Sunday, September 18, 2011

Part 63 by Taylor

Landlion, Laurel, Cerelda, Kyrian, Tomas, Goricnal, Emerion, and Mintara met in a little group next to the treeline on the plain below. After much hugging and much crying, they listened to each other's stories about the battle. Everyone, including Mintara and Laurel, were amazed with the story of Melkor's defeat.

Out of the trees stepped a delicate doe with large, liquid eyes. She daintily approached Mintara and Emerion. A shaggy grizzly bear appeared through the trees next, lumbering toward them. Various other creatures also came. A panther, moose, horse, wild boar, and several others were present. All gathered in a semi-circle in front of Emerion and Mintara. A large eagle descended from the sky into the center of the circle. As soon as he touched the ground, the animals were transformed into their true forms. The delicate doe turned into Escathyst. The grizzly bear was changed into the gruff Jothlar. And the eagle was transfigured into Simar, Head Wizard. All were solemn, except for Escathyst, who couldn't contain her joy, and smiled beautifully at her sister, Mintara.

Simar stepped forward. Mintara's white clothing was dull compared to the other wizards' shining garments. "Mintara, you have proved yourself worthy of your power. Your crimes against this council have been erased. So, we bestow upon you your necklace, and your seat on the council." Tears welled up in Kyrian's eyes as Mintara stepped forward and accepted her necklace with trembling hands. She buckled it around her neck and a white flash lit up the area, temporarily blinding everyone. When they would see again, Mintara radiated the same glow of power as the others. Escathyst hugged her tightly, smiling through tears of joy.

Simar turned to Emerion. "You, my good friend, have been faithful and true in all that you have done. Without you, this order would have perished. Therefore, you have my thanks." Emerion dipped his head in acknowledgement. All the wizard's held out their staffs and touched the tips. Simar joined his and a blast of energy knocked the mortals off their feet. The intense light caused them to turn their faces to the ground with their hands covering the gaps. Just as suddenly as the light had appeared, it vanished. When they looked up, they saw a tall, black-haired young man with indigo eyes standing there. Mintara's dark eyes filled with tears and she threw herself at him, unashamedly bawling. "Emerion, in reward for your great loyalty, I give you the title of Dar Kimal, second-in-command and Chief of Terulan," Simar said, a great smile spreading across his face as well as every one else watching.

Emerion disentangled himself from Mintara and shook the wizard's hand. Escathyst stepped forward with a tall, black staff with strange white, glowing designs on it. A smile formed across the handsome young wizard's face as he accepted his staff. A strange sound drew their gazes to Mintara's staff. Blazing black patterns identical to the white ones on Emerion's staff formed on Mintara's white one. "You are officially joined in the presence of this council," Simar proclaimed. Emerion and Mintara hugged tightly, then separated. Wizards weren't known for displaying emotion, with the exception of Escathyst.

Emerion and Mintara stepped into the circle, making it complete with Emerion by Simar's side. Simar muttered something, meant only for the ears of the wizards. Laurel turned to Landlion and hugged him tightly, almost knocking him down. Kyrian glanced at Tomas and saw that his eyes were wet as well. Goricnal tried to look impassive, but anyone could see the happiness in his eyes. Cerelda stood on her hind legs and flapped her wings in joy. The soldiers were talking excitedly among themselves, not sure what had just happened, but knowing that it was something important.

Finally, the wizards separated. Simar nodded at Emerion and Mintara and they turned from the others and walked towards Laurel, Kyrian, Landlion, Tomas, Cerelda and Goricnal, who were all standing in a line. The other wizards looked on.

Emerion looked from face to face of the people he had been with for so long. He saw amazement registered in some, disbelief in others, and complete joy in most. He smiled as he turned to Mintara's adoring gaze of delight on him. He squeezed her shoulders slightly, then they stood in front of the others. "Goricnal, for your steadfast service, I award you this medal," Emerion said, pointing the tip of his staff at Goricnal's chest. A medal appeared there, and the dwarf touched it in wonder. "You are a leader. Go back to your people, Goricnal. Lead them in the straight way." Goricnal accepted with an inclination of his head.

"Cerelda, you are a special dragon in more ways than one. You, I charge with taking care of Laurel. She will need your protection and your wisdom in the days ahead." He winked at her, and she gave him a small, toothy grin before also bending her head.

"Laurel, your destiny is great in Terulan. I would make you queen, but your restless spirit would not be contented. Besides, deep down, I think you have realized that you do not have the heart of a leader." Laurel nodded slightly, happy tears welling up in her eyes. "Therefore, I shall make you the Head Protector of Terulan. You will command the armies, and go on many adventures." He smiled at her excited expression as she almost forgot to duck her head in acceptance.

"Landlion. You have endured much. You cast in your lot with these people, giving unreservedly. You've been strong, even through great hardships." He gestured to Landlion's crippled leg. "I give you the great responsibility of watching out for Laurel," Emerion said, his eyes twinkling a bit. "You will help her take care of the threats to Amara, and also go on many adventures. Someone will have to lead when Laurel gets an urge to wander." Landlion bowed his head, but inwardly thought that Emerion could not possibly know how handicapped he was. He felt a nudge from Laurel and peeked to see her staring in shock at his deformed leg. He looked down and saw that his leg was completely healed! Not even a scar remained! He flexed it and tears sprang to his eyes when no pain accompanied the movement. He glanced up to see Emerion and Mintara smiling at him. Landlion was too choked up for words, so he just dipped his head.

"Tomas. You're faithfulness, passion, and courage were key elements on this quest. You will receive much, but only after I have spoken to Kyrian." He moved to the elf girl, who looked up at him with eyes tinged with sadness. "Why Kyrian, are you mournful?"
"As soon as the ceremony, I will have to leave," she said, her voice catching a little. Emerion and Mintara smiled. "Kyrian, the fact is, you are needed too much here," Mintara said. "So, Father has made a extremely rare exception."
"Kyrian, you are to stay," Emerion finished. Kyrian looked from one to the other. "Stay?' she echoed. She had spent so much time resigning herself to the fact that she would have to leave. She turned to Tomas and saw her shock mirrored on his scarred face. "So wait, Kyrian can stay?" he asked. "Yes, Tomas," Emerion reassured him. "You hear that Kyrian?!" He grabbed her arms and pulled her in for a kiss. Joy coursed through them, making both feel somewhat giddy.

Kyrian opened her eyes and drew back. "Tomas!" she shrieked. "You're healed!" Tomas raised his hands to his face and felt the smooth skin where the scars had formerly been. He ran his fingers through his hair, now full and thick again where before, patches had been singed and burned away. He rolled up his sleeves and saw that no angry red marks remained. He hugged Kyrian fiercely again, tears rolling down his cheeks. "Kyrian, will you marry me?"
Kyrian held his face in her hands. "Silly boy," she said, imitating Mintara. "Of course I'll marry you!"

"Kyrian, Tomas, I hereby appoint you as king and queen of Terulan," Emerion said. Kyrian and Tomas's mouths dropped open as they stared in disbelief at the wizard. "But, we-we didn't defeat Stepheneis or Melkor or anyone like that in the war," Tomas stammered. "Laurel and Landlion should be queen and king."
"Tomas. Can you really imagine Laurel and Landlion being happy in such a role?"
Tomas looked over and saw Laurel standing next to Cerelda and Landlion. "You're right, they would be miserable. But do you think Kyrian and I can handle it?"
Emerion laid his hand on Tomas's shoulder. "Tomas, I sincerely believe that you and Kyrian can handle anything you put your minds to. And I know that Laurel and Landlion will do a splendid job of keeping Terulan safe."

They all stood before the two wizards, beaming smiles. Simar coughed. "It's time for us to go," Emerion announced. "Go?" Kyrian sputtered. "You're leaving?"
"We'll always be around," Mintara winked. Kyrian was surprised when the tall wizard embraced her tightly. "Thanks for putting up with me," Mintara whispered in her ear before straightening back up. Emerion shook hands with everyone else while Mintara also hugged Laurel briefly. "Try not to get into trouble," she said. Laurel grinned; Mintara was still the same slightly-snappy wizard.

Mintara and Emerion went back to the circle. Simar transformed back into an eagle and winged into the sky. The rest of the council also transformed back to their earthly forms and scattered. Emerion and Mintara turned into tall wolves, Emerion black and Mintara white. The black wolf lifted his head and howled, the white wolf harmonizing. Then they darted away into the forest. Laurel, Kyrian, Landlion and Tomas all stared at each other before laughing and embracing.

                                                                                  ~One Year Later~


"Tomas!" Kyrian called. When she received no answer, she sighed in frustration. She left the room, walking a bit slowly because of her extended stomach. "Little fella, you need to come out," she muttered, rubbing her hand over the bulge. The baby inside of her kicked, and Kyrian smiled.

Just then, Tomas rounded a corner, looking dashing in his royal garb. "Kyrian!" he exclaimed in disapproval, rushing to her side. "You're supposed to be lying down for a nap."
"Tomas, I can't lie down all the time!" Kyrian protested, pushing him away. "Besides, Landlion and Laurel are going to be here any minute! That's why I was looking for you. Come on!" She grabbed his hand and they made their way down the corridor of the magnificent castle.

