The Griffin Lord

Hey guys.

Welcome to the Griffin Lord page. Below I slowly release the segment of my book the Griffin Lord that I have written. Now note I am no longer working on this story, and the rough draft is not even complete. Thus eventually all of this is going to come to a dead end, and you will be left without a finish. However, do not despair, for I am working on other works, such as Bayonet.

A few notes: This is a semi-completed rough draft. Basically that means it is really unedited. Rough. So I hope you don’t mind.

Another thing. There are many things I wish to remain mine. These were my ideas, and I would like them to not be released to the public except in the form of a published book. Many of these things are names, words, titles. etc. So I replaced the ones I like with other ones. Ones that I came up with in mere minutes. So, the names Anven, Honwise, Seerka, and Jacken, had better originals. They simply can’t be said until a later date. Also, the names of the swords (the names ending with the suffix “gorn”) also sounded better, but they cannot be said. Do you understand my meanings?

Thanks, and enjoy.

Prologue

“SURE IS GORGEOUS tonight, huh Eljay,” Vren the Minotaur says to his Faun friend.

“Aye,” Eljay mumbles, looking carefully through his spyglass at the night sky and only half-listening. The watchtower, by far the highest tower in Ayvaria, provides a perfect view of all that goes on in the skies of the Terradorn, the world that he had grown up in. But it is easy to get distracted with the millions of blue, yellow, and violet stars and the deep blue night sky from his watch. We need to stay focused, Eljay says to himself mentally. The four moons in all quadrants of the sky bowl hover over the Grand Palace to accompany the pair on their midnight watch. With the Draegors getting stirred up recently, anything could happen. He shudders as he thinks of the shape-shifting Draegors, set on killing all Humans. They can morph into any creature they like, and you only can tell the difference between them and other species by their completely black eyes. Depthless, dull, glaring black eyes. Eljay lowers his spyglass as he wonders.

“Do not stop searching the skies, my friend,” Vren warns. “The Draegors have nasty habits of disguising themselves in the night. The naked eye cannot always detect their black skin from the night, if they so choose to have dark skin. Let your glass be your aid in spying them out.”

Eljay lifts up his small telescope to his eye again. “You may have to hold up my arm, Vren,” Eljay jests. “My Faunish arms are the arms of the Humans. Yours are those of a bull, much stronger than mine.”

Vren laughs and joins his friend near the edge of the watchtower. He leans on the parapet casually and looks out over the fields of Dareveil to the South, the mountains of Minodom southwest, and the plains of Cenosia southeast. A large plane of beautiful contrast. “Aye, you speak rightly about your Human arms,” he says. “But your goat legs are unmatched in all of Terradorn. I pity the man who takes a kick from one of your hooves.”

“The Humans may be weak, but they are one of the three firstborn races and they have dominion over our five provinces of Ayvaria,” Eljay defends his rulers. “I will never question King Anven’s loyalty to us and our brothers.”

Vren nods his head covered in mats of curly black hair. He suddenly looks up. “Eljay, try focusing om that patch of black over the second moon.”

Eljay grunts a yes and angles his spyglass directly on the glowing white moon. “Why, there are silhouettes of wild griffins flying east! What a sight!”

“Are you sure?” Vren asks. He examines the moon closer. He hears the metal of the spyglass slide together smoothly as Eljay focuses in on the lionlike griffins.

“Sure as ever!” the faun says, joyful for something to perk up the night. “See! There’s their beaks and wings, but lower down are their claws. See their tails shift with the wind? Here, you take a look.”

Vren takes the spyglass from Eljay and focuses on a griffin slowly flying over the moon. “I see them now, but there’s only one problem.” Eljay waits for Vren to continue. “It’s far past their migration period to the East; precisely three moons ago they left. It can’t be wild griffins then, but they aren’t mounted, and if they were, the Sky Calvary should be on the patrolling the West, not near here at all.” Eljay tries to see without the spyglass but finds his Faun eyes can’t reach the distance to the moon efficiently.

“Wait a moment,” Vren mumbles. Suddenly the Minotaur’s calm face turns to that of one of surprise and shock. “Unicorns and phoenixes!” he exclaims.

“What! What is it?” Eljay hollers. He grabs his horns tensely and scrapes his hoofs against the cold stone floor. He waits for his friend’s reply

“Their eyes!” Vren cries. “They’re black! Now tell me what griffin in Terradorn has black eyes!”

“The Draegors!” Eljay yells. “They’re coming to Ayvaria!”

“It’s ten phalanxes of them! Quick! Sound the alarm!” Eljay runs to the giant copper bell in the watchtower. He leaps up and kicks it with all his might. The bell swings back and forth, sending the clapper inside beating on the edges. The bell bursts forth an ear-shattering shrill gong! that echoes through the city streets, warning all of the attack at hand.

Vren clumsily tosses the spyglass aside and leaps clear off the tower. He knows his legs aren’t as strong as Eljay’s, but he hopes with all his heart that they will hold with the dangerous jump to the wall below. He lands on the crenellations just missing the edge. He feels his legs shiver at the impact. Then he leaps down of the ramparts; another eighty foot fall. He watches as windows of rooms built into the walls fly past him as he soars down. At last he lands—in a pile of cow manure, but it softens his fall enough for him to find no broken bones. We wipes off the smelly scat from his fur. It will take many moons for this smell to leave me, he thinks as he begins his run through the streets.

“We are under attack!” he bellows over the gongs from the bell. “The Draegors are here! Get ready for battle! Defend the king and queen!”

Vren’s cries and the bell’s shrill warnings ring through the lonely gravel streets near the edge of the castle all the way to the marble paths of the Grand Palace. All the servants and attendants of the royal abode scurry about frantically in attempts to spread the word to the captains of the armies and to the king.

“What?” King Anven Bravewing III rages after the Centaur maidservant breaks the news to him. He has no time to get angry. “Defend the air with the Sky Calvary!” he orders. “If the Draegors come as griffins, we will return their strike on griffinback. Strengthen the Northern Perimeter from infantry. Line the walls with Elven Defenders. Protect the heirs!”

“Yes, my king,” the girl trembles to her ruler just before he barks more orders. She gallops away down the stone stairs to relay the orders to the commanders of the armies. The Human king continues to send battalions and defense squads against the oncoming attack, but through his commands a single question rings through his head: Can I protect my country from a foe who’s only difference is their black eyes?

The throne room becomes a flurry of activity. Anven hears the first of the explosions echo in the street. One rattles the stain-glass windows to his left and right. A few guards stumble and fall at the tremor. Another explosion shakes the very tower in which the throne room sits.  At this windows shatter and statues of celebrated knights break. Anven himself falls off the stairs to his throne and lands sorely on his back. He groans in the pain that he feels consume his back. He stands up slowly and helps others to their feet. Then he continues his chant of orders. He only stops his commands when he feels a gentle hand on his back.

Anven turns and sees his wife, Queen Seerka, stroking his bare shoulder.

“Anven?” she asks tenderly. Anven feels ready to sacrifice his entire kingdom to live forever with this beauty. “Our children? The heirs?” Seerka asks.

“I sent a whole host of Minotaurs to defend the Nursery,” he says with no small portion of fear in his voice. “Crawth is leading them,” he says for more his own comfort than his wife’s.

“You know they can’t protect them,” Seerka says. “If Minotaurs defend them, the Draegors will just shape-shift into dragons. No one can keep the three safe here,” Seerka makes sure she stresses the last word.

Anven eyes Seerka suspiciously, but then he understands. He sighs. “Do what you see fit, but please realize that once that choice is made, it can’t be undone.”

“I understand,” Seerka whispers softly, “but if it protects our children from death, I am willing to do it.”

“But what if you don’t make it?” Anven asks. A new fear kindles in his mind, spreading like the wildfires that now roar outside. “What if those firstborn creatures get to you first?”

“I’m not the weakest cub of the litter,” Seerka says, gently rubbing the pummel of Fölconn, her sword. “And don’t worry. I’ll bring my sentinels with me.”

Anven nods in the midst of all the busyness around the couple. He grabs the shoulder of his wife. “Live and justify,” he says, reciting his country’s common saying.

Seerka kisses her husband’s cheek. “Live and justify,” she says, and she runs off, signaling only two of her female sentinels to come with her.

Anven sighs, and even through his orders, his minds focuses on one thing: his family’s protection. He knows those Draegors would stop at nothing to kill off all Humans, male or female, adult or babe. From the dawn of time there had been a rivalry between the two firstborn races. Eventually the Humans put it aside, focusing on building their dominion. They gained rulership over Fauns, Minotaurs, Elves, Centaurs, and Werewolves, each placing them in a province in the pentagon-shaped country of Ayvaria, but the Draegors never stopped. They plotted always in their dwellings in their islands to the West of the world Terradorn on how to rid this world of Humans, their rivals from the beginning. Anven can only imagine what they would do to Seerka, queen of the Humans and Ayvaria, but nevertheless the jewel of Anven’s life, if they got here hands on her.

He draws his sword Phaehiem, an ancient translation of phoenix, from the leather sheath over his back. He pulls off his royal cloak, leaving him without any garb but his gold tunic that hangs from his shoulders to his knees. He is done giving orders. He is done commanding others to fight. It is his turn to partake of the new war. He rushes from the throne room and down the spiral stairs, climbing lower and lower to the ground of the Grand Palace. As soon as he is out of the tower gate, he spies his chance to pick off one of the Draegors. In the form of a dragon, a Draegor near the edge of the battle tears ferociously at a Centaur at the ground, picking out its entrails one by one. Anven runs at the foe and slides on his knees under the dragon stomach. He pushes his sword up and lets it cut through the soft scales as he speeds under. He rolls out of underneath the Draegor just as the innards pour out from the tear in its body. The creature falls down on the ground lifelessly as Anven cleans his blade on his tunic. He flips back his brown hair out of his face. Live and justify, he thinks. One down, a whole army to go.

