Authors: Jonathan Casif,Sneer Rosenfeld
Achtisanor and Logan climbed up and exited at the centre of the big fountain, which resided in the main entrance hall of the castle. They could hear battle cries, screams and shouts all around them. A battle raged between Dragon's Breath, headed by Van-sniff, and three lizard-men and two grey elves.
"Come on," said Krunch, "let's get out of here."
Achtisanor looked at the battle on the other side of the hall and followed Van-Sniff's movement was a calculating eye.
"We are not staying to help the longnose, right?" Krunch understood the look on Achtisanor's face.
"No," said Achtisanor, "we have the horn. We must get out of here now. Leave the rope attached. De-Stik… what happened there?"
"ACHTISANOR," a roar was heard from Van-Sniff's throat.
The three companions saw his gleaming axe flying with a dizzying speed toward Achtisanor.
Achtisanor fell immediately to the floor. The three looked back and were astounded. Two big lizard-men fell to the floor, their chests carved open.
Achtisanor shot his head back to Van-sniff, who stood with his three friends on the flight of stairs. His red eyes gleamed from beneath his helmet and he lifted his arms into the air. His axe magically flew in the air right back to his hands; a moment passed and the four of them ran through the castle gates, leaving the corpses of the enemies behind.
Achtisanor, Logan and Krunch also ran to the castle gates and from there to the main avenue leading out of the city – to the sea turtles.
The waves crashed around them. The circle of water surrounding them became closer and closer.
"Look there," called Achtisanor, "all the turtles left."
A huge wall appeared in the distance. The wall churned and rumbled, got bigger and stronger every passing moment.
"This wall of water will crush us," screamed Krunch.
"We won't be able to avoid it," called Logan.
Achtisanor looked around to search for a solution.
"Wait," said Krunch. "Look, maybe I can cast a spell that will allow us to breath under the sea."
"Really?" they both asked.
"The magic will last only for a few minutes. I'll split it among the three of us," said Krunch. "We will have to swim to the shore as fast as possible. I hope it is enough."
"What will happen if the spell duration is finished before we reach the shore?" asked Logan.
"If you start to feel that your breath is laborious, discard of anything heavy and try to float," said Krunch.
Logan looked back to the castle, hoping that De-Stik would follow them.
The huge wave continued to come. It swallowed anything in its path.
"Our hearts will keep beating on, when we swallow the salt waters of days bygone," called Krunch with lifted hands. The huge wave swallowed them and cast them into the deep.
Comforting silence engulfed Logan at once. Everything became slow and peaceful. Her arms and legs moved slowly amidst the lukewarm currents. Playful rays of sun warmed the surface of the sea above her. Debris of broken furniture and branches flew around her, stones from the wall and heavier rocks fell heavily to the bottom of the sea.
She still held her breath with fear, and in her head she heard Krunch's words. The pressure of her chest was lifted. She opened her mouth and she could feel air coming from the water. In a panic, she started to breath deeper.
A muffled crashing sound was heard above her. It was the crash of the wave on the castle walls.
Logan moved with the current. She kicked with her legs and swam to the direction, she hoped, was the shore. "There is not a lot of time," she thought to herself.
Huge anemones waved their thin pinkish tentacles toward her. Schools of frightened fish passed her.
Logan's breath grew heavier and heavier. Her hands and legs shook from the effort.
"Just a little more," she thought. She continued to fight against the sea currents, her breath came in heavy pants.
Water entered her lungs. Logan started to cough, and more water entered her body. The brine water burned her lungs and eyes and blinded her. Her body wanted to break the surface and breathe the open air, but she was too heavy. Logan threw her pack, feeling that she was going to pass out soon. She kicked and tried to reach the surface. Her slim body continued to sink. She had a strange feeling in her body, like it was numb. "The eagles…" thought Logan. "The curse…" the heavy waters pulled Logan and drowned her. Her boots touched the poisonous tentacles of the anemones. Her lungs bled and her hands were paralyzed.
A huge shadow covered her. It blocked all the light surrounding her. The shadow grew bigger from above, until giant claws pierced her armour.
Logan was pulled and dragged in the water. The anemones looked smaller and smaller, their tentacles waving goodbye. A great thunder broke the silence and blinding light caused her to close her eyes in pain. Wind gusts hit her. Her head was hanging between the claws of a huge winged creature between sea and sky.
"Take a lungful of air, dear. Let the air pass," said De-Stik. "Welcome to flight silver eagle one, business class."