They slowly made their way to a large, lushly green courtyard with fountains and sculpted plant figures. Tomas held his pregnant wife's elbow and guided her to a marble bench. "Kyrian, why do you like to worry me so?" he asked with a shake of his blond head. Kyrian smiled sweetly at him, then pointed behind him. "Here they come!" She jumped up and waved as the two dragons circled and landed.

Laurel jumped down from Cerelda's back and ran to hug Kyrian. Landlion slid down from his own rich brown dragon, Sheth, and shook Tomas's hand. The girls chattered excitedly as they walked. The south end of the courtyard opened up into a wide field edged in forest. "Landlion, I trust you've been well?" Tomas inquired as they followed the women. Landlion grinned at him. "Better than that. Ever since Laurel and I were married, life has been perfect."
"I see that you've added a few touches," Tomas teased, motioning to Landlion's dark beard. Landlion laughed and pushed his hand away.
"No children on the way?" Tomas hinted.
"Now Tomas, can you imagine Laurel settling down enough to be a mother?" Landlion laughed. Tomas joined him at the thought of wild, headstrong Laurel changing diapers.
"I have a feeling that she will want a child someday," Tomas confided.
"How do you know that?" Landlion asked.
"Just a feeling."

The two women came back, Laurel still ooohhhhing over Kyrian's large stomach. Tomas hugged Laurel while Kyrian awkwardly embraced Landlion, her stomach holding them apart. "We were just talking about children," Tomas informed them, a twinkle in his eye as he looked at his beautiful, pregnant wife. "Speaking of which," Laurel said with a mischievous grin. "Landlion, I have something to tell you."

At the edge of the woods, standing tall in the waving grass, two wolves stood watching the lifelong friends laugh and embrace. The black one with indigo eyes raised his head and howled, the white one joining in. They touched noses, then turned and raced back into the forest.

The End

I hope you guys like it! Sorry it took so long! If you don't like the ending, then tell meeeeee! I loved writing this story with y'all!! Thanks so much for inviting me to participate! =')

Part 62 by Taylor.

"Kyrian, tell Laurel to drop back. I don't know what sorcery Melkor might have prepared for us, and I'd rather be safe than sorry," Mintara told her general. Kyrian gave the word to an aid, who scurried off to deliver the news to Laurel. Both Mintara and Kyrian knew that Laurel would be disgruntled at best, but they each had an uneasy feeling as they approached the plain. Kyrian glanced around at the faces of the soldiers around her. She saw the fear in her heart mirrored on their faces. Rhovanion snorted and side-stepped nervously. Kyrian patted the mare's neck soothingly. The action calmed her spirit as well.

An ashen-faced scout rode up and reined his horse to an abrupt stop next to Mintara. He frantically began to babble something to her. Mintara shushed him and listened carefully. Her face remained expressionless after he had finished, but Kyrian had seen the scout's fear. She shivered as a chill came over her. The scout looked so terrified.

Mintara dismissed him and nodded to Kyrian, who groped for her horn. She sent out a short blast, calling all of the generals. Laurel, Cerelda, Landlion, Goricnal, and Tomas rode up quickly. Mintara motioned for them to follow as she rode Emerion away from the troops. The generals gathered in a half circle around the wizard.

"Melkor has done something that I would not have thought possible. He has created morgals."
They all gave her blank looks. Mintara sighed. "I don't have time to describe them to you, but I'll tell you what you need to know. They are completely unpredictable and wild. They are not human, more like crazed animals. Their strength is not in battle prowess, but in sheer numbers. Be prepared for anything." She paused for a moment. "Also, this signifies that Melkor is much stronger than I feared. Therefore, I want you all to leave him to me. He will surely kill all of you if you come too close."
They all nodded, except for Laurel, who coughed and scuffed her boot in the dirt.

"Fine. Now, let's get back. We have an army to lead." She and Emerion took off. All of the others exchanged looks. "Okay, thanks for the pep talk," Goricnal muttered. Faint grins appeared on the faces of the others. "Come on, we should get back to our posts," Landlion said, turning Meldarion around and cantering off. Goricnal and Tomas followed. Kyrian remained, facing Laurel and Cerelda. "Laurel, I know you're not planning on following Mintara's orders," she began. Laurel grinned guiltily. "Kyrian, I'm beginning to think that you know me too well."
Kyrian smiled back. "Just, don't do anything stupid, all right?"
Laurel feigned a look of innocence. "Who, me?" She winked mischievously at Kyrian's stern appearance, then turned and jumped into Cerelda's saddle, taking off. Kyrian shook her head and made her way back to the army.

Landlion led the cavalry in front. Then came the foot soldiers, led by Kyrian and Tomas. The archers, commanded by Goricnal, brought up the rear. Laurel flew high above, surveying the whole scene. She would help where she was needed, which would be everywhere. Mintara rode at the very front, next to Landlion. They were as ready as possible.

They spilled over the ridge and onto the expansive plateau. They could see the massive army at the other end, but couldn't tell what they were. They looked like half-naked, screaming savages. The whole army eventually made it up onto the plain, where they reformed into neat ranks.

The two armies stood, facing each other. Laurel swooped down and landed next to Mintara. They could both see Stepheneis at the head of the army. Laurel gritted her teeth and glared daggers at him. He smirked, and raised a horn to his lips. Landlion raised his own. Both armies sounded their battle horns simultaneously. And both armies let loose with wild shouts of war. "Charge!" Landlion shouted, spurring Meldarion forward. The cavalry and foot soldiers followed. The archers marched slowly, hanging back as they fitted arrows to their bows.

Kyrian glanced over at Tomas to see if he was scared. His scarred face was expressionless as they rode forward. Her heart broke to see him like that. She resolutely turned forward, resolving to concentrate on the task at hand. After all, the army needed her.

A twinge of pain in his leg caused Landlion to wince. Mintara laid a hand sympathetically on his shoulder. Landlion's head whipped around, and he stared at her in shock. She quickly withdrew her hand and directed her gaze straight forward. A little grin lifted Landlion's lips, though he was careful not to let Mintara see.

Laurel and Cerelda flew high overhead. "Let's take a look, shall we?" Laurel murmured to the young dragon. Cerelda's answer was to swoop down and glide over the army, safely out of range of any arrows they may shoot. Laurel was shocked. "It's a good thing Mintara didn't tell us about this! I don't know if we would have had much of an army left if they had seen these creatures!"
What do you think you're doing?! Being stupid again? Ah, yes, I thought so. Get out of there! I don't-"
With a sigh, Laurel cut off Mintara's mind-speaking. "Or should I say, mind-ranting!" She giggled to herself as she turned Cerelda back.

The archers had all fitted arrows to their bows. Goricnal stood with his hand raised. "Fire!" he yelled, dropping his arm. A myriad of arrows rose into the air. There was a moment where everyone seemed to hold their breath. Then the arrows dove, and morgal screams rent the air as the arrows pierced their exposed flesh. Hundreds of the creatures dropped dead in their tracks. But thousands more still came on.

Landlion heard the men behind him gasp as they neared the advancing morgals. He inwardly recoiled at their hideous faces, but steeled himself. With a shout, he drew his sword and plunged into the mass.

Fighting the morgals was unlike anything any of them had ever done. The beasts swung their weapons wildly, without any real skill, but haphazardly enough to do some damage if you weren't being careful. Many times, they didn't use their weapons at all. Instead, they jumped up onto the man on top of the horse, digging their teeth in wherever they could find exposed flesh and tearing at them with their strong hands.

The foot soldiers followed, fear reigning in their eyes. Kyrian's lips were set in a grim line as she drew her sword. A morgal looked up from a fallen soldier it had just killed. Its huge, black eyes fixed on Kyrian. It snarled and jumped at her. Kyrian spun aside and brought her sword down across its back. It let out a a blood-curdling scream as it died. Another animal-like yowl came from behind her. Kyrian inwardly sighed; she knew it had just begun.

Mintara spun and slashed with her staff, cutting down the morgals like wheat. But they came in ever-increasing numbers. Emerion plunged and kicked, spearing the creatures with his shining silver horn, and crushing other's skulls with his hooves.

Laurel and Cerelda dove down, unleashing fire upon the morgals. The creatures had basically no defense against the torrent of flames. Laurel almost felt bad for doing it. They were helpless against her. Remember, they are not humans. They are evil creations of Melkor.
Laurel smiled as Cerelda spoke to her mind. She still found it uncanny that her dragon knew her thoughts. She strengthened her resolve and silently thanked Cerelda.

Suddenly, through the crowd, she spotted Stepheneis, standing unchallenged. None of the troops had reached him yet. Well, she would change that! Cerelda dove and unleashed a rain of fire on the wizard. He rolled out of the way and thrust his staff at the dragon. Cerelda felt as if she had been struck with an incredible force. With a screech, she fell from the sky. Laurel leapt off of the falling dragon at the last moment, landing in front of Stepheneis with her sword drawn. She knew that Cerelda had not been hurt.