He stands up and runs out into the center of the war. The battlegrounds are already filled with ruin and destruction, loss of lives and blood, but Anven isn’t deterred. His Titan training taught him not to focus on the lost, but on preserving that which is still not. Phaehiem’s veins that run along the outside of the silver blade glow orange and red like fire, for its bearer is a Phoenix Lord, master of the fire birds of the air. He swipes the blade through a nearby Draegor. The sword leaves a trail of fire and sparks as it slices cleanly through the neck. The Draegor shrieks in pain and bursts out in flames, reduced only to a bit of ash. Anven mounts the back of Draegor Centaur, jumping off only after he stabs its heart.

An Elf runs near him. Anven takes a quick look at the warrior’s eyes: green, not black. This man is not a Draegor. He grabs his arm.

“How fare our troops?” Anven asks.

“Oh king, live forever! May your enemies—”

“Quit the formalities and tell me the state of the battle!”

The Elf shudders at his king’s anger. “The Draegors came mostly from the air. Our walls prove useless,” he says. “They flew right into the heart of the Palace.”

“And the Werewolves?” Anven asks. “A pack is near here. I heard them howling a half-an-hour ago. Did they come to help us?”

“They are still indignant to fight with us, sir,” the Elf says, anxiously looking around as a Draegor runs just near them. The king sticks out his sword lightly, beheading the hasty Draegor instantly.

“Why?” Anven asks, not even looking at the dead enemy.

The Elf pauses. “Because they themselves welcomed the Draegor’s arrival.”

The king grunts his disapproval. “Then they are against us,” he says. “They must have made a deal with the Draegors for their separation. They always hated being a part of Ayvaria. Surely the Draegors promised them peace.”

The Elf nods, the stops dead. Thwaaaap! An arrow tip protrudes from his neck, having come from a Draegor bowman from behind. The Elf warrior falls to his knees, then stumbles on his face.

“Live and justify,” he groans, and then he breathes his last.

When Anven takes a look at the battle again, he is momentarily frightened. The once beautiful Grand Palace is already wreaking with the putrid smell of the dead. Mangled warriors of Ayvaria fight valiantly, more often than not without a limb or a with whole in their stomach. But it is to no avail. The Draegors are stronger, welcoming the fight. They laugh in malice as they slaughter thousands upon thousands. Ayvarian knights die in droves, and the Draegors are pleased to take their blood upon their own head and hands. They shout ear-busting battle cries that mingle with the never-ceasing sound of the bell in the watchtower.

A Draegor charges at Anven in the shape of a massive cyclops. The king had never faced a beast of this size before. There’s a first time for everything.

The king leaps up as the cyclops sweeps a club the size of a tree down in a wide arc. The club passes clearly under Anven’s legs, but when Anven lands again, the club is already coming back around. He runs at the cyclops’ legs. He slashes Phaenhiem across the gooey flesh, but the fire from the sword’s soul does not continue to burn. It extinguishes before even spreading a foot around, and it only seems to anger the Draegor. It roars and lowers his fist down at the king, but he rolls out of the way. He leaps up on the Draegor’s back and climbs on sore-filled flesh. When he reaches the neck, the massive creature tries to pull Anven off, but just in time the king stabs his sword deep in the neck. As the Draegor pulls on Anven’s body, Anven pulls on Phaenhiem, creating a large gouge. The blade cuts through the throat, and at last the half cut-off head falls roughly off. Anven jumps from the loosening meaty hands of the Draegor and lands solidly on the ground.

The warrior king looks around for a new target. Then he sees him. A lone Draegor in the form of an Elf with griffin wings flies heavenward, turning its mouth to that of a dragon only to burst a ball of flame at a soldier. This is obviously a skilled shape-shifter, for all Draegors require practice to morph into another creature. Anven snarls and runs after the black-eyed beast, intending to slice it through like he had done to the previous one. But this Draegor has other ideas.

Anven leaps up in the air, sword over his head with both hands. The Draegor whirls around and blocks the strike with a previously unseen sword. Anven flips up and over the foundation of the perpendicular blades and rolls to the ground. In an instant, he is in a traditional crouch, poised for striking.

“Anven,” the Draegor hisses. “I suppose you don’t recognize me in my Elf face.” In a flash, the Draegor morphs his head to that of a dragon, but the rest of his form stays as is.

“Thorneous,” Anven growls, slowly rising to his feet. “I should have known it was you who led this attack.”

“And I should have known it was you who puts up this feeble attempt to ward it off!” Thorneous says with a hideous laugh. “Oh wait, I did.” With that he lunges at Anven who leaps up in the air, swinging Phaenhiem around like a lightning bolt, leaving fire where the blade has been but a moment ago. Thorneous breathes flames at Anven, but the Human merely dodges it by a leap to the left. Thorneous again tries to scorch the king, but again his attempt proves fruitless. The dark and light swords clash together, and the opposing rulers push at the other, eyeing the other fiercely. They quickly step away and fall into a swift series of attacks and defenses, strikes and parries.

“Give up, Anven!” the Draegor growls, swiftly bringing his sword down from his right flank to his left.

“Never,” the king argues, deflecting the lethal slash near his neck.

Thorneous roars, signaling his lowers to come and help him in the duel. Three other Draegors come galloping forward to his aid, but in a second Anven cuts through two of the three’s throats. The remaining is not stirred however, and he swings out a massive mace from behind his back. The wrecking spike ball clashes in Anven’s chest, sending him backwards by a pile of golden rubble. Phaenhiem flies out of his hand, clattering on the ground in front of the mace-wielding Draegor.

Anven rolls to the ground, clutching his broken ribs. He feels pain spreading through every fiber of his body. His thin battle-tunic is torn through the center, scalelike armor ripped off. Even his mail vest beneath is hanging open to his bare chest, bleeding heavily. He watches as the mace Draegor leans over to grab Phaenhiem. Anven smiles despite his immense pain, predicting the Draegor’s demise. As the warrior grips the sword, his hands begin to shake. Smoke rises from his body, and in a burst of flames, he is gone.

Anven can’t let this go without comment. “Your men are fools, Thorneous! No non-Humans can wield Phaenhiem; they turn to fire if they do!”

Thorneous doesn’t listen. “Get up, you coward!” He grabs Anven by the remains of his garb and yanks him up into a kneeling position. Anven feebly attempts to bat the Draegor off, but Thorneous sings his sword through Anven’s fingers. The king yelps and holds his injured right hand. Blood seeps from every pore.

“Now,” Thorneous grins. “Let’s talk business.”

Edits end here. The following may have inconsistencies to the previous text.

Seerka rushes through the long halls to the Nursery with her sentinels close by. Falcongorn is in her hand, ready for the striking. She sees a flash of lightning through the window, shortly followed by a rumble of thunder.

I need to get to the Nursery soon, Seerka thinks. An explosion shakes the ground outside. Alive.

She makes a quick left down another long hall, followed by her fellow warriors. She stops. At the end of the hall she sees help. A lone Minotaur stands there, silently brandishing his axe.

“Oh!” Seerka sighs with relief. She runs ahead of the girls that had sworn to protect her. “Crawth! Is that you? Listen, I need help. Have your forces—”

“My queen! Stop!” one of the sentinels call. The Minotaur roars loudly as Seerka approaches. She notices the black eyes too late. The Draegor in the form of a Minotaur swings his massive axe at Seerka’s head, but her reflexes are quick. She ducks under the strike and slides under the Draegor’s legs. She grabs his horns roughly, hoping to break them off, but suddenly they disappear.

What the…The Draegor is on the ground, no longer in the form of a Minotaur but in the form of a black falcon. The bird flies at Seerka and claws at her face. She feels the talons tear her flesh as easily as a sword cuts parchment, but Seerka is no fool with falcons. She takes Falcongorn and cuts the talons clean off, her sword passing directly in front of her face. She grabs the giant bird of prey and presses her hand down its spine, at last feeling the pressure point she is looking for. She pushes her finger in, and the falcon falls limp in her hands. She drops the big bird and keeps running down the hall with her guards. That was too close.

At last they reach the Nursery, but it is not how they had hoped to see it. Seerka walks slowly up to the demolished doors that lean against the doorframe in splinters. She leaps over the charred ruins and enters the room.

Inside, it is not a pretty sight. All over the guards lay bleeding on the floor. Phaelans, Elites, and Titans seem frozen in battle with arrows in their necks. Crawth’s forces are scattered over the entire area. Her brother is sprawled over a mass of Draegor bodies with sword in hand.

When the sentinels enter, they see Seerka running over to her brother. “Bix, please be alive,” she whimpers to her older sibling. “Don’t die on me! I need you!” She puts her ear to his chest, and she hears the slightest sound of a beating heart. But she had arrived just as his life is fading. The heartbeats stop. He is dead.

Seerka stands up, wiping bitter tears from her face. Stop crying, Seerka! She needs to focus on her mission. Her three children, the heirs of the Ayvariaian thrones, still lie somewhere in the room, dead or alive.

“Search the entire area,” she orders her sentinels. “Astrid, you find Layis. Selthia, find Honwise. I’ll search for Bravmun. Leave any other survivors you see, Draegor or Ayvariaian. The children are the priority now.” The three separate.

