Authors: Cassandra Morgan
Tags: #adventure, #fantasy, #magic, #young adult, #teens, #prophecy, #princess, #elves, #dwarves, #wanderlust
Someone inform the
Empress and Queen!” Dimitri called.
One of the guards nodded and took off at a
run toward another tunnel. Jayson, Jack and Leo were panting to
keep up. They knew that even if they were separated, Piper was all
that mattered now.
Twisting and turning, never ending, on and
on the tunnels went. The path they took was smooth and square, and
illuminated by jewel-encrusted oil lamps along the way. Finally,
they turned down a wide corridor and saw their first door in what
felt like miles. The guards pushed it open, making room for Dimitri
and the boys to pass through. Inside was a high ceilinged room with
white marble floors and walls. There were many small beds along the
walls, and the shelves were lined with herb-filled glass pots. A
small fountain bubbled forth from one wall, falling into a basin
and draining through a pipe to a hole in the floor. It was clean
and more advanced than Jayson, Jack and Leo expected.
A short woman looked up from her work at a
small counter by the herb shelves. Her hair was pulled back into
many tiny braids, each intricately laced through with jewels and
stone beads. She wiped her hands on a towel and pointed to the bed
to her right.
Elf. Vampire,” panted
Dimitri, setting Piper gently on the bed. The woman nodded and
hurried back to the shelf of herbs.
From the doorway behind Leo, Jack and
Jayson, four more guards joined the growing throng of people in the
hall. They ushered in three more women, their hair also beautifully
braided and decorated with jewels and beads, but far fewer than the
healer. They were otherwise plainly clothed, which surprised the
boys as they suspected this was the Empress and Queen Dimitri had
Hello, Dimitri,” sighed
the eldest woman. She held out her arms and embraced him. Though
her skin was smooth and glowing, her eyes looked old and worn. “How
is she?” she asked. Dimitri shook his head.
The healer bustled back to Piper with a
poultice, a blanket and a cold compress. Her fingers worked the
greenish-gray mess into Piper’s wound. Quite unexpectedly, she gave
a loud cry and jumped back. No one needed ask why. The lightning
that had appeared during their battle with the vampire had
returned. It snaked its way around Piper’s body again, wrapping her
in a protective prism.
Magic?” whispered one of
the guards. The boys had nearly forgotten magic was forbidden and
feared throughout Chartile. They had become so used to Piper’s
magic, or at least the idea of it. They hadn’t seen her use it
since their first night in Chartile. It had not occurred to them
what might happen if others encountered it.
Out,” said the older
woman. Her voice turned strong and commanding. “Everyone out. Not
you three,” she pointed to Jack, Leo and Jayson. Dimitri had not
moved. He appeared determined not to leave Piper’s side and needed
no encouragement to stay.
Empress, I—” began the
No. No one is to speak a
word about this,” the woman said sharply.
Everyone nodded, and turned to leave. The
Empress sighed once the door had been closed behind them and rolled
up her sleeves. She laid a hand on Dimitri’s shoulder. He turned to
her, and the once strong, young man looked entirely lost and
She does not know she is
doing this. She cannot help it. She’s—”
I know,” said the Empress
kindly. She reached for Dimitri’s hands, and carefully removed the
orenite cuffs from his wrists. Dimitri looked at her, fear
spreading more fiercely across his face. “It’s going to take all of
us to bring her back.” The Empress said.
Back from where? What’s
going on?” Jayson asked, his voice shaking.
Her mind has turned
inward, hibernating if you will. To protect her. What she does not
know is her magic will soon drain her of all her energy, and she
will slowly die.”
What?” exclaimed Leo,
“She can’t die!”
She’s not going to,” the
Empress said calmly. “I need you all to do exactly as I say. Even
you, Jayson. I have no magic, but I can pray to Rashiri to guide
us, to guide her.”
Jayson, who had been staring grimly at
Piper, jerked around at the mention of his name. “How do you know
who I am?”
I have been consulting
with the oracle much lately. I will explain more at a later time.