"Ah, Laurel. We meet yet again. I've been looking forward to this reunion." He reached under his cape and drew out his sword. Without warning, Laurel attacked, viciously swinging her sword. Stepheneis backed up, skillfully blocking her attacks.

Cerelda lumbered to her feet and saw her master battling the evil man. She couldn't breathe fire without risk of hitting Laurel. She spread her wings and lifted to the sky. She circled around and flew a few feet above the ground, straight towards Stepheneis's back. Just as she opened her jaws to snap him up, he ducked and spun, all in one motion, and jabbed his sword up at Cerelda's unprotected throat as she passed. The young dragon let out a horrific scream and hit the ground, her body pushing up a mound of earth as she slid. Crimson blood stained the ground and flowed from her throat.

Laurel made a move to run to her fallen dragon, but Stepheneis blocked her path. She raised her sword and fought him, trying to maneuver around him. No luck. Stepheneis knew her plan and successively thwarted it. Laurel panicked as she caught a glimpse of her dragon, lying motionless on the ground with the terrible wound staining her copper neck. But she just couldn't work past Stepheneis. She put renewed effort into her attacks, growing reckless. Stepheneis smiled; this would be easier than he thought.

~

Kyrian pulled her sword from yet another morgal. She wiped her brow wearily. She had lost track of Tomas somewhere in the frantic fighting. She looked around the field for him. Countless bodies of men and morgals littered the ground. Kyrian refused to linger on them, just made a quick scan of the area. No Tomas in sight. She refused to let herself think the worse. Instead, she looked for her next foe. She had worked herself to the edge of the battlefield. She saw a flash of red hair off a ways. She squinted, and saw that Laurel was battling a young man clad in black. Stepheneis. She also saw Cerelda, lying in a heap. She gasped and ran for all she was worth.

She skirted around the battling duo, rushing to Cerelda's side. Blood flowed out of the gaping wound on her neck. Kyrian bit her lip and dug around in her pouch for the right materials. She pressed star-shaped leaves onto the wound, wrapping over them with a strong piece of cloth. The bleeding subsided immediately. Kyrian gathered more plants and opened Cerelda's jaws with both hands, placing the plants in her mouth. With an effort, the young dragon swallowed them. "Good girl," Kyrian said affectionately. She would leave Cerelda to rest, and heal. Now, she turned her attention to Laurel and Stepheneis.

~

Mintara found herself momentarily free of foes. Something drew her gaze to the black ridge up ahead. Her breath caught in her throat at the sight of the tall, arrogant figure standing there. Melkor. She grasped Emerion's mane and swung up. The angry unicorn spread his slender wings and shot into the air with his infuriated wizard. They landed behind Melkor's tall back. "Ironic, isn't it?" he said, without turning around. "I started practicing dark wizardry to be more powerful. I thought I could withstand the evil, and still be strong. All for you."
"Don't lie to me," Mintara spat in hate. "You delved into dark wizardry because you wanted to be the most powerful being in the universe! I was merely a pawn."
Melkor still didn't turn. "It could have been yours too, Mintara. We could have ruled Terulan together as the indisputable tyrants. Instead, you had to follow Emerion." Mintara felt the unicorn's steady presence come up beside her, calming her spirit. Melkor continued with a smirk in his voice, "How did that work out for you, Mintara?" He suddenly spun and pointed his staff at the unprotected unicorn. A sharpened blade of black mist shot out and speared Emerion in the side. The unicorn let out a horrific scream, then fell to the ground. Mintara felt as though she herself had taken the brunt of the blow. She turned to Melkor and saw him grinning at her. She screamed and sprang at him, brandishing her staff. Melkor spun and ducked, thrusting out his own dark staff.

~

Kyrian could see that Laurel's swings were too wide, and she was lunging too far, exposing herself. Stepheneis seemed to be toying with her, a sick smile on his face. Kyrian gripped her sword tighter and ran toward him. 

Stepheneis must have sensed her coming, for he spun and swiped at her legs. Kyrian jumped to the side while Laurel slashed at his head. But he ducked and cut Laurel's arm on the upswing. Now he battled both girls. He seemed to know their movements before they made them. The only conclusion the girls could come to was that he was using his wizardry somehow.

Laurel swung at his head while Kyrian swiped at his legs. Stepheneis managed to dodge both lunges, but cut his sword forcefully across Laurel's wrist. She cried out as she clutched her wrist, her sword dropping to the ground. Her vambrace had protected her arm from the actual slice of the weapon.

As soon as Stepheneis struck Laurel's arm, he crouched under Kyrian's next swing and spun around with his sword extended. The shining tip ripped into Kyrian's side. She screamed and dropped to her knees, clutching her middle.

Tomas felt a tugging at his heart. He scanned the battle field. He froze as he saw Kyrian fall, feeling like his heart had stopped in his chest. He ran toward her, felling morgals as he ran.

Quick as lightning, Stepheneis turned and grabbed Laurel by the throat before she could pick up her sword again. He brought her up to her feet with his hand still around her neck. Laurel clutched at his fingers, trying to pry them loose, but he was too strong.
"Laurel, you really should have learned to choose your battles more wisely," Stepheneis smirked. "Actually, my real revenge is for that half-elf." He motioned to Kyrian on the ground. "But, the Dragon Rider is quite a nice prize as well. Not to mention that lovely dragon. She'll make quite a nice pet." He grinned again as he raised his sword.

Kyrian lay gasping on the ground, arms still wrapped around her middle. She saw Stepheneis holding Laurel by the throat. With an intense effort, she drew a shining dagger from her boot. Moaning in pain, she drew up on one elbow. Gritting her teeth, she drew back her arm and threw the dagger weakly at Stepheneis's back before she collapsed.

Stepheneis suddenly screamed in pain. The dagger hadn't penetrated deeply, but was enough to shock him. Laurel's fist was a blur as it shot up and punched Stepheneis in the eye. The blow threw him off balance, and Laurel wrenched his hand free from her throat. Stepheneis opened his eyes just in time for Laurel's foot to connect with his chin. His head snapped back, and he fell onto his back, shoving the dagger in the rest of the way and finishing the job.

Laurel stepped over the lifeless wizard and rushed to Kyrian prostrate form. Tomas reached her seconds later. Laurel quickly checked her vitals and found her to be still breathing. She looked between Kyrian and Cerelda. Tomas could see that she was in between a rock and a hard place. "Go. I'll take care of Kyrian. Besides, I think Mintara needs you and Cerelda." Laurel looked at him in surprise. He hadn't spoken for two days! But she had no time to ask questions now. She thanked him with her eyes and ran to her wounded dragon. Tomas turned back to Kyrian and opened the healer pouch strapped to her waist.

~

Laurel ran to Cerelda, and found her plucky dragon well enough to fly. "C'mon girl, time to disobey orders!" she murmured as she climbed into the saddle. Cerelda spread her wings and took off, faltering a bit at first, then regaining her balance.

Mintara and Melkor were still sparring with their staffs, but using a little magic as well when they got a chance. So far, Mintara seemed to be holding up fairly well, but everyone knew that time was the issue. Melkor was stronger; therefore, the longer this battle dragged out, the better for him. Mintara fought ferociously, but Melkor held her at bay, seemingly not flustered. Laurel landed close to them and jumped without preamble into the fight.

Melkor didn't say anything or act surprised. He just sped up his defenses. It seemed to Laurel that he was moving with superhuman speed. Without warning, he went on the offensive. Mintara and Laurel were forced back. 

Tomas worked feverishly over Kyrian. His efforts were finally rewarded when she cracked open her eyes and managed a half-smile for him.

Melkor just kept coming. Laurel's foot bumped against a sheer rock wall. They were trapped. Melkor grinned; Laurel could see that he considered the battle already won. Hot fury raced through her veins. She lashed out with her sword and distracted him, raising her knee and kicking him flat-footed as hard as she could in his knee. She heard a satisfying crack and watched as Melkor stumbled back and sank to one knee, his sword drooping, his knee obviously shattered from Laurel's forceful kick.

Mintara gave no mercy, but pressed forward, raising her staff for the deadly blow. But Melkor was far from finished. He pointed his staff in front of him and swung it in a wide horizontal arc. A powerful force emanated from it at lightning speed. It hit Laurel and Mintara so hard it lifted them off their feet. They were thrown onto the ground with bone-crunching force.

Laurel moaned from where she lay on the rough rocks on her back. The shield on her back had protected her from broken bones, but the force of the blow had knocked the breath from her lungs and smacked her head on the sharp rocks. She could feel the warm blood dripping down her hair. She couldn't move to get up; she felt like she had been battered against a rock cliff by huge waves of the ocean. She managed to raise her head and look for Mintara. The wizard had been closer to Melkor, therefore the force was more potent. Also, she wore no armor. Laurel could only hope that her wizardry had protected her somehow.