Creeping around the eerie room, Seerka strains her ears over the battle noises outside, listening for any sign of life, and that of one of her children. At last she hears it. A faint whimper. The word ‘mama.’ She runs to the source of the noise.

“Where are you?!” she cries loudly, not worrying in the slightest about enemy troops finding her location; so much is her love for her children. At last she finds the source. A torn tapestry hanging by a window. Though in rags, the curtain must have provided the perfect covering for a small cradle as the enemy troops had marched by. Seerka finds her vision drawn to the floor. On the ground lay the corpse of the Royal Nurse, kitchen knife in hand, defending to the last the hiding place of the royal infant. Seerka gently draws the curtain aside, and behind it she sees a cradle. And within is her son wrapped up in a silk blanket.

Seerka carefully picks up her son. She combs his ginger hair with her fingers and holds him tight. Though he’s only two moons old, the mother loves her son and his siblings like nothing else. But she knows she can’t cradle her son in the Nursery forever. She must bring him to his new home.

She wraps the blanket over his now sleeping face, covering his dark brown eyes.

“My queen!” a voice echoes. Astrid. “I have found Layis! She was walking around by the wardrobe.”

“I have Honwise!” Selthia calls. Seerka can sense her cradling the baby boy.

“And I have Bravmun!” Seerka calls. “Get to the Gallery! Now!” Seerka hears the two run out of the room. Creeping in the shadows, Seerka too opens the front door and runs out.

Seerka looks around. The battle scene is a perfect definition of the word ‘carnage.’ Thousands of bodies lay around the ruins of the Grand Palace, all wreaking the same putrid stench. Blood stains the earth that she treads upon, and mangled limbs of the offenders and the defenders rest amongst piles of rubble and broken stone. She dashes through such a scene of disgust and massacre now with her son in one hand and Falcongorn in the other. She runs behind a pile of ruined stone that had used to be from a wall of gold. She crouches low to catch her breath. The Gallery is just over there, she thinks. She sees Astrid and Selthia far ahead, now inside. She is about to dash off when she hears a voice.

“Surrender, coward,” the voice orders. Seerka doesn’t recognize it; it is venomous. “The throne is not a fitting place for your kind.”

“There is more than one throne in this world, Thorneous,” another voice says. Seerka recognizes this one; it is the voice of her husband, Anven. She can tell that he is in pain. “Not all the thrones need belong to you.”

“I know that, my king,” Thorneous mocks. “I just want one throne: the one that gives me the ability to kill all Humans.”

“You can kill us, but you cannot wipe us out.”

“Care to explain?” The Draegor leader is testing Anven.

“Even if we lose all of our numbers, the memory of us will never be lost. It will remain till the end of time. Whether it is through rebels, or words, or war, you will be fought by our memory.”

“You act as if this is any old war, Anven,” A pause, “but we both know that it’s not.” Seerka turns to see Thorneous rubbing his sword on the back of Anven’s neck. Seerka leans in closer to see the ancient script chiseled into the sword. Terrorgorn. Fitting.

“I don’t want to be rivals, Thorneous!” Anven exclaims. “I would much rather be brothers. Let us take the advantage of being of the firstborn and work together!”

“But my king, all brothers bicker.” Thorneous brandishes Terrorgorn in the air as if killing an invisible foe. Seerka can tell he enjoys taunting his victims.

“What about the others?” Anven is on his knees, but Seerka knows he didn’t get there without a fight. “The Fauns, the Centaurs, the Elves, the Minotaurs, the—”

“Those who defend you will die,” Thorneous growls. “and the rest will be given a second chance to say who’s side their on.”

Anven breathes deeply. His chest heaves up and down in thought. Phoenixgorn is out of reach. His sword-hand is missing several fingers. He either surrenders, or he dies.

“What about me?”

“What?” Thorneous asks in surprise. He laughs as he nears Anven. “I was planning to make a public scene out of this,” Thorneous steadies Terrorgorn, “but I suppose I’ll just do it now. I already have a crowd.” He gestures to the devastating battle around them.

“You won’t kill me without a fight!” Anven roars, but it is in vain. He knows he can’t fight, let alone win. He slowly stands up, but he tumbles down. Thorneous laughs as he circles around him. He grabs Anven by his hair and pulls him up.

“Say ‘hi’ to your wife for me,” he says cruelly

Anven only has a moment to realize the Draegor’s meaning. “What?! No you didn’t! I’m gonna—” Anven is cut off. Phoenixgorn is protruding from his back. He falls to the ground. “Live and justify,” he groans, and the Human king of Ayvaria breathes his last.

Seerka fights back the urge to cry. Her muscles tense up and her spirit groans. Thorneous begins speaking more. No, this is not the time to mourn. She needs to listen. Her country depends on it.

A Draegor runs up to Thorneous’ side. “My king,” he says.

“Yes, Commander Oroe?” Thorneous is obviously frustrated.

“A small team of Humans escaped into the woods not two hours ago. But the woods are enchanted. My men can’t—”

“Pursue them, Oroe! We must not let any Humans live!”

“Yes sir!” Oroe gives a Draegor salute.

“And one more thing, Oroe,” Thorneous says. “Tell our comrades to the East to rest easy. We have the kingdom now.”

Oroe nods and walks away, just passing Seerka’s hiding spot.

Seerka looks at her husband’s dead face. She thinks of his last words. Live and justify. She has to choose now which to do: to live and save her children, or to justify by killing Anven’s slayer.

She looks at her son’s face. As much as it pains her, she makes her choice. Live. Seerka stands up and runs to the Gallery.

Seerka enters the domed room known as the Gallery. She peers around the room, but she only sees Astrid and Selthia safely inside, carefully scanning the area. She carefully creeps around the edges, feeling along the curved walls. She examines the pictures of she and her husband, along with all the other paintings of ancient kings and queens. She studies the hearth by the wall. In its fireplace dance everlasting flames. Seerka joins her sentinels in the search once again. Where are they?

Her eyes are drawn to the far side of the room. There sits a desk, cluttered with parchment and pens. She edges to the table and sits down on the wooden stool by it. She searches through numerous scrolls and manuscripts, laying aside useless gadgets and tools. Aha! There they are, her children’s rescuers. The three pentagon teleporters.

“Over here!” she calls to the others. “I found the teleporters!” Astrid and Selthia bound over with the children in their arms.

Seerka examines one of the devices, as do the other two women. Not only can one teleport you to any world you want, but it also symbolizes Ayvaria. Shaped as a pentagon, it is made of five separate blue triangle plates, joined together in the center by a glowing blue orb. It signifies the five triangular provinces of Ayvaria, joined together by the Capital Axis where the Grand Palace sits and where the war rages now. The panels and orbs are made of the metal varadesk, but a special energy called listmere alters them to look transparent and glow blue.

“Put them down here,” Seerka says. Reluctantly, the two others put the adorable babies down onto the desk. “Now go.”

“But my queen!” Astrid protests. “You need help! We will protect you!”

Go!” Seerka insists forcefully. “Save yourselves! Find the team of Humans in the Enchanted Woods and join them!” The two look at each other and run out of the Gallery.

Seerka puts her son and the teleporter down. She mentally recalls the step-by-step process of arranging the plates for the proper teleportation. She twists one of the varadesk panels, immediately hearing listmere hum from within. It’s working. She twists another one, turning it on a forty-five degree angle to the other remaining three. She silently turns the rest of the triangles in different patterns until the entire Gallery bursts with the constant tune of listmere working. She takes another teleporter, this one before Layis. She arranges the machine in the exact way that she did with the previous one, and then again with the last teleporter. She takes a deep breath and grabs a stray piece of parchment. She jots a message down on it with an old pen, then slips the paper in Honwise’s teleporter

She turns back to Layis. She lifts her up and gently snuggles her in her arms. “I love you,” she says caressingly. She carefully places the teleporter in her hands.

“Now don’t you turn any of these panels now,” Seerka says through sniffles. She bites her lip, trying not to cry. “We don’t know where that would take you.” Seerka kisses her daughter’s forehead. “The Humans of Earth will take good care of you. But just don’t forget about us.” She places her finger on the blue orb. The two-year-old toddler can see the concern of her mother’s eyes. She is the eldest of the three children, the boys both being newborns. And she is smart for her age, and she can tell her mother’s emotions. “Live and justify,” and Seerka pushes the round button. In a flash, the baby and the device disappear from Ayvaria’s world.

Seerka moves over to Bravmun. She kisses his dark cheek and runs her hands through his ginger hair. He looks just like his father. She gives the child the teleporter and exchanges her last words with her son. She presses the orb in the center, sending her son away to Earth.

That leaves just Honwise.

She picks up her sleeping son and embraces him in the way only mothers can. Subtle tears escape from her eyes and onto her son. “Remember us,” she says, stroking his blonde hair. The babe opens his brilliant green eyes and yawns. He looks around in attempts to recognize his whereabouts, but he clings back to his mother when he fails to remember. This makes it even harder for Seerka to let go. But eventually, she places Honwise on the desk in the sea of parchment. She uses her trembling hands to give the teleporter to her son.

“Help us,” she says, and she presses the center. Her son ceases to be in Ayvaria, traveling through space and time to Earth.

Seerka begins to sob. How quick everything had happened, and she had sent her three children unprotected to Earth in hopes that they would live to come back. But her cries only last for a moment.

The Gallery doors open. Seerka swings herself over the desk. She spies three Draegors, and one of them is Commander Oroe in his Elf form.

“Don’t let them escape,” Oroe says sternly. “Those Humans must die.”