Please, we must all join hands around her.”
The humming of the lightning that continued
to envelope Piper sent the air into a buzzing, static frenzy. The
boys could feel the hairs on their bodies standing up. The Empress
began to chant in a strange, growling language, and everyone’s
Dimitri, I need you to
call her,” she said, her eyes still closed in concentration. “Bring
her back to us. Now, everyone, place a hand on her. And whatever
happens, do not break the connection. Rashiri…”
They all placed their hands on Piper’s arms.
The Empress stood at Piper’s head, her fingers on the girl’s
temples. She began chanting again, and nodded toward Dimitri.
Piper. Piper, can you
hear me? Piper, please come back to us. Listen to my voice. Follow
my voice, please, Piper.”
There was an intense electrical sensation as
the lightning moved faster. They all winced, but no one dared
release from the strange spell. Magical, religious or both, they
could not say, but Jayson, Jack and Leo would do anything to bring
I know you’re scared. I
know, I— I should have protected you. Please come back to me.”
The lightening flashed wildly, blinding them
all, then ceased. Piper took a deep breath, as though breathing
life back into her lungs again. She still remained unconscious. The
boys felt drained. Even more exhausted than their day long trek up
the mountain. The Empress released her hands from Piper’s temples
Well done,” she
whispered. She applied more of the herbal poultice to Piper’s arm,
and laid a cool, wet cloth on her forehead.
Why isn’t she awake?
What’s wrong with her?” Jayson asked. He looked frantically between
Piper and The Empress, and back again.
She is tired, dear. Her
body is still fighting the venom. She will be fine, with rest and
medicine. Dimitri, please call our friends back inside.”
Dimitri hesitated and swallowed hard. He
looked for a long moment at Piper before resigning to do his
Empress’s bidding. He nodded covered the length of the room as
quickly as he could. When he opened the door to the hallway, he
hurried back to Piper and stroked her hair. The guards, healer, and
the two other ladies waited anxiously outside.
Please take Piper to the
Sapphire Quarter. I want her as close to me as possible,” said the
Empress. “And please find rooms for our guests as well. The Emerald
Quarter should do nicely.” The crowd bowed to Jack, Leo and Jayson,
and then to the Empress, their hands flat on their thighs. Two
guards stepped forward to carry Piper away on a wooden stretcher
the boys had not noticed hung on one of the walls. Dimitri looked
to the Empress, and the woman nodded with a smile. Dimitri followed
close behind the guards that carried Piper. The boys hurried after
them, leaving the Empress and the ladies alone with the
Of Law and
The boys waited anxiously in the room they
had been assigned in the Emerald Quarter. Leo bit his nails. Jack
stared at the door, lost in thought. Jayson paced frantically in
circles around the sofa and chairs in the middle of the room. The
room was large and just as grand as any of the halls they had
passed along the way. But they were too on edge to take notice.
Two bedrooms led off on either side of the
common room area with two beds each, complete with gosling stuffed
mattresses and tapestries on every wall. The common room had
several carved high backed wooden chairs with soft green cushions,
and a green fainting couch. There were murals on every wall, and
even the ceilings, depicting what they assumed were scenes from the
history of Chartile. The founding of Mount Kelsii, the gifting of
the Draconian Runes by the Dragons to the Dwarves, and something to
do with a griffin nesting atop a mountain.
All of this was being completely ignored.
Jayson, Jack and Leo had hardly noticed the emeralds and jade
around the door frames, nor the stained glass in the windows
overlooking the mountainside. Piper was all they could think of at
the moment. Piper and what had just happened. The thought of her
lying unconscious somewhere unknown scared them. Without her, they
were lost in this strange land. Without her, they did not know what
There was a knock on the door. They jumped
at the sound, coming back to reality. Jack rose from his chair, and
crossed to open the door. He turned the intricate handle, his hands
trembling. Before him stood the Empress, but she was not alone.
Four guards had escorted her, and a pretty young girl Jack thought
he recognized from the healer’s room stood against the far wall in
the hall beyond.