Mintara was not un-hurt in the least. The shock of the blow didn't leave her time to prepare a defense, and she was slammed down onto the rocks. She painfully got to her knees and looked for Melkor. And the sight that she saw sickened her.

Melkor struggled to his feet, letting out a low cry of pain when he accidentally put weight on his shattered knee. He leaned heavily on his staff and muttered some strange chant. Mintara couldn't understand the words, but the feeling of pure evil pervaded her soul.

Laurel saw Melkor's lips move. A terrifying evil surrounded her. She screamed at the terror and tried to shut it out by covering her ears. But the feeling didn't subside.

Black mist poured out of the tip of his staff. It fell and swirled around Melkor's injured knee. Slowly, the evil wizard straightened up, putting his full weight on his leg. The mist fell away, revealing his perfectly healed leg.

Laurel knew despair that she had never felt before. The full reality of it all hit her then. They couldn't win. They couldn't kill him. The pain in her body from her slam onto the rocks was so intense that it threatened to rob her of her ability to breathe.

"Mintara, you cannot kill me," Melkor said as he slowly strode toward her, his voice full of false pity. Mintara wanted to spit in his leering face, but found that Melkor's power held her motionless. "I will get to you in a minute," he said in his thunderous voice. "But first, I have some unfinished business to take care of."

Laurel saw him coming, and made a feeble attempt to pick up her sword. Her world spun, her eyes refused to focus. She saw Melkor's black boots halt right next to her face. He drew his black sword and poised it above her heart.

Mintara's rage was intense. Rage that she was completely helpless in this whole situation. She could still move her eyes. She saw Melkor advancing toward Laurel's motionless form. She saw Emerion, lying in a puddle of his own blood. She cried out inwardly in furious frustration. At once, a calming presence soothed her soul. Only one had an effect on her like that. Her gaze darted over to Emerion. She saw the unicorn's indigo eyes open and lock gazes with her. Mintara closed her eyes and felt Emerion's power flow into her, melding with her own. She let it build inside her, then lashed out with it, breaking Melkor's hold over her.

Laurel saw Melkor stagger as if thrown off balance. He whirled around to saw Mintara stand up, her staff shining with a white-hot light. With a murderous expression on his face, he strode toward her.

Melkor had taken one step when Mintara began to whisper. "Simar, my father. Please, please, help me in my time of need. I deserve none of your pity, but please, help me save this girl. Help me." She pointed her staff at Melkor, but made no move to strike.
Melkor stopped and pointed his staff at her. Black mist spun around the tip. "Father, please!" The black mist shot forth, straight toward Mintara's heart. She had no time to dodge.

Time suddenly slowed. The deathly spear of mist slowed to a crawl in the air. All movement in the battle field moved at a fraction of its normal pace. A shining white staff, too bright to look at, descended from the sky and touched the tip of Mintara's. Several other staff descended and also touched hers. A silver point touched Mintara's staff. She jerked her gaze over and saw Emerion standing next to her, his wound fully healed. A fine point of white-hot light formed above the tips, and the staffs withdrew.

Time returned to its normal speed. Melkor grinned; Mintara was about to die. There was no way she could escape. Her staff was dull and lifeless. But suddenly, it changed. He blinked, unable to believe his eyes. The light at the tip of Mintara's staff was so bright, he was forced to look away. His own missile was lost in the brilliance as if it had never existed. He fell to his knees, covering his eyes and howling in pain. The light felt as though it were searing every nerve. It quieted somewhat, and he looked up. Mintara's dark eyes locked with his. "Mintara, please," he croaked. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Melkor struggled to his feet. Her eyes opened swiftly. Melkor saw them harden, and knew that he was doomed. "Goodbye," she said, her voice quiet and emotionless. She closed her eyes and shot the flaming spear straight at his heart. "Noooo!" Melkor screamed, his eyes closing as he drew his last breath.

The spear of light pierced through his wicked heart. He fell to the ground with a terrible, guttural scream. The light missile disappeared, leaving a hole through his heart. Laurel struggled to her feet and stood next to Mintara. They both stared down at his motionless form. Slowly, the edges of Melkor's garment and body began to dissolve into mist. It made a hissing sound as continued to eat away at his body. Soon, all that remained of Melkor was a heavy, swirling black mist.

The mist grew in size, then swept down into the valley below where the armies were fighting. Every morgal howled and began to dissolve as soon as the mist touched them. The mist continued to rush through the ranks, until every morgal was gone. And with that, the mist, the last vestige of Melkor's evil, disappeared. Complete silence reigned.

Mintara and Laurel stood there, staring at the spot where Melkor had just lain, unable to believe that it was all over.

Tomas and Kyrian looked up and saw that the morgals were gone.

Landlion rested his sword on the ground and looked around, not daring to believe that they had won.

The arrow dropped from Goricnal's hand as he looked up to the ridge and saw two lone figures of women sillouetted in the western sun.

A mighty shout went up from the valley. Landlion threw his hat into the air and shouted for joy. Goricnal hugged the waist of the soldier nearest to him. Tears of joy dropped from Tomas's eyes.

Mintara and Laurel surveyed the joyous tumult below them. They simultaneously turned to look into each other's eyes. Laurel suddenly laughed for sheer joy and threw her arms around the wizard. Mintara laughed, the first real laugh Laurel had ever heard, and hugged her back. They released each other and descended into the rejoicing throng below. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Part 61 by Taylor

It was time. The healers had worked all the last two days healing as much as they could. Tomas remained scarred, but he could function despite it. He hadn't said a word since it had happened. Kyrian made several attempts to speak with him, but he didn't respond in the least. Mintara had been tempted to remove him from his position, but decided that it was too late to change their plans. After all, they were marching on Melkor's stronghold the next day.

His fortress was situated on top of a rocky ridge overlooking a wide plain. The formidable castle was designed to intimidate oncoming foes, and it accomplished it's purpose well. Even though the army was a full day's march from it, its tall black spires spearing the sky were plainly visible. The armies were going to meet on the wide plain. It was the perfect battlefield.

Stepheneis paced before the window of the castle nervously. "Their army marches closer by the hour, and I have yet to see one soldier under our command." When he didn't receive an answer, he whirled around and glared at the huge, dark shape in the corner. "Calm yourself," Melkor said in an emotionless voice. "Everything is as it should be."

Laurel and Cerelda landed in a rush of wind. She ran to where Mintara, Kyrian, Tomas, Landlion, and Goricnal were conferring. "How many are we up against?" Mintara inquired. "It's the strangest thing, Mintara. There is not a single soldier in sight, not even a sentry! I just don't understand it."
They were silent in confusion for a moment. "Do you have any idea what he might be doing?" Landlion asked Mintara. She shook her head. "I don't know, but I'm sure it's not something we'll enjoy."

~

A knock clanged on the heavy black door. Stepheneis jumped at the sound, then glanced at Melkor for affirmation. "Enter," he called after receiving a barely discernible nod from the dark wizard. A stooped, trembling servant timidly pushed open the solid door and shuffled in. "My lords, the enemy approaches." 
"And the white wizard?" Melkor asked in his thunderous tone, leaning forward a bit.
"And the Dragon Rider?" Stepheneis inquired, revenge lighting up his eyes.
The servant nodded sharply. "Yes, both." He hesitated before volunteering another piece of information in a voice quivering with fear, "They are drawing near to the plain. They will be there it in thirty minutes." 

Melkor waved his hand, and the servant hastily ducked out, drawing the heavy door closed behind him. "What are we to do?" Stepheneis demanded. Melkor didn't answer. Stepheneis was beyond patience. "I need answers!" he shouted, slamming his hand down on the cold, dark polished table. Melkor raised his hand and brought it back down, and Stepheneis was forced down into his seat. He sent a smoldering look at Melkor, which the evil wizard took no notice of. 

Instead, he stood up, his dark head almost touching the nine-foot ceiling. "It's time," he announced in his resonant, bass voice. He suddenly vanished.

Stepheneis was able to rise out of his chair as soon as Melkor disappeared. He ran to the door and tried to open it, but it remained firmly shut. He yelled in frustration as he pounded on the barricade. He raced over to the window and peered out. Movement in the wide plain below caught his eye.

A lone man strode through the short, brown grass. He was too far away to distinguish particular characteristics, but Stepheneis could see even from his perch that it was Melkor. His tall frame and the arrogant way he walked were obvious even from far away. He stopped abruptly in about the middle of the extensive field. He raised his arms and bowed his head.

Stepheneis, using his powers, enhanced his vision until he could see that the evil wizard was chanting something. The heavy black staff, made of some kind of metal not known to Terulan, trembled in Melkor's grip. A black mist spouted out of the top; slowly at first, then gushing out. It wove around the dark wizard as he continued to chant. It became thicker, and thicker, until Melkor was obscured from view.

Still, the cloud churned about him in an ever-darkening funnel. Abruptly, Melkor thrust his staff upward, and the tip poked out of the spinning mist. The mist suddenly fled from him and shot outward in a dense, opaque fog. It fanned on all sides of him, covering acres and acres of land. Stepheneis strained to see through, but the mist was impenetrable, even with his enhanced vision. The strange substance continued to churn and whirl violently. It was about ten feet tall; even Melkor was hidden from sight.