Still dazed and confused, Logan was terrified when she saw the huge and wicked beak turning toward her, took her and lifted her to his back, right behind De-Stik. Logan held De-Stik's pack with her dear life.
"The eagles…" she murmured. "You did it." A was smile covered her face.
The eagles shook their wings and powerful wind blasts hit her.
"Krunch, Achtisanor – what about them?" asked Logan.
"The greybeard and the lutin?" screamed the eagle and laughed.
"The huge wave carried them and they crashed on the wall," explained De-Stik. "We saw them right before the eagles changed and all. It could be a day so black. But the other eagle was resilient, look to the back."
Logan looked backward and saw the silver eagle and her two friends lying on it. Suddenly she saw a dark shape flying behind them. It was a black bat with a black-robed figure on it. The bat flew quickly toward her friends. Logan felt that something evil was approaching.
"Achtisanor," she called, "behind you."
Achtisanor and Krunch, not understanding her words, waved gladly to her.
"Achtisanor, watch out!" Logan pointed again to the same black bat.
Achtisanor turned his head and it was too late. An arrow pierced his shoulder. Logan took the bow from her shoulder, drew an arrow from De-Stik’s quiver and turned her aim to the dark creature. The creature's eyes shone from inside the hood and looked at her. Logan was dazed and her pull on the string lessened.
"Come on, Logan, shoot the damn thing," called De-Stik. "What are you waiting for, for him to jump on our wing?"
Logan shook herself, pulled the string again and shot it quickly. The arrow hit one of the bat's wings. After a few seconds, Krunch shot a fireball and also hit the bat.
"Someone want fried bat wings?!" called the De-Stik and Logan's eagle. The bat fell into the sea to the sound of the eagles' laughter.
"We have to stop and take care of Achtisanor," screamed Krunch. "Land on the beach."
The eagles landed on the beach not far from the camp. The dying sun peeked above the trees at their back and coloured the treetops with warm dyes. A cold breeze blew from the sea.
Logan and De-Stik leaped from the eagle's back and ran to the wounded Achtisanor.
"Are you okay?" asked Logan.
"It's just the shoulder," Achtisanor touched tentatively at the head of the arrow protruding from his flesh.
"Ready?" asked Krunch, holding the back of the arrow.
Krunch quickly pulled the arrow from Achtisanor and immediately started to dress the wound.
"Good hit, Krunch my friend," De-Stik turned to Krunch. "You helped this bat meet his end."
"Yes," called the eagle that carried Krunch and Achtisanor, "you really made some serious damage."
"What are your names?" Logan approached the eagles.
"Dor and Con," said one of them.
"Or Con and Dor," said the other.
"It depends on your point of view," said the first eagle again and they both burst into laughter.
"Well, Dor," Logan turned to the eagle that saved her.
"Con," he said. "I am Con."
"Well, Con, and Dor," said Logan in confusion, "we owe you a big thank you."
"Sorry?!" called Con.
"Thank you?!" called Dor.
"Please!" both of them called and burst into laughter.
"Did we forget the three magic words?" asked Dor.
"No, all three," answered Con.
"Well, my dear sylvan fighter," said Dor.
"Logan," said Logan.
"Well, Logan," said Dor, "your bald friend told us how you saved the feathers from an elephant crushing and fire breathing monster." He waved the single silver feather on his bald head.
"And the trials and tribulations that you needed to pass in order to do so," Con also waved his single feather.
"Yes, the drowning water and the invisible dragons," said Dor.
"And you, Logan, thank us?!" rebuked Con.
Logan looked at De-Stik, who smiled abashedly.
"Tens of thousands of years we have waited for this moment," rebuked Dor.
"To fly again with honour," called Con.
"We will not forgive you until you take back your thanks!!!" screamed Dor.
Logan looked around in confusion. "Okay… I am sorry," she whispered in hesitation.
"And take back this sorry too," screamed con.
"Hey, hey, hey," De-Stik interrupted, "leave her alone, she had a rough day. We all cannot dally here, no we cannot stay."
"What?" both eagles asked as one.
"Our mission is not over, we need you to fly us to Broncolina on the double," said De-Stik. "Spread your wings, and eat heartily my friends, because there is no end to trouble."
Both eagles were silent as they looked at each other.
"Yes, baldie, by your command." The eagles saluted and leaped to the sky.
Terrible screams were heard from the nearest trees. Achtisanor rose to his feet, placed his wounded left arm close to his body and took the sword with his healthy arm.
"Come," he said to his friends.