“But they’re in the Enchanted Woods!” another says. “We might die if we go their. Don’t you know the curse? If any Draegor sets foot in there, he—”

“I don’t want to hear about any stupid curse!” Oroe spits on the ground in disgust. “That team of Humans must die, or they’ll kill us in our sleep!”

Seerka cautiously makes her way through the dark shadows to the three Draegors standing by the doors. She isn’t going to let any more Humans die by the hands of Draegors.

Except herself.

She lunges at one of the lower commanders. She stabs Falcongorn through his back, making sure its curved varadesk blade pierces through the warriors heart. She tosses the lifeless body aside, but not without first taking one of his javelins. She spears the other commander, leaving just Oroe left. Oroe has his bow out in a flash, but just as he is about to let one of his arrows fly into Seerka’s heart, she throws her sword at the bowstring. As she expected, it snaps to the ground. But now she has no weapon, and she has to use her hands.

She runs at Oroe, he now armed with nothing but the arrow in his hand. She lunges her hands at his neck, locking her position into a strangling grip. Oroe fights to remove her hands from his neck, but they don’t budge, them slowly cutting off his supply of fresh air. Oroe takes his arrow and plunges it deep into Seerka’s side. She groans in pain. Fresh blood pours out of her wound. But she does not let go.

Again and again Oroe stabs Seerka, once in the stomach and twice in her thigh, but she never lets go. She watches as Oroe’s face turns from red to white. He uses the rest of his strength to pass the arrow once more into Seerka’s stomach, but it is too late. He shudders, and faints into death. Seerka drops his dead corpse and grasps her wounds. They are fatal, and she knows she won’t survive.

“Well those Humans won’t die any time soon,” Seerka groans to herself, making her chuckle. But she remembers her children again, and reality rushes back. She begins to cry, and immediately she coughs up blood that pours down her neck to the floor. “Live and justify,” she moans, and Queen Seerka Bravewing the Bold dies.

Chapter One

The Orphan Pilot

STUDYING THE DIAGRAM first, Jackson Scepter jots down a few more notes on the scrap of paper on his desk. He looks once more at the textbook that lies open in front of him, then turns back to his work. He draws the diagram as if he is designing blueprints; every line accurate, every complexity noted. Copying a detailed sketch of a fifth generation Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor from a college-level textbook is no easy task for the average person, but for Jackson, it’s second nature. He takes careful notes of the fiber optics data transmission technology along with the jet’s hovering capabilities. He is amazed every time he looks at such a complex work of airborne machinery, but he knows every part of it. He has memorized every textbook about the RAF Gloster Meteor to the Sukhoi PAK FA. He’s learned about how the air behaves in all temperatures, how to handle turbulence, and even how momentum can affect a 120 mph barrel-role.

Jackson closes the giant book in front of him and sighs. He hopes that someday he’ll match up to his father’s ability to steer any fighter jet. He has never tried to actually pilot one, but he knows how to. He has the knowledge, but not the experience. He wants to fly more than anyone else, whether by jet or balloon or glider. And when he is of age, he will guarantee anyone that he will be a pilot, Pilot Jackson Scepters, son of the renowned Noah Scepters.

Adopted son,” he groans. He places his face in his hand, running his other one through his blonde hair. He is the exact contrast of his dark-haired dark-skinned parents. Even his green eyes show it. Everybody knows he doesn’t come from around here. Everybody knows that he is not the biological son of Carrie and Noah Scepters. He’s different, and no one tries to change that.

He slides the Fifth Generation Jet Fighters of 2005 Vol. 2 in his backpack. When it hits the bottom, he hears a dull metallic clank. He reaches his hand in and feels something cold and smooth. He pulls it out to see what it is.

He sighs once again. It’s that pentagonal glowing thing. It’s another thing that reminds him of his adoption. They say they found it with him when they spotted him in an office building. It is designed relatively simple; just five glowing blue triangles connected together by a small blue ball in the center. But it always ends up where Jackson doesn’t want it: in his locker, in his bed, and now in his backpack.

I swear I put it in my dresser this afternoon, he thinks as he tosses it on his bed. It seems to appear randomly all over the place as if to constantly remind him of his adoption.

“Jackson! Dinner!” he hear from downstairs. Ma. He cherishes that voice with all that’s in him, but it seems almost distant, or separated from him. Unfamiliar at times. Just another reminder of his adoption.

“Coming!” Jackson calls. He hastily throws his diagram of the jet fighter in his desk drawer before running out of his room. He runs down the stairs of their giant Floridan villa and hangs a right at the bottom. His ma and dad sit at the ends of the table, and he takes his place at the side.

Mmm! He smells the aromas of tonight’s dinner. On the table sits platter after platter of delicious food, all coming from Mr. Scepters’ paycheck and Mrs. Scepters’ kitchen. They say their prayers and they begin to eat.

“So Jackson,” Dad says. “How was school earlier today?”

Jackson frowns with a mouthful of milk. He swallows and says, “Oh, nothing special. Me and Asher both got B minuses on our math tests.”

“‘Asher and I,’” Ma corrects. “And I would like to see some A plusses from now on.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Jackson says. “So Dad!” Jackson smiles, quickly changing the subject. “How’s work?”

Dad chuckles. “I haven’t heard that question from many other sons, ya know Jackson,” he says with a smirk. “It was okay. The techies made some progress on the sixth generation models, but we still don’t think we’ll get the Next Gen. TACAIR till 2030.”

“2030?!” Jackson exclaims, knocking his fork on the floor. “That’s like fifteen years from now!”

“Sixteen,” Ma corrects again, slowly chewing on her pork.

“Yeah. Right,” Jackson says.

“That’s just because were slowing down,” Dad says. “We need some more advanced guys like you working on it.” Dad elbows his son in the side playfully.

Jackson laughs. I love my parents so much, he muses. But every time he feel such emotions his mind goes to his adoption. He doesn’t know where he comes from, but he knows he didn’t come from his parents. He craves for knowledge of his past. His roots.

The rest of dinner passes without much event; just talking and laughing. But through the entire meal Jackson feels a pit in his stomach. He hears words in his mind like abandonment and different. He listens to voices that say things like you don’t belong here or your not one of them. He closes his eyes to silence the voices, but they don’t stop. They ring in his mind like a bell of a church, never ceasing, never leaving.

He walks upstairs to his room. He closes and locks the door. His gaze falls on the bed. The pentagonal device is no longer there, but on the floor as if something knocked it off. Jackson looks around for anything that could have pushed it off: a fallen lamp or a heavy book, but he finds nothing. It is a mystery he can’t solve tonight.

He takes the machine and put it on the dresser. “Don’t you go anywhere, now, ya hear?” he orders. Why am I talking to it? He groans and sits on his bed. I best get some sleep, he thinks. Tomorrow’s a new day; a new day of school.

He frowns and lies down in his bed. He checks once more that the machine is on his dresser, and he gives himself up to sleep.

Chapter Two

Son of Fire

SILAS JONES HEAVES a massive log on the fire that roars on the beach. He grins as he hears the familiar poof! crack! sssss! The sparks fly in the air like little glowing fairies, dancing in the air under the full moon. The fire in the stone-built pit roars like a lion and purrs like a crocodile, the latter living in Silas’ home in Australia. The fire blazes like a massive orange forest. Silas watches as the fire grows twice his hight, a perfect example of the word ‘bonfire.’ It steadily grows higher and higher until it seems like it could scorch the clouds.

Silas exhales deeply and smiles. Fire. It feels like the one thing he can control, for there are many things he can’t. If he wants it to be an ashtray of smoldering embers, he can make it so. If he wants it to be a towering pillar of fire as it is now, he can always make it so. Fire seems his home more than his secluded cottage in Australia’s Snake Island. The flames are his place of refuge. His friend. His father.

Father. How Silas wishes he could have a deeper relationship with his adopting parents. He feels as if an invisible gate separates his love and his father’s. That doesn’t mean that the love isn’t there in the first place. It just can’t show itself. Try as it may, it can’t get through that gate of separation. Some love occasionally can make it over, climbing to the summit of the high-reaching gate, but by the time it reaches the ground on the other side, it is wondering why it put all that effort into getting there. Silas doesn’t understand why he can’t show his love to his parents. He wants to burn that invisible gate to the ground. But he can’t. It’s all because of the adoption.

It hadn’t always been as it is now. He used to have a great relationship with his parents, but that is because he had no idea about the adoption. Time had seemed to go too fast then, for Jackson didn’t want his happy life with his family to ever end. But it did. One the day of his thirteenth birthday, his parents came together and told Silas about his adoption, every bit of it. His happy life was over, and a new sad one started. And that is when he lives now.

So Silas goes to fire to tell his worries and concerns to. Almost every bit of free time he gets he spends it on the sandy beach, collecting a few rocks to make a fire pit with. When he is done, he grabs a match and whoosh! Voila! Fire. His friend and father.

Silas’ parents don’t even know where he comes from. They don’t have a country name or even a rough idea of his birth location. All they know that he was found in some office building one day, sitting on a table as if he had appeared from thin air. They said he smelled smoke, and to this day he still does, playing with fire as if some dangerous toy.

Silas sits down on a log, watching the flames curl around the rotting wood from the large expanse of woods behind him. He is thankful for the beach near his lonely cottage. Here he can send out smoke into the faraway clouds, watching the ocean roll in giant waves. The sand is soft on his bare feet. The wind is cool on his muscular cheeks and short ginger hair. And the fire at his feet makes his deep brown eyes glow.

“Silas!” a voice echoes through the woods. Silas turns to see his old shack of a cottage near the beginnings of the woods, fishing-poles propping against the walls and his grandfather’s rusty anchor leaning on the front-porch. His mom is at the screen door, waving her tan hand to Silas. He recognizes the signal: dinner.