Flashes of deep maroon light flared within the menacing fog. But all was still silent. Stepheneis turned and saw the approaching foe almost to the plain. He turned desperately back to Melkor's display.

The mist seemed to be settling. Dark shapes now became visible as it dissipated. Figures of men poked up as the fog drifted to the ground to settle around their feet. Now Stepheneis could see clearly.

What had first appeared to be men were now discovered not to be so. These terrible creatures had sickly, pale grey skin. They had no noses, only two small nostrils, giving them a ghoulish appearance. Each was about five feet tall. They were wiry; hardly any body fat to them at all. The exact shape of their skulls was evident through their stretched, discolored skin. Each had fangs, which they gnashed together in a lust for blood. They wore very little clothing, and what they did have was made of a tough, black, leather-looking substance. Every one of them had some kind of weapon, either a sword, a pike, a spear, or even a mace. They clanged their weapons together and let out blood-curdling screams. They appeared to be ready to run from the spot straight into battle. Stepheneis wasn't sure what kept them there in that one spot.

"They are morgals," a deep voice penetrated Stepheneis' thoughts from behind, and he whirled around. Melkor stood behind him, looking out with deep maroon eyes over the horrendous creatures he had just created. "Very impressive, my lord," Stepheneis said, awed by this new feat of wizardry. "But can they fight?"
Melkor chuckled low in his throat. "They number 10,000. They will overrun our enemy before they know what is happening. Morgals have an insatiable desire to kill."

Stepheneis turned back to the plain and saw the enemy army beginning to spill onto it. A malicious grin twisted his lips as he saw the Dragon Rider among them. "Now, my dear Laurel. Today we will finish it. Once and for all." 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Part 60 by Tessa Brooke

              Sleep wasn't possible that night for Laurel.  Too many pictures going through her head---none of them good.  She threw back her blanket and tip toed out of the tent---one of the few remaining because of her.  She had nearly destroyed them all.  She tried to believe that it wasn't her fault but she knew it was.  She couldn't hide behind excuses anymore.  She had to face the harsh reality---she wasn't fit to be alive, let alone be a Dragon Rider.  But she was both and she was determined to not defer from her mission.  She would rid her world of Melkor and his minion Stepheneis and then she would disappear.  No one would miss her---even Landlion would welcome her disappearance.  A smile played at the corner of her mouth.  "Watch out, Laurel is in the game now and you just better be worried."
 
               The camp was bustling before even the first slivers of light ran through the sky.  Though busy, the forest was silent---almost deathly so.  Kyrian took a deep breath before walking toward Tomas.
"Tomas?"  He didn't move.  She softly said his name again.  He still didn't react.  She walked to his side and peered at his face.  He was staring fixedly at the horizon.
"What are you doing Tomas?"  Kyrian ventured to ask.  Tomas grasped her hand in an iron grip.  Kyrian swallowed back her tears and gave his hand a gentle squeeze.  They remained that way until the sun broke over the mountains.

               "Laurel!  Where is that girl?"  Mintara fumed as she wove through the chaos at an inhuman speed.
"If she causes anymore trouble I swear I'll kill her myself.  I thought her childish tantrums and stupidly stubborn self were bad but now I know---where is this girl?" 
"I'm right here Mintara."  Laurel stepped out from behind a pile of equipment.
"Come here.  I am going to give you instructions and you are going to follow them down to the very last letter.  You do something stupid and it will be the last thing you do.  Do you understand?  Good.  Now, you and Cerelda will stay behind the ranks.  I will have a way of communicating with you, which I will show you in a moment, and you will do exactly, exactly what I say.  We may need to use you as bait to draw out Melkor and Stepheneis but mainly our goal is to keep you alive and let you and Cerelda do the most damage you can where and when it is needed." 
"I get the point, Mintara.  Don't be an idiot and listen to you." 
"Exactly.  Now I am going to have to communicate with you during the battle and there is one way which we can do it.  It's called mind speaking.  It's basically like talking to Cerelda but slightly more complicated.  Here, let me show you."
It doesn't necessarily feel pleasant but this is what we'll have to do.
Laurel jerked her head back.  Mintara's lips hadn't moved yet she heard her voice.  The sensation was more than unpleasant, it was incredibly creepy.  Mintara's voice was definitely not the one she wanted in her head.

"To respond you simply have to think your thought but in order to make sure you don't start speaking in some random person's head you need to take a few precautions.  You have to pull your whole concentration on one thing---me.  It's difficult to act rationally and mind speak but we shouldn't have to worry about that since you never really acted rationally anyway.  Just so long as you can do what I tell you it should be good.  Now you try."
Laurel let another smile play at her lips before concentrating all her being on her image of Mintara.
Um, I think I'm doing it.  Is this how it is supposed to work Mintara?
Mintara nodded.
"Good.  One last thing.  I would prefer it if you leave Melkor to me.  Preferably you would leave Stepheneis too but I know that won't happen.  Just don't get between Melkor and me."
Laurel nodded with no inclination to do any such thing.  Mintara turned and went back to dodging soldiers and piles of equipment.
"Does she really  think I'm going to agree to that?  Ha!  I should think not.  I won't sit back and be her puppy for long."  She muttered under her breath.
"Let the war begin.  I am ready.  Come and find me.  I won't be as easy to ensnare as last time Melkor.  Remember that."  She let out an unnatural laugh and walked away.  It was time for action.

Part 59 by Taylor

Laurel and Cerelda attacked again and again. Laurel felt the lust for blood inside of her, but something else as well. Remorse? Sadness? No, it couldn't be. The only thing she should feel for the rebels was disgust. She resolutely pushed the other baffling feelings aside.

She landed Cerelda on a grassy knoll overlooking the blazing camp. She grinned a little in satisfaction at the destruction. A figure in white moved through the camp. She spun while holding her staff above her head. A downpour of rain drenched the fires in a wide radius around her. Laurel growled low in her throat and kicked Cerelda in the ribs.

The bronze dragon made a wide arc through the sky and swooped down behind the wizard. Just when Laurel thought that they had her, Mintara back-flipped up past the dragon's groping talons and landed behind Laurel. The elf let out an outraged cry and drew her sword, slashing at the white figure. Mintara blocked with her staff as the enraged elf continued to attack. Cerelda, without any direction and thought of her own, flew aimlessly with the two sparring women on her back.

                                                                                       ~

Tomas ran through the thick smoke, coughing and holding his sleeve over his mouth and nose. He couldn't see anything. He could only hope that he was running away from the fire, not toward. A new line of fire blazed up in front of him. Tomas yelled and skidded to a stop, sliding on the ashen grass. Flames leapt toward him, clinging to his clothes and hair. He dropped to the ground and rolled himself in his cloak, desperately trying to smother the flames. The heat was unbearable. He screamed in agony as the flames engulfed him. Fire was everywhere. A dark shape fell on him and grabbed him by his cloak. He felt himself lifted just before he blacked out.

Kyrian ran with the others and searched the tents that were still flaming for survivors. She still hadn't located Tomas. She could only pray that he had gotten himself to safety. A dark figure on the ground made Kyrian pause. She raced to the prone man and pulled him away from the blazing tent. His hand was burned, but not too badly. Kyrian dragged him to a safe distance and flipped him over. "Landlion! Are you all right?" Kyrian could have kicked herself for not remembering Landlion's disability. He could have easily died while she was running around like an idiot. Landlion coughed and opened his eyes a little. He stared above Kyrian's head as his eyes widened. Kyrian looked up as well and saw the battle in the air between the enraged elf and determined wizard.

Laurel, strengthened by the marse's power, was indeed a formidable foe. Her moves were so unpredictable that Mintara had all she could handle just blocking the wild attacks. Cerelda suddenly screeched and lurched sideways, her wings flapping furiously to balance herself from the weight that had slammed into her side. Emerion dove away from her claws and raked her side with his razor-like, silver horn. Cerelda, infuriated by the smaller creature, turned her long neck and snapped at him. Emerion dodged just in time and carved a line on her passing head. He turned and shot forward, the maddened dragon giving chase just as he had intended. He swooped down low over the charred camp, a white blur, slender wings slicing through the air. Cerelda followed, the two powerful persons on her back still sparring.

She steadily gained on the unicorn until she opened her jaws to grab him. Emerion suddenly dropped to the ground, and Cerelda flew right into a net that she had failed to notice in her blind rage. Emerion had dived underneath her as she had flown over him and knocked Mintara and Laurel off the dragon's back before they too became ensnared. Mintara, who had been expecting it, grabbed Emerion's mane and swung onto his back as Laurel fell to the ground. A group of men were waiting, courtesy of Kyrian. They grabbed the falling elf and quickly tied her up before she could do any more damage. "To my tent," Mintara directed.

