to find out that his second, Hart, was really a
spy for Titus.”
“Titus accepted the new pride,”
the man said, “but he really wanted to oust Lewister from Danulus. He knew
Lewister was a bad ruler and used power for its own sake and he didn’t have
the good of the pride at heart. He had persecuted the Healers as being useless
so they all left with Titus, except for the old lady and Leisha. It turns out
she is Hart’s mother and Leisha is his daughter. If it weren’t for those two
there would be no Healers in Danulus. Lewister’s son was ashamed of his
father’s behavior and he tried to do what his father would not. Leone was
injured trying to get food for his people. Leisha and her grandmother didn’t
have the herbs necessary to try and stop the infection in the boy’s leg and
Lewister refused to let them ask the other prides. His ego was so great that he
would let his son die before he would ask for help from anyone else.”
“I can’t imagine a father
letting his son almost die rather then asking for help,” Brendan said. Brendan
has a son and daughter who never left the Mystic Forest.
The Pride Council had met during
the night and Hart was named head of the Danulus pride. Lewister had been named
outlaw along with the two dozen cats who had followed him. Kira had reported to
her father and the White Mage had ordered his troops to come in and help search
for the renegades. The head of his army, General Brand, had sent his two sons
Pwyl and Lyr to take charge of the troops. Caledonia was home to several species
so the cats would find themselves fighting along side of unicorns, dragons,
dwarves and men in addition to the contingent of elfin archers. Brendan and the
man had been ordered to keep the stone circle secured.
It was Mei-Lin who first noticed
the army coming towards the pride lands. She had returned during the night after
seeing Cariben safely back to his headquarters.
“They appear to be coming towards
the stone circle,” the dragon said. “They must have been massing in the East
for quite a while. There are at least a thousand of them. I don’t think this
was a sudden decision on someone’s part.”
A popping sound occurred as the
White Mage, Queen Niri, and Kira teleported into the circle where Mei-Lin,
Brendan and the man were.
“What are you doing here?” the
man demanded. “There is an army coming this way.”
“I am well aware of that young
man,” the White Mage said.
“We have a larger problem then
the army,” Queen Niri said. “I know the reason for this stone circle. Father
figured it out last night.”
“Why is it so important?”
Brendan asked. “I can’t believe that the Tuathan Council would allow both of
you to be here before a battle.”
“This is more important. Now
listen carefully we have work to do. Back when the Council first issued the
return call,” Queen Niri said, “there were many more conduits to the Source
of Light. The conduits were eventually removed to Caledonia for the most part
for safety reasons but some were inaccessible and could not be relocated. When
slip streams became tangled with the conduits, as they do here, then those
conduits had to be sealed off. The Dark One had come to the knowledge that one
of those tangled places was here and he sent his army after our people. That
group Cariben mentioned the other evening tore these stones from the bowels of
this planet to form a fairy circle. They expended all of their magical energy in
impregnating this circle with a spell to bar access to the slip stream that led
to one of the tangled conduits.”
“So they are safe in the land of
fairy now?” Kira asked.
“If any of them survived their
efforts here, then yes,” the White Mage answered.
“So what’s the problem?”
“The magic is starting to
fray,” the Queen replied.
“What do we need to do?” the
“The four of us must do a
permanent binding on this stone circle so that it can never be opened again,”
Queen Niri answered.
“If any of them lived then they
will never be able to come out or return home,” Kira said in dismay.
“Unfortunately that is true,”
the White Mage said. “I think they knew that at the time. They expended all of
their energies in sealing this place as tight as they could. They knew they
didn’t have the power to do a permanent binding so they enforced this one with
a pull spell that meant that as long as they remained in the land of fairy no
one could enter. It was a brave thing for them to do because it is a spell that
would mean they could never leave. We don’t have the time to open this up and
try and reach them. We must make a permanent binding before that army gets
“I take it you mean to do the
binding wards,” Brendan said. “How do we get out of here or do we?”
“Father will get us out,” the
“I just hope the army can buy us
the time we need,” the White Mage said.
The man, Brendan, Kira and the
White Mage took the four corners of the compass and the Queen took the center.