Silas sighs and runs up to the porch. He wipes his bare feet on the outside of the house and he runs inside.

“O deary, I ’ish you wouldn’ do dat thing with yer feet!” Mom says with a disapproving hands-on-her-hips stance.

“Serry, Mom!” Silas says with his thick Australian accent. He enters the messy kitchen. “Hiya Pops,” he casually mutters when he sees Mr. Jones.

‘Pops’ looks up from his work of untangling some fishing line and smiles at Silas. “G’day, m’boy!” he says jovially. But his merry grin disappears when he sees his adopted son. Silas opens the fridge disinterested, obviously attempting not to meet his Pops’ glare. He seems to think of his father no more than someone he lives with. Just a houseguest. Mr. Jones loves his son, but he feels like a great ocean separates his love from Silas’. Most love that tries to sail the churning seas perishes and the little bit that makes it over to Silas’ love is dying by the time it gets there. Mr. Jones admits to himself that it is his fault that they don’t have a better relationship. He should put more effort into it. He is the source of the ocean.

Maybe one day m’boy’z an’ my love ‘ll finally meet one day. An’ our bond ‘ll be unbreakable. But Mr. Jones knows that the chances of that are low. Silas is too interested in everything else but his family.

“Come on!” Mom says as she sets three bowls on the table, followed by three spoons and forks. She takes her stew in the monstrous pot and places it on the table carefully. “Alrighty! Lets say our grace and dig in!”

Mr. Jones says thanks and they begin to eat. Mrs. Jones precariously serves ladles of soup to each of the hungry men and then for herself. The parents can see Silas rushes through the meal. He practically drinks the fishy broth and scoops the rest into his mouth. Before five minutes had passed, Silas is out the door.

When Silas is on the porch, he mentally scolds himself. That was just plain out rude of ya! he chastises himself. He sighs and he stomps out to the fire, it now several feet lower in hight. It’s amazing what a short time can do, just like his short meal. He probably left his Mom and Pops sitting there with their faces in the hands. More stress.

Silas sits on an old log near the fire. He tosses a few sticks in the burning fire, snapping them before throwing them to their flaming doom. Then he hears footsteps behind him.

“Sonny?” a voice says over the popping of the fire.

Silas turns. “Mm, Pops?” he manages to say. He can see the red around his fathers old eyes. His cheeks are still moist from tears. He had never seen his dad crying before.

Mr. Jones sniffles a few times before responding. “Ya left in kinda a hurry,” he mumbles. “So I thought somethin’ must be up.” He sits down next to Silas. “So what’s up?”

Silas looks to the sand at his feet. He anxiously digs his toes into the stuff, hoping to postpone his response, but his father’s gaze is too much.

“Nothin’, Pops,” Silas says. “I mean, school was a bit rough today, but otherwise, I’m—” Silas stops to sniffle a bit. He wipes at his eyes. Then to his own disappointment, he begins to cry.

Pops has him in his arms in an instant. “There, there,” he says, gently rubbing his ginger hair. Thirteen and still crying? a part of him says, but the kind side of Mr. Jones pushes that thought away. He doesn’t want to get angry now. He is there to support his son. The ocean that separates there love dries up a bit, but it doesn’t disappear.

“I love ya, boy,” Silas’ father says. The ocean dries a bit more, slowly shortening the distance between the two’s love. “I love ya like nothin’ else.”

Silas fights inside himself. He wants to let it all loose, tell his father about his troubles, his worries, his cares, his concerns, but he doesn’t. The gate’s too high, he says within himself. A moment passes in his mind. But can I make it shorter?

He needs to try. He needs to get rid of all of his fears. His father loves him, and he loves him too! Nothing hinders him, and he is about to speak.

But does this father love you? You were rejected at birth. Who knows if you will be rejected again?

But m’pops does love me! He just said it!

He lies! He speaks only so things will go better for him. He wants you to be easier, that’s all. He doesn’t want trouble from you.

Then why did ‘e adopt me?

The other voice inside of Silas is quiet for a moment. But not for long.

He wishes a pawn of you! He wants you for his own purposes. He did not adopt out of love! It was for his own desire that he took you in!

Silas’ mind argues like fire and water colliding in disharmony.

You don’t need him! the resenting voice says. Your better off on your own!

Silas pushes his father away.

“I don’t need ya,” Silas growls, barely more than a dark whisper. He turns from his father and focuses on the fire.

Mr. Jones looks at his son in fear. Can it be? Has my son rejected me? He stands up.

“I sincerely hope ya ‘ll be changin’ your mind,” Mr. Jones says. A single tear rolls down his face. “Please.”

The father walks away, leaving the son by himself. Silas sighs, but then a feeling of regret washes over him like a wave. Did I really just say those words?

He moans and lays on the log. He begins to sob, hate against himself growing with every tear. His chest heaves in emotional pain, and his mind rings with the sound of the distrusting words. He yells at them in his mind saying, No! Go away! I love my pops!

Silas slowly opens his eyes. His vision detects a glint of light reflected off the moon. He sits up. Ohhh, he groans in his mind. Not that thing again! It is the pentagon machine, dubbed the Adoption Device. The very thing that reminded Silas most of his adoption. They say they found it with him when he was discovered in the office building. Silas grabs the machine and lays it on his lap. Then he waits for himself to slip off into the dreams that can only be found in sleep.

Chapter Three

Soaring

“AMAZING,” LISA FAIRS whispers to herself as she peers through her binoculars. There, hovering hundreds of feet above her is the largest falcon that Lisa had ever seen. True, she sees much grand wildlife in her home in Canada, and she particularly enjoys finding birds, but this bird of prey above her is astounding. She stands in awe as if she watches a dragon, the bird seemingly soaring just under the clouds but yet skimming the canopy of the trees around her.

Lisa focuses her binoculars closer on the bird. It appears to be all black, unlike any falcon in Canada. The eyes glow a strange yellow. They seem keen and watchful, not letting anything out of their sight. They dart from here to there, spying for prey, watching for any life small enough to pass through its wide throat.

Lisa sighs. She fiddles with a braid of her dirty-blond hair and watches through her own blue eyes. She feels the cool winds blowing on her freckled cheeks as if it is escaping through the falcon’s winds. How I love falcons, she wonders. In fact, she enjoys all birds. She loves watching them fly through the skies and suck nectar from flowers, or maybe catch a daring mouse. She spends most of her time training carrier pigeons, keeping track of flight patterns, and nursing wounded fouls back to health. She doesn’t know where her love for the winged comes from. Perhaps it is from her want to fly, to pass above the clouds under the watching sun. Perhaps her love for birds is genetic, coming from her birth parents. Of that, she thought she would never know. Not that she minded. She loves her adopting parents just as she would if she was born naturally to them.

Shifting her awkward binoculars to follow the falcon, she looks at him more closely. To anyone passing by she would appear to be looking right through the bird as if dissecting it, inspecting each part bit by bit. Nothing escapes her bright eyes; nothing hides from their vision.

The falcon turns its head, gazing north. Then after a brief survey of the strange clouds, he looks down low. In a clearing in the woods of fir and oak, he sees a Human, carefully watching his every move. The falcon does what is most closely related to a smile, and he slowly descends to the woods in a spiral that reaches lower and lower.

Lisa watches the falcon come down nearer. From this close distance she can realize truly how large the bird is; nearly four feet in wingspan. Lisa lowers the binoculars, no longer in need of their help. She can see the black falcon clearly enough now.

The falcon turns its head from side to side, but suddenly its gaze seems to lock on Lisa. Its yellow eyes focus on her face as if trying to recognize it, trying to compare it to someone or something else. Lisa’s smile disappears when she feels strange. It does not seem like an animal is looking at her, but rather a real person. She looks around to see if anyone else is watching her that she might have sensed subconsciously, but alas, there is none. She turns back to the falcon.

The bird is no longer in the air, but rather perched on a high branch, surveying her again. It belts out a high screech, and for a moment, Lisa’s vision blurs. But is soon is back again.

What? No longer does Lisa see a falcon on a tree, but rather the opposite. Instead she sees a girl of fifteen standing in awe, looking directly at Lisa.

That’s me. Lisa looks around. She doesn’t see the falcon at all, but still she sees her body, just in a different place than her current vision, for she certainly can see now. Actually, as she thinks of it, her vision is better than normal. Her hearing is clearer, and so is her sense of touch. Her senses seem alive. The forest seems louder than Vancouver’s heart. She looks at her hands.

But there are none.

Instead, Lisa sees to blunt limbs covered in black feathers. Wings. She looks down. Her torso is too covered with feathers, but her feet are not, if she goes so far to call them feet. She sees grey claws, piercing talons at their ends.

I’m in the body of the falcon, she wonders in awe. She looks around. She is high in a branch, but can she fly? She can’t wait to test it out, and oddly, she doesn’t feel like any of the events are strange. She leaps off the branch and begins flapping her great wings. It is as familiar as breathing. She beats higher and higher, the forest escaping below. When she reaches the summit of the skies, she looks around. All over, she sees Canada stretched before her. To the West, she sees the USA, and to the East, the Atlantic Ocean. And ever so subtly she sees the curve of the Earth.

As quickly as before, her vision begins to blur to black, and she is back in her Human body once again. She looks at her arms. They are the normal freckle-ridden tan arms as before, and at the end are hands. Her feet are adorned with her old sneakers, quite the opposite of claws. The strangeness of the event that had just flashed through time comes to her quite mildly. Why did I see what the falcon saw? It seems like a distant memory already, but at the same time clear in her mind.