Kyrian helped Landlion limp to the tent, his arm wrapped around her shoulder as he leaned on her. They stepped into the un-harmed tent, which apparently had some spell over it to keep it safe. Mintara and Goricnal were sitting together, talking in grave tones. They both looked up at Kyrian and Landlion's entrance. Mintara nodded shortly and stood up. "Out of 8,000 soldiers, we have lost approximately 1,500. About 5,700 are wounded." Everyone winced at the ill tidings. "Where's Tomas?" Kyrian asked. Mintara and Goricnal shared a look. "He's in the infirmary. He was badly burned," Mintara offered. "That dragon had let loose a stream of fire practically on top of him. Earlier, that unicorn had come to get me to help him rescue survivors. When we saw Tomas, he swooped down and dropped me on top of him, then came back around and I grabbed his mane and hoisted both of us up. Then he dropped us off and went to go help you," he finished, gesturing to Mintara. "How bad is he?" Kyrian demanded, jumping up. "We don't know," Mintara waved her hand. "He'll live. We have more important things to discuss. Like our possessed Dragon Rider."

Kyrian turned on her heel and fled the tent. She ran through the camp, or what was left of it. Men were still killing small renegade fires, but it was under control. She reached the makeshift hospital and pushed her way inside. Most recognized her as a general and made no move to stop her. She reached the intensive care place and saw Tomas stretched out with two doctors bent over him. One turned and caught her before she reached Tomas. "General Kyrian, I'm sorry, but you cannot be here." He pushed her from the tent with stern orders not to return, but not before Kyrian had caught a glimpse of Tomas. Burns covered him from head to toe. Chunks of his blond hair had been burned away. His face had angry scars as well. His chest barely rose as he breathed shallowly. Outside the tent, Kyrian sank down and sobbed.

Mintara, Landlion, Goricnal, Emerion, and a brawny man holding the squirming and kicking Dragon Rider went to a tent that had been reserved for them. "On the table," Mintara said with a nod. The soldier was only too glad to be rid of the struggling elf, and put her down on the table. Laurel was tied hand and foot with a gag in her mouth so as not to draw attention, but she still looked at her former comrades with hate smoldering in her eyes. "Do you know how to do this?" Landlion asked Mintara as she and Goricnal strapped Laurel down. "I read about it once somewhere," the wizard answered vaguely. Landlion and Goricnal exchanged a worried look.

As Kyrian walked, she heard screaming from a tent. She quickened her pace and burst into the tent to see Mintara bending over Laurel's head while the girl screamed in agony. Kyrian looked over to see Goricnal and Landlion sitting off to the side with pale faces. Mintara leaned back and let out a sound of intense frustration and anger. Laurel quite screaming and her eyes slid shut in exhaustion. "What are you trying to do?" Kyrian asked, a little taken aback like the men. "I'm trying to draw out the memory blocker!" Mintara snapped. She bent back over Laurel's head, muttering something about stupid people who asked stupid questions. Kyrian went and sat down with the other two, waiting.

Several attempts later, Mintara threw down her staff in anger. "If I ever find that marse, I swear, I will make him pay for all he's putting us through." She stormed from the tent, and the three still remaining exchanged glances. Laurel still lay on the table, breathing hard in ragged gasps.

Kyrian was about to go and find Mintara when the wizard re-entered with Emerion. She appeared quite a bit calmer, an effect Kyrian knew came straight from the gentle unicorn. "Emerion reminded me that we are stronger together, so we're going to try this again." She and the unicorn went to Laurel's head. Emerion lowered his horn over her and crossed it with Mintara's staff. They both closed their eyes as the staff and horn began to glow with a white light. "I wish I knew what was going on," Kyrian whispered. "It's called joint wizardry," Landlion explained. "It's when two wizards join power. One wizard provides the energy, and the other maneuvers it. Right now, Emerion is providing the energy, and Mintara is concentrating on drawing out the memory blocker." Kyrian and Goricnal looked at him in surprise. "I read a lot now that I seem to have a lot of time on my hands," Landlion shrugged, tapping his injured leg.

Suddenly, Laurel started to choke. Landlion staggered to his feet and made a move as to help, but Kyrian grabbed his arm. Laurel's breathing cleared and changed to a peaceful sound instead of the raggedy noise earlier. Mintara and Emerion separated and stepped back, both looking a little winded. "Is she healed?" Goricnal dared to ask. Mintara offered a tired, half-smile. "Yes, she's going to be all right."

                                                                                      ~

It was the next morning before Emerion and Mintara managed to heal Cerelda as well. The dragon shuddered as if shaking off some stupor. Her eyes were clear and intelligent once more, albeit a bit bewildered. She apparently remembered nothing of her forced allegiance to the enemy. Emerion went and informed her of what had happened and apologized for the gash on her side and face. Of course, no one else could hear their conversation, but Cerelda nodded frequently and a horrified look crossed her face from time to time.

Laurel slept. "Is she all right?" Landlion asked. "Yes, her body is destroying the poison," Mintara explained. "She should be ready in time."
"In time for what?"
"We're attacking tomorrow morning."

Kyrian sat by Tomas, holding his hand as he slept. The healers had done all they could for him. The worst of his burns had been healed, and he could move around, but he was horribly scarred. He hadn't said a word since his terrible ordeal. Kyrian worried for him. When asked if he would fight, he had nodded. Kyrian had every intention of keeping a close eye on him so he wouldn't do something stupid.

                                                                                  ~

That night, Laurel walked through the camp. Tears trailed down her cheeks as she surveyed the damage. She heard footsteps behind her and turned to find Cerelda, who also look immeasurably heavy-hearted as well. "Oh Cerelda, what have we done?" she whispered.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Part something or another by Emily

"They reside in the forest master." Laurel said bowing low. "They knew my name and called for me. I disabled a dwarf in a fight and went for the wizard when I heard your call. What do you require?"
 "Job well done Rider." Stepheneis chuckled. "I require you to flame their calvary. It is their strongest point of attack therefore we must disarm them there." He motioned with his hand for her to rise. "Raze it all. Let none live- except the wizard and the blue eyed girl. Bring them to me and your reward will be great."
  "Yes Master." she bowed again. She twirled quickly, her new obsidian cloak filled out behind her.  Her tall black boots went clack on the blue tiles.  She chuckled maliciously when she reached her tired dragon. "Time to work Cerelda."
~

  Kyrian stoked the fire. The flames grew higher and they leapt in wayward directions. In Kyrian's imagination the flames took shapes.  A girl on a dragon flew a breakneck speed, she twisted and dove in the air. The picture changed to a man with his hands clasped on a large jewel. The jewel glowed bright as the man pressed harder. Kyrian gasped as Melkor's face came into view. "He must have a marse." Came Mintara's voice from behind.
 "A what?"
 "A spell in the form of an eye that renders Dragon's and their Riders immobile. I had just told Laura about it the other day hoping she would be more careful, but alas! she has not learned a bit! Stepheneis must have it on himself for no other being besides a wizard has enough power to sustain it." Mintara  gravely said. "She must be under his control now. There is no other explanation for her sudden change in behavior."
  "What can we do?" Kyrian asked standing up from her perch on the log.
 "There is nothing we can do but defeat Melkor. We cannot defeat Stepheneis with out first defeating Melkor they have shared in power I am sure. Their fates are linked just as Emerion's and Aelysha's were."
  "Why can't we kill Stepheneis first instead of Melkor?"
  "Silly girl! Do you know anything about wizards? The most powerful wizard out of the two, in this case Melkor, must be killed before the weaker may be killed."
  "So that means we're flying to Melkor's castle at the end of the world right?" Kyrian pulled her cloak closer as the fear of impending doom fell upon her.
  "Wrong, we're walking." Mintara backed away from the fire and disappeared into the darkness. "And rally the best fighters cause we leave before dawn."

    Kyrian shoved the last piece of bread into her saddle bag then ran to Tomas and Landlion's tent. "Wake up you sleepy head." she said as she pushed Tomas off his bed. He fell to the floor with a thud and shot up like a rocket when he woke. "Why you little-" he growled. He grabbed Kyrian by her shoulders and threw her down on his cot. "Get off me Tomas!" she squealed before his fist connected to her cheek. "Kyrian?"He quickly pulled his fist back. "I'm sorry darling, I didn't know it was you." Tomas pulled her up and kissed her on her cheek. "Now what was it you wanted?"
  "We're leaving in the morning to go to Melkor's. We're going there to end things once and for all. Now pack your stuff because we leave in an hour."
  "Yes dear." Tomas said mockingly as he scooped up his bag. Kyrian sprinted out of the tent to go rally more fighters for the journey.

   Landlion tossed and rolled over on his cot. Tomas held his breath hoping that the elf did not wake up. To his dismay Landlion's eyes blinked open and he sat up. "What are you doing Tomas?" he asked. "Nothing, I was just looking for a snack." he quickly lied. Landlion looked at him disbelievingly. "Really that's all I'm doing. See look I have an apple in my sack." He held up an apple to show the Elf.
 "You're a bad liar Tomas. Where are you going?" Landlion swung his good leg over the side of the bed and stuck it in his boot.
  "I'm not really sure, Kyrian didn't say much." His apple let out a loud crunch as he bit into it. The juice dripped down his chin and splatted on his shirt.
  "Oh, well you go have fun dude." Landlion kicked off his boot and laid back down in bed. "Don't be too wild with her." He chuckled as he got settled in bed again.
  Tomas took another bite of his apple, grabbed his cloak and left the tent.