Greetings,” The Empress
said. Her voice was gentle and reassuring. “I am Empress Nefiri.
Might I have a word?”
Jack nodded and opened the door for the
Empress to enter. To the boys’ surprise, she closed the door behind
her, leaving her entourage to wait in the hall again. The guards
seemed unalarmed at this. Leo wondered if meeting with guests in
private was a common occurrence with the Empress. Jayson didn’t
seem to notice. He sat on the couch, then stood again, and resigned
to leaning against the wall. Jack wondered who the girl waiting in
the hallway was.
The Empress glided across the room, and
perched herself on the edge of a chair. She arranged her skirts
neatly around her and folded her hands on her lap.
Now, I am sure you have
questions. Shall we begin?” she asked matter-of-factly.
At first, no one spoke. The hundreds of
questions the whirled through their minds were not so easy to make
At last, Jayson spoke. “How is Piper? What
the hell just happened? Was that some magic ritual or something? Is
Piper going to be okay? Dimitri said that thing was a vampire? Is
Nefiri held up a weathered hand to silence
him. “One question at a time. I will do my best to answer them
all.” She sighed deeply, fidgeting with her skirts, then continued.
“Piper is still unconscious though we are confident she will make a
full recovery. Based on Dimitri’s description, it does appear it
was a vampire that attacked you. This matter will need to be looked
into further. Many believe vampires to be nothing more than myth,
and those who do believe in their existence agree they haven’t been
seen since the days of the old kings. They are called The Lost
Legends for a reason. Right now there are matters of law and war
that are more pressing than myth at this time.
Now, as for your
questions of magic. No, it was not a ritual. I am a Priestess of
Rashiri, our patron Mother Goddess and protector. I have the
ability to direct her life energy toward the subject of my prayer,
if it is Her will. This is different than magic, because, in the
end, it is Rashiri who controls the energy, not I. I know some
rumors of you three from my informants in Outland Post.” She smiled
at them. “I took a chance that you are what we believe you to be.
You were unharmed and Piper was safe.”
Wait,” said Jayson, “Are
you saying that if it wasn’t for us doing…magic…that Piper wouldn’t
Actually, I want to hear
more about these informants of yours,” said Leo. “No one is
supposed to know where Piper is in those mountains except her
grandma.” He folded his arms before him, and raised a suspicious
eyebrow. “Have you been spying on her? On us? Why?”
There are rumors that say
you are the reincarnated souls of the old kings, sent here to right
the wrongs that have occurred. Is this true?” Nefiri asked. Leo
sighed as it was clear the woman had dodged his question by asking
another. He rolled his eyes and opened his mouth to answer, but
Jack got there first.
Well, that’s what
everyone keeps saying,” said Jack. “But honestly, we aren’t anyone
important where we come from.”
So how did you come to be
here?” Nefiri continued, folding her hands once more upon her
We’re not sure, really,”
said Leo. His voice was calmer. “There was this weird light, we
blacked out, and woke up here just before Taraniz tried to attack
Outland Post about two weeks ago.”
So you have no proof that
you are the old kings?” Nefiri asked.
Well, we did all have
this weird ability to use these weapons we’ve never used before.”
Silence fell, and Nefiri nodded curtly.
“Very well,” she said. “Then shall we move on to the matter of why
I have asked you here?”
Jayson, Jack and Leo nodded, though they
seemed to have more questions now than answers.
In five days’ time, there
will be a meeting of The Council of Elders. The Council is made up
of representatives from each of the quarters in Mount Kelsii and
the Tutarian Mountains. The Elders are elected by the residents of
each quarter, and the elders then appoint the Princesses and
Queens. When an Empress steps down or passes, returning to the
stone, one of the appointed queens steps up to take her place, and
her princess then takes the queen’s place. A new princess is
appointed, and her training begins. I am an Empress of Peace. I was
never appointed to carry out such duties pertaining to war.
Furthermore, I am old. I wish to spend the remainder of my days
carrying out the will of Rashiri, and leave the matters of state