She looks up. The large black falcon still sits on the branch. From its talons to the tip of its beak it is the same, serious bird. But in its yellow eyes a glimmer can be seen. They seem playful, almost happy as if the bird had done a job well done. And as quickly as it had spiraled down earlier, it flies up in the air to the skies. Lisa runs to her purse to get her camera.

She yanks open the bag and puts the binoculars inside. She fishes for her camera, and after much rooting through she has it. She looks through the viewfinder to see the falcon, and at last she sees it. She snaps a few pictures and lowers the camera. But when she looks for it with her own eyes, it is gone.

Lisa sighs and places the camera down in the purse. But it hits something with a metallic clank.

Hm? What could have done that? The binoculars are coated with some sort of plastic, so surely they wouldn’t have made the sound. Her phone is in her pocket. Lisa pulls several things out and places them down on the soft forest turf. At the bottom of her purse is a glowing object. She lifts it out and groans in desperate frustration. It’s that thing. Whatever its name is, she doesn’t know. All she can figure out is the obvious: five shining blue triangles joined together in the center by a orb that glows blue too. The plates can move and twist around, but otherwise, it is useless. Useless in all things except in reminding Lisa about her adoption and the memories of her past. Lisa was two years on when she was adopted, but Lisa didn’t forget everything about her life before being put in her new family. However, all of her memories are strange. She remembers knights, strange creatures, and castles. She remembers words like ‘royalty,’ ‘princess,’ and ‘heir.’ Some of her vaguest memories show battles and fights.

Lisa sighs she wishes these memories would go away. She loves her parents, and they love her. Nothing is in between of their fondness for each other. But this metal device just pops from seemingly nowhere to get in her way. It retells the story of adoption and reminds her of her past.

Lisa puts everything in her bag again. When she looks up, she screams. In front of her is the black falcon, and like the metal device it seems to have appeared from nowhere. Its eyes twinkle once again, and Lisa looks away. As much as she had enjoyed it, she doesn’t want to see through the falcon’s eyes again. But when Lisa looks up, the falcon is gone once again.

Something strange is going on here, Lisa wonders. First the metal machine and now the falcon.

Lisa hears her favorite song begin to play. She yanks her phone out of her pocket and answers.

“HellothisisLisaFairs!” she says in one condensed word. “Oh hi…okay…I’ll be home soon…okay, bye.” Lisa hangs up and slips the phone in her pocket again. She lifts up her purse and hangs it over her shoulder. She dashes off to her bike and begins to pedal home.

Chapter Four

Help Us

Seerka PUTS HER son and the teleporter down. She mentally recalls the step-by-step process of arranging the plates for the proper teleportation. She twists one of the varadesk panels, immediately hearing listmere hum from within. It’s working. She twists another one, turning it on a forty-five degree angle to the other three. She silently turns the rest of the triangles in different patterns until the entire Gallery bursts with the constant tune of the limitless listmere working. She takes another teleporter, this one before Layis. She arranges the machine in the exact way that she did with the previous one, and then again with the last teleporter. She takes a deep breath and grabs a stray piece of parchment. She jots a message down on it with an old pen, then slips the paper in Honwise’s teleporter

Seerka turns back to Layis. She lifts her up and gently snuggles her in her arms. “I love you,” she says caressingly. She carefully places the teleporter in her hands just as she finally wakes up from her slumbers.

“Now don’t you turn any of these panels now,” Seerka says through sniffles. She bites her lip, trying not to cry. “We don’t know where that would take you.” Seerka kisses her daughter’s forehead. “The Humans of Earth will take good care of you. But just don’t forget about us.” She places her finger on the blue orb. The babe can see the concern of his mother’s eyes. “Live and justify,” and Seerka pushes the round button. In a flash, the baby and the device disappear from Ayvaria’s world.

Seerka moves over to Bravmun. She kisses his dark cheek and runs her hands through his ginger hair. She gives the child the teleporter and exchanges her last words with her son. She presses the orb in the center, sending her son away to Earth.

That leaves just Honwise.

She picks up her sleeping son and embraces him in the way only mothers can. Subtle tears escape from her eyes and onto her son. “Remember us,” she says, stroking his blonde hair. The babe opens his brilliant green eyes and yawns. He looks around in attempts to recognize his whereabouts, but he clings back to his mother when he fails to remember. This makes it even harder for Seerka to let go. But eventually, she places Honwise on the desk in the sea of parchment. She uses her trembling hands to give the teleporter to her son.

“Help us,” she says, and she presses the center. Her son ceases to be in Ayvaria, traveling through space and time to Earth.

MEEP! MEEP! MEEP!

Jackson’s alarm goes off at 5:30 AM on the dot. He slams the snooze button down and sits up on his bed. Yawn. Stretch. The early morning routine. He looks outside. It is still dark, just how I like it.

Wait! The dream.

He recalls the events of his sleep again in his mind. The teleporter in the dream looks just like his strange metal device. What did his dream say it is made of? Varadesk? He assumes it is some sort of metal, but it glows.

He stands up. The teleporter is no longer on his dresser, but on the floor, Wait a sec. It is changed somehow. It’s different. The orb in the center is no longer glowing blue but red as if something bad or evil took over. He cautiously picks up the teleporter and taps the center a few times. No change. That’s strange.

I need to concentrate. School. He quickly gets changed out of his pajamas and into his casual jeans, burgundy T-shirt, and black skullcap. He shoves his school books into his backpack and grabs a few pencils, spinning one in his hands casually before tossing it in his bag. Books, pencils…He runs through his ‘get-ready’ list in his head. Homework. He runs back to the desk and throws open the drawer. Math assignment, goes the backpack. Lab report, in. Writing project…

Jackson smiles to himself as he looks at the mess of words on the paper. He rereads the words in his mind, reciting the second chapter of his book about a daring pilot in World War II, who just so happens to have the same name as his dad.

He pushes the papers into a crumpled mess in his bag. After slinging his backpack over his arm, he runs downstairs. Ma sits in the family room, relaxing in the sofa and watching the morning news next to Dad. He drinks coffee and reads the paper. Jackson fights the urge to tell them the events of last night. It would have to wait.

Dad stands up and puts his paper on the table. He kisses Ma on the cheek and gives Jackson a pat on the back. “See ya later, son,” he says. “Off to work I go.”

“And off to school you go,” Jackson’s ma hints. “Eight grade and your still late.”

“Got a little distracted,” Jackson says. “Bye, Ma. Bye, Dad.” He walks out the door and sees the bus just past the stop. O drat! He begins to run after the bus, but he knows even if he catches up it won’t stop for him. He slowly picks up pace, shifting from a walk to a jog, and from a jog to a run, getting ready to run all the way to school eight blocks down.

After running for a few minutes His lungs begin to burn. For whatever reason, the air never seems to be enough for his system. It seems inadequate for his foreign adopted body. Maybe from where I come from the air is better.

He rounds the corner of the first block. Its going to be a long run.

Whoof! Jackson slides to a stop at the middle school’s main doors. He clutches his sides, both filled with cramps. He stumbles nearer, then peers through the glass. He still sees kids roaming around inside. Perfect. Not to early, not to late. Jackson heaves open the doors and enters. He looks around. No eight graders; no good. Homeroom must have started. He dashes down the halls, takes a left, then barges in the classroom.

Everyone looks. Jackson’s face turns red in embarrassment. All whispered conversations turn to him. Jackson picks up snippets of their words.

…different…he doesn’t belong here…abandonment…he’s not one of us.” Jackson wishes for once that Ms. Serrez didn’t allow talking in homeroom. The exact things spoken in his mind he hears in the discussions of his classmates. Maybe if I didn’t look as different people wouldn’t notice me. No. Jackson sighs. He knows it wouldn’t make a difference. He is just as unique in his mind as he is in appearance. His attitude is different. His outlook is different. His entire existence is different.

Jackson sneaks through a couple desks to the far corner. He slides in the seat and slouches in the wooden chair. He wipes his sweaty blonde hair out of his face, then spots his friend, his only friend Asher in front of him. Unlike the other kids, this one actually likes different. Jackson finds his friend always saying things like “opposites attract!” or “change is good,” but even after all the convincing Asher throws at him, Jackson still doesn’t agree.

Jackson sits up in his seat and grabs his backpack. He unzips it in a flash and takes his notebook out. He wants to take advantage of this homeroom period to double-check his homework, and maybe do a little reading in his fighter jet textbooks. Jackson flips open his notebook to his math work. Where is it? Jackson examines a few pages, but not a single problem is seen. Page after page is blank. Jackson begins to breathe heavily. Then his eyes widen.

At the last page of his notebook in all caps, two words stretch across the middle of the page. In large print and with a bold underline beneath, the words ‘help us!’ appear to be written in ink in Jackson’s notebook.

He flips back a page. The previously empty piece of paper now has the same words; an exact replica of the last page. Jackson looks through the other pages. It is the same on every sheet of paper, the same two words calling for help.

Jackson shuts his book and gasps. Something is going wrong here.

“Dude?”

Jackson looks up. Asher is looking straight at him.

“You cool?” he asks.

Jackson nods. “Did someone turn on the heat in here?” he asks as a bead of sweat rolls down his nose.

“No way. It’s as cold as ice in hear, bro!”

Jackson just smiles. He turns back to his notebook. When he opens it again, he finds that every page had returned to normal. He skims to his math problems, and he never was so happy to see them as he is now. He sighs in relief, only to get another comment from Asher.

“What’s the matter?” Asher’s voice turns from his usual cool-talk to a genuinely concerned voice.