   The air was brisk, it felt tense as if it were waiting for something terrible to happen. Tomas felt the same way. A terrible foreboding of what to happen came down upon him just like the sudden gust of wind the moment before. He slowly walked through the cluster of tents that his regiment slept in. There was a strange rustling in the air. It sounded eerily familiar. Dragon wings. He thought with alarm. He looked to the sky just as a huge burst of fire lit it up.

    He started to run. Anywhere away from the new found menace would be good.  He dodged under and around the fiery tents. A thought sparked his mind, "Kyrian!"  he screamed as the dragon took out another tent. He pushed a burning pole out of his way and leaped.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Part 57 by Taylor

"That was too close," Kyrian shook her head as they landed at the camp. "Yes, we must be more careful," Mintara glared at Laurel. The elf just ignored her. "Zarin is two days away. We will leave first thing tomorrow," Mintara pronounced, dismounting Cerelda. "Why not tonight?" Laurel's clear voice challenged. "Because I said so," Mintara said, turning to face the girl. "Why are you in charge? I'm the Dragon Rider, I should be making the decisions!"
"That would be wonderful, except so far on this trip, you've proved to be impetuous, foolhardy, emotional, and stupid!" Mintara snapped back. Kyrian, standing by Cerelda, felt the young dragon's anger grow. Kyrian shrank back; she hated arguments. "Says you!" Laurel yelled, her cheeks pink. "You would risk the whole army for that stupid unicorn of yours!"
"Quiet!" Mintara shouted. Laurel took a step back. Cerelda came up behind her and growled at Mintara. The wizard paid no attention, and got up in Laurel's face. "You would be dead without Emerion and me," she said in a forceful whisper. "If not for us, you would have been killed long ago by your rashness! And," Mintara gritted, stepping even closer. "Without that 'dumb unicorn', we cannot hope to win this battle." With that, she stepped back. "You have no room to talk. The rescue mission for Emerion was necessary. The rescue mission for that boy," Mintara spat out the word, referring to Landlion. "was completely stupid and foolish! It was because of your emotions. You are fit to lead no army."

The two powerful persons stood facing at each other, each of their eyes bright with anger. Without another word, Mintara turned on her heel and stalked away. Laurel was so mad, she could only sputter. "Can you believe that?" she finally yelled, turning to Kyrian. "Well," Kyrian said cautiously before answering. She didn't want to appear to take sides with either one. Laurel and Cerelda were definitely the more formidable foe at this point, but when Mintara recovered her necklace......
"I do think that Mintara is out of line," Kyrian said carefully. Laurel began looking a trifle smug. "But," Kyrian interjected. "She does have a point. If you want to lead, you need to take it seriously and prove that you can and will lead this army!" Laurel's face fell. "Now Laurel, don't be upset," Kyrian began. Laurel's answer was to turn and storm to her tent. Kyrian sighed. "At least I have you, Cerelda," she said. But when she turned to give the dragon a little smile, she discovered that the creature had left with Laurel.

"Of all the stupid things!" Laurel stormed once in her tent. "I am perfectly capable of leading this army! But how will I show them?"
She sank down on her bed, chin in her hand. An idea began to form. "If I captured Stepheneis," she whispered. The more she thought about it, the more she liked it. "I'll show them all!" she said, with determination. She peeked outside her tent flap. The night was still young. She would be back by morning. She quickly dressed, pulling on a leather vest, arm-guards, a pleated leather skirt, and shin-guards. Pulling on her leather gloves, she quickly slipped out. Cerelda always wore her saddle now, something that Laurel was thankful for now.
"Cerelda, wake up," Laurel thought to her young dragon, not wanting to risk waking anyone.
"I am awake," Cerelda thought back. "What's going on? Where are we going?"
"I'll tell you in a little bit," Laurel answered vaguely. Cerelda asked no more questions, and allowed Laurel to mount.

"Laurel?" a voice drifted through the trees. "Oh no," Laurel whispered. She flattened herself on Cerelda's back as the dragon hunkered down. She squinted through the leaves, trying to see who was coming. It was Kyrian! "Laurel, is that you? What are you doing on Cerelda?" Kyrian was coming dangerously close. Laurel gave up all shadow of cover, and with a thought to Cerelda, they shot up through the trees.

Kyrian was taken aback by the force of wind that blasted her. Peering up, she saw through the leaves, Cerelda's dark shape winging north. She had no idea what Laurel planned to do, but she knew that she had to tell Mintara as soon as possible.

Laurel knew that she no longer had the aid of secrecy, and that she would have to hurry before Kyrian and the others came after her. She guided Cerelda over the miles, until she reached the city of Lylle. A nagging doubt was beginning to tug at her, but she resolutely pushed it away. "After all, I'm the Dragon Rider!" she reasoned. "I can do anything that they can do!"

Just then, Lylle came into view. Cerelda abruptly dropped in altitude and landed on a small knoll. "Cerelda, what are you doing?" Laurel questioned. "I need to ask you something," Cerelda answered. "What's your plan?"
"Well, I just thought that you'd fly me over and drop me on top of Stephenies' palace. You know, like that attack to free Landlion."
"But we've already done that. They'll suspect-"
"Cerelda, I am the Dragon Rider! I will decide what's to be done!"
"But-"
"Stop!" Laurel commanded, hoisting herself back up on Cerelda's back. Cerelda had no choice but to obey her.

In his palace, Stepheneis woke with a start. He felt warm. Too warm. He threw back the covers. It didn't help. He stood up, but only felt warmer. The heat grew unbearable. Sweat poured from his body. Stepheneis ran and threw open the window. He couldn't see anything in his room, but he could feel a definite presence. He leaned out the window, and, not seeing anything, turned back. And came face-to-face with Melkor. "My liege," Stepheneis immediately knelt. "The Dragon Rider approaches," Melkor said without preamble, stepping past Stepheneis and looking out the window. Melkor's head barely cleared the ceiling. Stepheneis mind raced. "What would you have me do?" he asked.

"This is going to work!" Laurel exclaimed as she and Cerelda neared the city. Cerelda didn't comment. Laurel leaned back; soon, Cerelda would see that Laurel knew what she was doing. The wind picked up, whipping Laurel's hair around her head. Cerelda's wings dipped and shuddered a little in the wind, then she regained her balance. Laurel was confused; it seemed as though the wind was coming from up above her.

Suddenly, a huge hand clamped onto her, covering her whole back and shoulders. Laurel screamed, and Cerelda dipped, thrown off by the sudden weight of the creature bearing down on her rider. Laurel pried at the hand, trying to get it off of her. A sharp object poked into her back. Laurel suddenly realized that it was a claw, not a hand! She craned her neck around to see a massive dark shape above her, expansive wings bearing down. Radlin, Cerelda grunted as she tried to fight it. The evil dragon was steadily forcing them down, closer to earth. Laurel felt crushed in its talons; it seemed to be pressing the air from her lungs. Laurel's world started to turn black. Just then, she felt her and Cerelda falling. Cerelda had become so exhausted with fighting the larger dragon that her wings had just given out. Now, they plummeted towards the ground at a terrifying speed. Laurel felt herself lifting out of the saddle as Radlin spread his wings. She saw Cerelda continue to fall, thrashing about when she felt Laurel's weight lifted.

Cerelda hit the ground with a terrible impact, sliding, rolling, skidding along, her wings trying to slow her down as she plowed into the earth. She finally came to a halt in a heap. Radlin followed more slowly, still clutching Laurel, who felt Cerelda's pain. Cerelda, are you okay? There was no answer. Radlin hovered about seven feet above the ground, then dropped Laurel. With a small cry, she fell and landed hard, her legs giving way. Immediately, two men came up from behind and clamped shackles on her wrists and ankles. One pulled out a knife and held it to her throat, grabbing a fistful of her hair to hold her head still.

Meanwhile, Cerelda untangled herself and stood up, shaking her head. She immediately spotted Laurel in the clutches of the man. Growling low in her throat, she stalked towards them. The man grazed Laurel's throat with the weapon and she let out a small gasp. Cerelda immediately halted. "Well well, we now find ourselves in a predicament," a sinister male voice came from a cave. Stepheneis stepped out, glowering at the elf. "I have no time to waste, so let's get on with it."
"With what?" Laurel asked.
"Well, we seem to have no success with killing you, so I'm going to try a different angle, one that will work tremendously in our benefit." The evil man clapped his hands, and a wizened old man exited the cave. He threw back his hood and Laurel gasped at the tattoo on his forehead. "A marse?" she shrieked, trying to back away. Stepheneis grinned. He nodded at the man. "Proceed." The old man smiled and walked toward Laurel, who screamed and struggled. Cerelda stood, watching in anger and helplessness. The man pulled out a little sack, and took a pinch of powder from it. He unceremoniously threw it up into her face. Laurel continued to try to fight, then slowly, went limp. The men picked her up, still shackled, and hustled her into the cave. "Chain it up," Stepheneis nodded at Cerelda.