The four companions walked quietly to the forest. After a minute, they stood behind thick foliage and a strange sight appeared before them: Van-Sniff was kneeling at the centre; his hands and legs were bound. Four black-robed wizards surrounded him and placed a dagger to his throat. Van-Sniff's helmet and axe were thrown on the ground. Three large tigers walked around, roared and lashed at him.
"Well," one of the wizards said angrily, "who took it?!"
Van-sniff just looked at him with his red eyes and did not utter a word.
"These are the wizards from the missing team," whispered Logan.
"Magic's Might," said Krunch with a frown, "what are they doing?"
"It seems that Van-Sniff has managed to get into trouble with some of his friends," said Achtisanor in derision.
Logan reached her hand to silence him.
"Who has the horn, you piece…" the wizard slapped Van-Sniff soundly.
Van-Sniff continued to ignore him.
"It seems that he does not know," said the wizard, who held the dagger to Van-Sniff's throat, "but maybe you know, Tigertief?" He turned toward Tigertief hideout and turned Van-Sniff toward them.
"Get out of there," called one of the other wizards.
The three tigers continued to walk restlessly.
Tigertief members left their hideout from behind the big shrub and stood in front of the wizards.
"Release him," called Achtisanor.
"Not before you give us the horn," said the wizard with the dagger.
"Never, you scum," called Krunch and lifted his arms, but froze when the dagger was pressed against Van-Sniff's throat.
"It is nice to see you again, Mage Choop Krunch," the wizards smiled.
"Just wait until Highmage Scroo hears of this," said Krunch.
"Highmage Scroo?!" called one of the wizards and started to laugh. "Go on, or you'll see his blood watering the ground."
"Okay," called Logan, "we will give you the horn. Just don't hurt him." She reached her hand into Achtisanor's pack and took out the conch horn.
"Logan, no," called Achtisanor.
Logan looked at her friends. "I am sorry," she said, "this is the right thing to do."
Logan threw the horn to the wizards, while her friends looked with shock. Van-Sniff lowered his eyes.
"There you go, now release him," she called.
One of the wizards took the horn from the ground, closed his eyes and concentrated on the conch. "Yes, it is the horn itself," he assured his friends, "our master will be pleased." Their evil laughter still echoed when they lifted their arms and disappeared.
Van-Sniff stumbled and fell on the ground, his hands still bound behind his back. The tigers leapt on him, licked his face and moaned.
Logan approached Van-Sniff and cut the cords with her dagger.
"I can't believe it, Logan, and in that I am certain," De-Stik said. "You jeopardized this entire mission for this cretin."
"Why did you do this?" asked Krunch.
The tigers approached Achtisanor and licked him as if they knew him.
Logan kneeled and lowered her head to look at Van-Sniff's face.
Van-Sniff lowered his head and sent his arms upwards, and to Achtisanor's surprise, he started to change his shape. After a few seconds, between the tigers, rose Domarwink, their king. His helmet also changed and became a crown, and his axe morphed into a golden sceptre with a green diamond on its head.
The three Tigertiefs looked with open mouths, and they also kneeled next to Logan.
"Your highness," said Achtisanor, "please forgive me for not recognizing you. I owe you my life for saving mine in the castle."
"My king, I am sorry too," said Logan. "I could not let them kill you, the price of your life is dearer than this horn."
"Did you know?" asked Achtisanor. "All this time that Van-Sniff was king Domarwink?"
"Yes," said Logan.
"I hold her oath of secrecy," defended Domarwink. "The plot to put the band together was a ploy of us both. When I told her that Scorpion Sting had disappeared and that Kiril, her brother, was among them, Logan demanded to search him. I have agreed, but only if she is accompanied by a professional team. She asked me to help her unite you, and so I did. I have impersonated Van-Sniff not only to make you, Achtisanor, come back and fight; I have used his presence to participate in the mission itself since it was so important. I could not have appeared as myself because then I would have become the focus of Klaxes's forces in the city of reflections."
"I understand," said Achtisanor.
"A terrible thing happened now, Achtisanor," said Domarwink, "and I know it is my fault. The question that everyone will ask now is if my presence caused us the terrible loss of the horn, or was I supposed to be there in order to save your lives at the castle, which could be a loss for the entire Nature kingdom. We cannot change the past. We are all alive and well: We live another day – to fight for tomorrow."
A terrible disaster, a terrible deed
Oh brothers, a disaster indeed.
A betrayal from within, slithering like a snake,
With so much on the balance, so much at stake.
What happens now? It is not too late, I pray,
We live today – to fight another day,