“Really, nothing,” Jackson says. “No sweat, right?”

Asher looks at his friend. “Yes. Sweat.” Jackson looks down at his shirt. The entire thing had gone a few shades darker with perspiration. Jackson smiles awkwardly and slips his notebook in his bag again. He exhales and leans back in his chair.

DRING! As quickly as the bell rings, half the kids filter out of the homeroom and into the hall. Jackson slowly stands up and grabs his bag. After slinging it over his shoulder, he cautiously meanders to the door through the hubbub.

Blackout. Jackson’s vision blurs. He is overcome with dizziness and nausea. The shrill bell that echoes in the school rings louder in his head. Jackson begins to see distorted shapes. The forms sharpen. Jackson sees a goat-like man wildly kicking a bell. What did Mr. Kervas call them? Fauns? The deep gongs of the bell blend with the high trill of the school in an unnerving chaos of sound. Jackson clutches his head in pain. He watches as a Minotaur leaps off over the edge of some building, but the Faun never stops kicking the bell. The sound echoes through the city streets, growing louder with each passing moment. But then it all stops, and Jackson sees only black once again.

After a few moments, Jackson’s vision returns. He looks around in the empty classroom. He looks at the clock. Ten minutes had passed! But it only had seemed like a few seconds during his vision!

“Jackson? Are you alright?” Ms. Serrez. She is just cleaning up her desk and is about to walk out the door. “Jackson?”

Jackson finally wakes up from his thoughts. “I’m fine, Ms. Serrez. Just a little dazed.”

“Do you need to see the nurse?”

“No. I just feel a bit tired. Half-asleep, ya know?” Without waiting for her response, Jackson runs out the door in the empty hallways. He zips down the tiled floors and into classroom 3A.

Once again, all eyes rivet to Jackson as he awkwardly takes his seat. Mr. Shelven, Jackson’s writing teacher, gives Jackson a lethal stare, but stays silent.

“So would everyone pull out last weeks writing project?” he says to the students, eyes never turning from Jackson. “It should be the second chapter of your short story. Please mark your name and today’s date and place them on my desk.”

Everyone grabs their bags and roughly pull out their papers. Jackson smiles. He knows Mr. Shelven will like his World War II story. He has to.

Jackson looks at his pages, but frowns soon after. The papers had changed. No longer do they describe the episodes of the daring American pilot, but instead they recall the events of some ancient battle. Jackson’s eyes fall on words like watchtower, king, and sword. Jackson looks at the title page. Help Us, and below it Jackson Scepters.

“Mr. Scepters?”

Jackson snaps out of his trance. Mr. Shelven is looking at him, obviously trying not to burst out in anger of impatience.

“Your second chapter?”

Jackson slowly stands up. He has no choice but to give his teacher this new story. He extends his hand out to give Mr. Shelven the papers, just to have it snatched out of his grasp.

“Now go sit down,” Mr. Shelven says. Is that smoke coming out of his ears?

Jackson strides back to his seat. He couldn’t tell who was sweating more: him or his teacher. Jackson places his face in his hands. The rest of the class passes on slowly. Mr. Shelven drones on about the use of commas in writing and the proper times to use capitalization for emphasis. The bell eventually rings again and Jackson goes to math class.

In math, Jackson is happy to give his homework to Mrs. Lollies, but throughout the entire period Jackson sees otherworldly messages all saying the same thing: ‘help us,’ all in caps with a broad underline under it. He receives them in the form of texts, sticky notes, and even as lesson titles in his algebra book. The day slips by class by class, and through it Jackson receives hundreds of notes, only disappearing after looking away for a few moments. He becomes desperately worried, always wondering if he is going mad. If he had taken a shower in his clothes, no one would notice the difference between that and his sweat covered body.

“Jackson Scepters?” It is Mr. Kervas, his social-studies teacher. He glares at Jackson in concern. “Did you go swimming?” he asks sarcastically. “Cause it sure looks like it.”

The class giggles and Jackson turns more red than he already had been. He tries to act unconcerned so he simply studies at his pencil as Mr. Kervas goes on to explain the Trojan War. Instead of saying the company’s name and No. 2, the pencil says in the same scribbly print ‘help us!’ Jackson suddenly feels unnaturally aware of his backpack as if something is alive in it. He looks under his desk. His bag sits open, and inside he sees the teleporter.

Jackson looks at the ceiling and hopes for a second that the teleporter will disappear like all of the notes he had seen. But when he looks back in his bag, the device is still there.

Jackson sighs and takes out the machine, being careful not to let anyone else see, especially the teacher. And to Jackson’s befuddlement, the teleporter had changed more. Three of the adjacent triangles glow the same blue like normal, and another triangle shines red, the same color that the orb glows now. The last one does not glow; it appears to be made of normal metal.

Jackson is swept with dizziness. He feels a pit in his stomach. He tentatively raises is hand.

“Yes, Jackson?” Mr. Kervas asks.

“May I have a hall pass?”

Chapter Five

The Otherworldly Message

JACKSON RUNS DOWN the hall as fast as he can. He looks around for a brief moment, then plunges into the boy’s bathroom.

It’s empty. Just like he wants. Privacy and time to think. Jackson sits down on the newly-mopped floors and leans on the walls. After taking a few deep breaths, he takes his backpack and places it in front of him. He roots through the inside until he finds the teleporter again. Something is not right. The teleporter glows as diversely as fire; red in some places and blue in others. And there is still the normal mental plate.

Jackson is swept with dizziness. Oh, not again! Everything goes black, and then he begins to see blurry forms. They sharpen into figures, but this time the scene isn’t new to Jackson. It is a part of his dream from last night, but it focuses on Seerka arranging the plates on the teleporter. As quickly as it came, it leaves, bringing Jackson back to reality. He looks at the teleporter. He recalls the first step in his mind. He twists one of the plates into position. One after another, he arranges the panels into the same exact order as in his dream and vision. A loud humming sound escapes from the teleporter’s creases, filling the whole bathroom with an unnatural trill. At the last click of the varadesk plates a small note slides out. It slowly drifts to the floor.

Jackson places the teleporter down and reaches for the piece of parchment. It’s the same scrap of paper that Seerka wrote on! But when Jackson’s fingers make contact with the note, he immediately jolts his hand back. The small piece of paper explodes into millions of shards of paper. Jackson backs up away from the loose scraps, but they follow him. They swirl as if in a mini whirlwind in a steady circle. The air grows thicker with them until it seems like several parchments were ripped to create the steady flow of scraps. The pieces fly around in the air, steadily growing closer to Jackson and bigger in size. He feels wind on his face. The stall doors fly open and the toilet seats rattle inside. And to his horror, a hand made of the paper shrapnel reaches out of the eye of the tornado of parchment. The hand keeps reaching up, revealing a head and a face, a torso with arms, and eventually a whole body made or swirling scraps of paper. Despite the paper that makes up her figure, the woman amidst the parchment whirlwind is both beautiful and exotic. She wears an armored tunic, or maybe its a dress. She has fair skin and long black hair adorned with a circlet. And at her side she has a sheath with an a foreign blade inside. The sword pummel is in the shape of a falcon’s head. It is Falcongorn, and it is with its bearer.

Seerka, Jackson wonders in awe. The paper Seerka opens her mouth, and begins to speak.

“Help us,” she says in a voice like wind. And like water funneling into a certain point, all the scraps of paper shoot back to the ground, reforming into the small note of parchment. The wind ceases, the stalls become motionless, and everything turns back to normal.

Jackson reaches out and touches the note, but this time, it stays as one piece. He flips it over. Help us, Jackson Scepters, it reads.

Jackson stands up and looks around cautiously, breathing deeply. This is all so strange for him, he can’t think of what to do. He sits it on the floor and looks in his backpack again. Inside, he sees a bunch of papers. He slides them out and takes a look. My writing project! Jackson examines the pages. It still is in its form that describes the events of ancient battles. The title is still Help Us, and below it is Jackson Scepters. The pieces of the puzzle click together for Jackson, revealing the answer to this mystery. It doesn’t mean Help Us by Jackson Scepters, but Help Us, Jackson Scepters, just like the piece of parchment. But who does Jackson need to help?

He looks at the words on the pages. It’s more than just a second chapter of a story. Its the whole book. He feels something in his gut, and it rattles up to his mind. Read, it echoes.

He looks a the first words.

“Sure is gorgeous tonight, huh Jacken,” Vren the Minotaur says…

Chapter Six

The Battle of Dreams

SILAS WAKES UP just as the sun slowly creeps up from the horizon. He welcomes the warming yellow rays with much thanks. They are warm and bright. Just like fire. He finds himself on the cool sand, very near to the smoldering embers, but he doesn’t mind. He closes his eyes again, attempting to fall back asleep, but then the events of last night crash back into him like the waves pushing the sand. The rushed dinner. The argument. Silas’ rejection of his father in fear of being rejected by his father.

Silas rolls over and looks at the cottage. He wonders how his parents are dealing with his words. Are they crying? Are they angry? Maybe they’re fighting. Silas plants his face in the sand in front of him as if it was a comforting pillow. The sun rays begin to warm the stuff up, making Silas feel like he is in a warm grinding machine.

The machine! Silas sits up and looks around. There is the Adoption Device…inside the fire pit! Silas scrambles over and snatches it out, preparing for the heat’s terrible bite. But it doesn’t hurt. He feels the heat just as much as he would normally, but it doesn’t hurt. In fact, the hotness on the metal feels quite good. The warmth feels better than the sun’s rays, and immediately he feels comforted by it. It feels as if something had changed within him, and now his skin is heat resistant.