The binding wards were among the most difficult wards to set. The spells could
not be rushed for they needed to go deep into the planet and if they were not
done correctly they could tear the planet apart rather then binding it together.
the East and said, “I thank you for the fire that warms the worlds” and the
ward flared with a red light. The White Mage faced the South and said, “I
thank you for the earth that nourishes the worlds” and the ward flared with a
green light. The man faced the West and said, “I thank you for the metals that
strengthen the worlds” and the ward flared with a yellow light. Brendan faced
the North and said, “I thank you for the waters that give life to the
worlds” and the ward flared with a blue light. Queen Niri pulled the energies
of the wards towards her and poured them into a living flame. The ball of fire
grew over her head and slowly started to expand. When it reached its full size
it would cover the entire circle from the top of the standing stones to the
ground. The beings inside the circle would not be harmed by the flames. It was
high magic at its most powerful and this was a spell that had to be done in its
proper time. There were no short cuts to be had.
Outside the stone circle the enemy
troops attacked. The traitors had led the enemy troops from the East through the
secret passes that put them in the heart of the pride lands. Pwyl and Lyr led
the White Mages army and Malik led the cats. The prides united together to fight
as one. They knew their very existence was at stake. If they lost this battle
they would no longer have a free country of their own. They would be enslaved or
The twin unicorns teleported in and
out of the battles sending other unicorns to fight close up with hooves and
horns. The dragons flamed and swooped down sending panic through the ranks of
the enemy. Elves kept up a barrage of arrows and when it became too dangerous
for their own troops they fought with swords. The battle was fierce and bloody.
The enemy launched their orcs at
the forces of good. The orcs had thick skin and fought tenaciously. Their low
intelligence ensured that they would never realize that for their Master they
were no more then cannon fodder. The elves fought a furious battle slashing with
knives and swords to keep the orcs away from the standing stones. The unicorns
used their horns to poke and prod the dim witted orcs towards the warrior cats
whose razor sharp claws slashed at the orcs tough hide. The dwarfs were masters
of mining and their hammers smashed at the rock like trolls.
It was a conceit on the Dark
One’s part that he didn’t believe that the cats were much of a threat. He
believed that they were dumb animals and as a result he sent only orcs and
trolls to do battle with them. He didn’t bother sending the more intelligent
of his men to fight. The White Mage’s army was smaller then the forces sent
after them but their superior intelligence ensured that they would prevail in
The circle of elves surrounding the
outside of the standing stones were the elite of the Queen’s army. With their
beloved Queen Niri inside they would fight to the last elf to save her. The
ferocity of their attacks frightened even the dim witted orcs and the orcs kept
trying to retreat. As far as Pwyl and Lyr could tell there was only one human in
the Dark One’s army and he was having a rough time controlling his troops.
Inside the circle the four corners
sent the energy of fire, water, earth and metal to the Queen who held down the
center. Queen Niri pulled the elements to her and formed a living flame that
expanded until it finally reached the stones. The circle of fire slowly sank
into the ground and as the five elves held onto the power of their wards the
living flame slowly descended towards the planet’s core. Above them Mei-Lin
ensured that the area over the standing stones remained clear of enemy weapons.
At the moment when the binding spell hit the planet’s core a brilliant flash
of light illuminated the circle of the stones and King Brendan pulled his
beloved daughter out along with her husband and two sons. He was, as far as it
was known, the only being that had the magical strength to have attempted the
The flash of light sent a signal to
the enemy that they had failed. The scream of the agent that Lewister had met
showed that the Dark One would not tolerate that failure. Without their leader
the Dark One’s army could no longer sustain the battle. The remaining orcs and
trolls turned and ran trying to get to safety. To their dismay there was no
place to run.
Late that evening the man and his
brother stood on a hill overlooking the standing stones. There was a red
flickering light that filled the space that made up the circle. No one would
ever be able to enter the stone circle again. As they turned to walk back to
where their horses were tethered a large shape suddenly leapt out of the
darkness and Brandon was knocked to the ground. Lewister racked his claws across
the elf’s face and throat. The man had his sword out in a flash and plunged it
into the rebel cat’s back. Throwing the corpse off of his brother he sent a
cry for help to his twin. Kira appeared instantly for the twin bond was one of
the strongest bonds known. Together they brought their stricken brother back
home and into the arms of the best Healer’s in the realm.
“So ye see,” said Sean,
“power can be used for either good or evil. In the hands of some beings power
is like a dangerous drug and it consumes them and eats away at their soul and
power is all that they live for. In others power is a means to do good. When the
heart is good, power will be used to rule wisely. When the core is rotten, power
will corrupt and eventually betray that being to his death.”
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