The young dragon knew better than to struggle; Laurel's fate was at hand. So, she let the men snap huge chains around her slender forelegs, and also around her hind legs. One tossed a chain up and looped it around her nose, pulling her head down, and fastened a iron muzzle on her face. Last of all, they snapped a chain to the bottom of the muzzle and secured it to the chains stretching between her legs, bending her head in an awkward position to where her nose was almost touching her claws. They grabbed the ends of the chains and pulled her over onto her side. Cerelda let out a slow rush of air in what sounded like a mournful sigh as they fastened her wings and looped chain after chain about her.
                                                                                     ~

"But how are we going to find her?" Kyrian asked as she half walked, half ran to keep up with Mintara's pace. "I don't know!" Mintara snapped. "Maybe next time, we should just shoot her out of the sky," Tomas suggested. "Or lock her up in her tent," Landlion grunted, struggling to keep up with his cumbersome crutches. "Or possibly keep her on a leash," Goricnal laughed, a gravelly sound. Tomas elbowed Goricnal and they both laughed. "Boys," Kyrian muttered. Could they not take anything seriously?

Mintara reached the horses and whistled for Emerion. She whirled around to face them. "Since we have no idea where she's gone to or what her motives may be, we will just have to look everywhere," she pronounced. The company's shoulders sagged noticeably. "It's risky, but without Laurel, or more accurately, without her dragon, we cannot hope to win this war, so it's a risk we have to take. I will take Emerion, although in this darkness, he'll stand out like a sore thumb. You all will ride out and try to locate her. Tomas, you ride west. Landlion and Goricnal, east. Kyrian, south; and I will ride north. Any questions?" When no one raised their hands, she crisply turned and mounted Emerion. The beautiful unicorn spread his slender wings and flew off. "Well, let's go," Tomas said, mountin Adan and turning west. Landlion resented having to have someone along in case he couldn't manage with his leg or something, but he knew that it was necessary. He and Goricnal quickly rode off. Kyrian jumped onto Rhovanion, patted the mare's neck, then galloped south. "Laurel, where are you?" she whispered.

Laurel was still in the cave, lying on a stone table. She was still unconscious, but the man had her strapped down anyway. "You had better be careful," Stepheneis growled. The man gave him a toothless grin. "Do not worry, I am the best of my trade. All will go well." He bent over Laurel's motionless head. Grabbing her jaw, he forced her mouth open. Reaching into his pocket, he brought out a small vial. "What's that?" Stepheneis asked nervously. "This is the memory blocker itself," the man said proudly. He carefully tipped it over her mouth, skillfully pouring out a drop. He closed her mouth and massaged her throat until he was sure that she had swallowed it. Stepheneis paced back and forth nervously. "Now, what is that stuff supposed to do again?" he asked. The man sighed. "This will block the Rider's memories."
"All of them?" Stepheneis asked in alarm.
"No, no. She will remember non-personal things, like how to walk, and talk, and stuff like that. But she won't recognize anyone or remember how she got here or who she is. She will be in the perfect condition for us to implant new thoughts, new ideas. And then, we will have ourselves a Dragon Rider to help us defeat the rebels!"
Just then, Laurel began to stir. The man quickly leaned over her. Laurel's eyes blinked open. "Who are you?" she asked. "I am Buril," the man said gently. Laurel sat up slowly. "I don't remember you," she said slowly. Buril smiled patiently. "You were hit on the head by the rebels while you were out on your dragon."
"My dragon?" A light dawned in her eyes. "Cerelda?" she questioned. "Yes! Your memory is returning. She was injured; our men are taking care of her now."
"Why was I out riding her?" Laurel asked.
"You were out scouting for enemy spies," Buril said.
"Oh. Who's the enemy?"
Buril and Stepheneis settled down to 'explain' it all to her.

                                                                                    ~

Kyrian was growing discouraged; there was no sign of Laurel. She doubted she could find anyone in these wood anyway. She glanced up at the lightening sky. She needed to be back by dawn. With a sigh, she turned Rhovanion around and rode back to the army.

Tomas topped a ridge and scanned the valley. Nothing. He let out a frustrated sigh. Pale streaks of color streamed across the sky from the horizon. Reluctantly, he took one last look, then turned Adan around and galloped back to camp.

Emerion softly whoofed as Mintara tried yet another angle. His delicate wings were beginning to tire. He and Mintara had scoured the fields for hours, and had come up with nothing. The sky near the horizon was turning a light blue. Mintara heard his protest and sighed. "You're right, we should be heading back." Emerion turned his silver horn back from whence they had come.

Cerelda rejoiced inwardly when she saw Laurel striding out of the cave. But her heart sank when she saw that Laurel was flanked by Buril and Stepheneis. She tried to connect with Laurel's mind, but found it blocked. "Oh, she's lovely," Laurel stated, looking Cerelda over. "A bit small though," she said critically.
"Well dragon, I've been told that you've been acting traitorous," Laurel said sternly. "Talk to it's mind, Dragon Rider," Buril encouraged. Cerelda felt Laurel's shields lift. Laurel! Are you all right?
Yes, I am fine. Now, are you indeed sympathetic to the rebel's plight?
Cerelda was shocked. Laurel, what have they done to you?
Just answer the question!
Yes, I am a part of the rebel army, Cerelda answered truthfully. Laurel abruptly withdrew, drawing her mind closed from Cerelda. "She has been poisoned against us!" she announced to the others. They shook their heads in mock sorrow. "Go ahead then," Laurel nodded to Buril. She stepped back and gazed at Cerelda sadly. Cerelda thrashed about against her chains as Buril approached. He took out another pouch, this one a deep green. Grabbing a small handful, he threw it into the dragon's face. Slowly, Cerelda stopped struggling. "What exactly does this powder do?" Laurel asked, folding her arms. "It causes the dragon to become like every other dumb beast," Buril explained. "Now, she will listen to your every order, like a horse."
"Good," Laurel nodded. "Now, I think I shall try to find a few rebel spies." She ordered for Cerelda to be unchained, except for the one around her neck. The men brought a large black saddle, and a strange bridle. "A dragon, with a bridle?" Laurel asked skeptically as the men fastened the equipment to her dragon. "Do not worry, with this bridle, you will be able to easily control her. The bit is wide, and sharp, so if she tries to disobey, then a sharp jerk, like this," the man demonstrated with a heavy yank of the reins. Cerelda tossed her head up in pain. "Well, very good then." With that, Laurel mounted, and with a kick, sent Cerelda winging off into the sky.

"I don't see her," Goricnal grumbled as he and Landlion emerged from a swamp. Landlion didn't answer. Truthfully, he was growing quite tired of the dwarf's pessimistic attitude. A ray of light struck his face, and he turned and saw a tiny rim of light rising above the line of earth. "We should be heading back," Goricnal stated Landlion's unspoken thoughts. "Yes, you're right," Landlion said, shoulders drooping. He scoured the land one more time, absently rubbing his injured leg. A shadow suddenly fell over them. They heard a rush of wings. They whirled around. "Laurel!" Landlion exclaimed. She didn't answer as she dismounted. "Where did you get that new tack?" Goricnal asked. "Hey Cerelda," Landlion said. He did a double take. The dragon's eyes were not shining with intelligence as usual. In fact, they looked dark and innocent. Just like his horse. "Laurel, what's wrong with Cerelda?" Landlion asked. She didn't answer. She suddenly unsheathed her sword and swung at him. Landlion jumped out of the way, but his injured leg caused him to fall. "Laurel, what's wrong with you?" Goricnal yelled. She didn't answer, but turned away from the prostrate elf and instead, went after Goricnal.

Kyrian abruptly reined Rhovanion down a different path of the forest. She didn't know why, but she suddenly felt distress pulling her there.

Emerion suddenly swerved to the right. Mintara didn't ask what he was doing. "I sense it too," she murmured.

Tomas urged Adan into a gallop. He didn't know where he was going or why, but he knew that he had to get there, and fast!

Landlion rolled away from where Laurel and Goricnal were fighting. He knew that Goricnal couldn't hold off Laurel for long. Even when Landlion had had the use of his leg, Laurel had been a formidable foe. He couldn't possibly take her on now.

Just then, Tomas burst into the clearing. Kyrian galloped up from the other side. Mintara and Emerion lowered down through the tree tops. Landlion breathed a sigh of relief. "Hey!" Mintara yelled at Laurel. The elf whirled around, and without preamble, charged for the wizard. At least, everyone thought she was going for Mintara. At the last instant, Laurel swerved, and instead, jumped up onto Cerelda's back. With a sharp kick and a tug on the reins, she shot off into the sky. "What was that all about?" Kyrian asked in bewilderment. No one had any answers.