He groans as he stands up. He stretches his limbs, scratches his neck, and finally he does his last morning yawn. He lumbers over to the little rowboat of the family and drags it over to the water. He grabs a fishing-pole on the way over.

Ahh…” Silas mutters as he plants his feet in the moist sand in the water. By the time the waves reach his feet, they are merely slight trickles in water. Without thinking to much about it, he lays down in the inch deep water, covering himself with the cool sand, letting the sun warm him again. After a few minutes of this relaxation, he stands up again and he rows out against the waves into the ocean.

Though he prefers fire to water, the ocean always soothes Silas. Something about its constant waves in perfect rhythm makes him feel calm. His thoughts drift to times with Pops when they had both gone fishing, sometimes traveling far via boat. His mom would always be so happy when the father and son arrived home with a whole mess of fish.

Silas sighs. He misses those days. They were before he turned thirteen, of course. He casts the line out not before skewering a worm on the hook, then slowly draws the bobber in. He repeats the process twice more, and only on the last try does he feel a pull on his rod. He winds up the crank and reels the fish in. He pulls up his catch: a nice medium-sized fish, perfect for breakfast. He doesn’t know what it’s called, but it’ll do.

Silas silently uses his wood oars to paddle closer to the shore again, now relieved to go along with the gentle waves instead of against them. He leaps out of the boat when the water is shallow enough and splashes with heavy footfalls, pulling, then dragging the rowboat back to shore. He removes the fish from the pole and hustles to the smoldering embers. He slips his pocketknife from his back pocket and begins the smelly task of gutting the fish.

Ugh! All unwanted entrails get thrown in the fire, creating a horrendous stench. Silas remembers all of the times that he spent hours in the kitchen with Mom, gutting each fish carefully. He smiles when he thinks of all the times when Pops casually leans on the counter, snagging one or two of the organs and popping them in his mouth raw with a slight smile, trying to make them laugh. Both Mom and Silas would indeed laugh…in disgust, but would soon after they would both try one of the slimy guts.

Silas places the gutted fish on the frying pan that usually hides under a bench, and he fetches some more wood to feed the fire. He tosses giant logs in, hearing the same pattern of sounds from yesterday. In a few moments, the fire is raging and turning all nearby twigs to a crisp. He takes the skillet and holds it over a small blue flame, watching the fish sizzle away.

Silas can’t count the times that he and his family would go out in the break of dawn or at the fall of dusk, all armed with a bunch of fish in their hands or under their arms. They each would cook one for a different person. Whether in a frying pan or on a long skewer, every fish would be cooked a served, not to the one who prepared it but to another loved one. Because of this, Silas always would retire full of fish that his parents had cooked. As he fries his meal now, he wishes his family is out to enjoy breakfast with him. But with the events of last night, he’s sure they wouldn’t come. They probably wouldn’t forgive him, or so Silas thinks. And because of that he sits there now, halfheartedly cooking a fish over a fire, an activity that he would normally enjoy, but because yesterday’s mistakes he feels guilty and empty, like an orphan all over again. But this time, he was the one who had abandoned. He had left his parents instead of them leaving him.

Silas takes the skillet away from the fire, the fish now done cooking. He takes his pocketknife and begins eating with the blade, stabbing the fish and removing a chunk. He spits the bones into the fire, watching them melt and pop in the blue and orange flames. He studies the fire like yesterday, memorizing every aspect of it, learning its ways, and absorbing its essence. Very slowly, the fire begins to grow to the edge of the fire pit, scorching the stone barrier’s edges. Silas assumes it had found something new to burn, but his is wrong.

The fire grows outward more and more, and even the rocks begins to pop as they turn black. It grows unnaturally, no, unworldly tall, and it begins to consume the heavy grey stones. They begin to either slowly melt or pop in an explosion of sharp shards. A large rock explodes from the heat right near Silas. The mini blades of stone fly at him. He feels them scratch at his legs and face. Blood seeps down his body, trickling into the sand. It give the water that had pooled beneath Silas a red tint. And for the first time in many years, Silas is afraid of fire.

He slowly backs up away as the fire begins to reach the sand…and light it. He knows it shouldn’t be possible; sand can’t keep a fire going! But alas, it does, and the flames grow hotter and hotter, melting the sand into thick liquified glass. Silas hopes it doesn’t light the forest, for if it does…Silas can’t think about it.

The fire grows rapidly. Tongues of flame begin to lick Silas’ skin.

The heat still doesn’t hurt me.

The flames continue to reach around Silas. He tries to run away, but the flames pull him closer as if a myriad of hands, slowly taking him into the mouth of the fire. Silas pulls away, but the flames are stronger. They grab Silas at the legs, and even at the face, evaporating the blood and leaving only red stains on his skin. He inches closer and closer to the wall of flame, and in one moment, his body gives out. He trips forward in the fire and hits the ground.

Silas feels more blood on his head. He knows his head had hit something hard like a rock.  He still feels the heat of the fire around him, but it is significantly darker. He sits up, and his’ vision blacks for moment. The ground is no longer sandy and soft, but hard like stone. Silas looks up.

He is no longer in Australia.

All around Silas is a battle. Strange creatures war against each other, slaughtering thousands. Fire rages around him, but only in patches where a torch fell or a fiery arrow struck. Silas tries to run, but there is no place of hiding. He is surrounded my enemies that he does not know.

But to Silas’ surprise, no one seems to notice him. He begins to jog, then walk aimlessly throughout the battle, realizing that nothing can harm him. Arrows pass through him as if he is made of air. Swords cross through his neck, but he is not scathed. Then he sees the duel.

In the heart of the battle, he sees a Human, presumably a king, fight a hideous creature with the head of some sort of lizard, the wings of a bird off his back, and the body of a man. The two fight wildly, but they are not alone. Three other creatures run to aid the hideous one, but the daring king takes care of two in a moment. But the other one whirls a massive spiked ball around his head, letting it pick up speed, then crash into the king’s torso. The Human rolls down, and the mace creature picks up his sword.

Despite the intensity of the moment, the next event makes Silas smile. The creature who holds the glowing sword bursts out into flames, and his ashes fall. The curved blade clatters to the ground. When Silas turns back, the king is on his knees with a cut hand.

But still they are not alone. As Silas circles around to the two opponents, he sees a woman run into hiding behind a pile of golden bricks. Her escorts run further, but she doesn’t follow. She holds something, no, someone in her arms. It is a baby with ginger hair and brown eyes.

That looks just like me! Silas says in his mind with a smile. He assumes its pure coincidence. But the mother looks scared, worried. Silas looks up from her just in time. The evil creature has a sword out. The king is shouting at him, but the creature drives the blade through his heart.

Silas shouts in anger, but no one hears. The mother lingers a little longer to listen to a conversation, and then she runs to follow her guards. Silas pounds after, running through obstacles and people as if running through wind. He passes through the doors and looks.

Two women run at him. For a moment, he is afraid that they will attack him, but they don’t notice him like everyone else. They seem rather to be running from something that at something. They burst through the doors and run away.

The mother is alone with three children. Silas strides over, then stands right next to the woman. She is beautiful. She has long black hair that runs to her waist. Her head is adorned with a gold circlet, and she wears a long armored tunic. She arranges the three machines on the table, and Silas gasps. The machines are just like his strange glowing apparatus. The lady gives one device to each of the children. She goes through and embraces them, giving them kisses and kind words. And one by one, she presses the button in the center of the machines, and the babies disappear.

As the last child is gone, Silas sees fire again. Not in little clusters on wood or stone, but right in front of him. He looks around. Fire is everywhere. It is densely packed together as if an ocean of orange and yellow. Silas pushes through it, drawing it aside as if a curtain. He parts a bit with his hands. Before him is the beach and the rolling waves, the shack and the anchor leaning near it.

Yes! Silas leaps out from the flames, feeling cooler air at last. He turns around to see the destruction of the fire, but he merely gasps. There is no scathe to beach, no evidence of the conflagration from earlier. Silas looks up. The sun had traveled halfway across the sky! How much time had gone by?

Silas looks down. At is feet is the strange machine, the very machine he had seen with one of the babies in his vision. He leans over to pick it up, but he stops.

The sphere in the center is no longer glowing blue, but red. Some of the panels had changed, too. Three adjacent ones glow blue like before, but one glows red like the orb, and the remaining one appears to be made of normal metal. Silas sighs and leaves it.

At least I’m home, he thinks, but for some reason he doesn’t feel home at all.

Chapter Seven

Cold Blood

THE ENTIRE BIKE-RIDE home, Lisa thinks of the events that just had happened. It only catches up to her halfway through her ride, and at that moment, she swerves and crashes headfirst into Mr. Lawrence’s trashcan. She sits up, dazed slightly. She eyes her bike and leaps back onto it and pedals the rest of the way home. She hopes that the smell of the garbage leaves before she arrives.

As she bikes into her long driveway, she can’t wait to explain the birds she saw out in the woods, but she secretly plans to leave the whole see-through-the-falcon’s-eyes for later.

Lisa walks her bike the rest of the way into the garage. She flips down the kickstand, throws her helmet off, and walks inside after clicking the button to close the garage doors. She enters the laundry room first. She kicks of her shoes and hangs her jacket up on the rack. Then she enters the living room through the door.

Inside, she sees her two parents embracing each other. Lisa smiles. It is normal for her to see them do so, and every time something warm bubbles within her. She loves it when they do that.

Upon her entering, Mr. and Mrs. Fairs look up from their hug and smile even wider when they see Lisa. She runs over and joins the group-hug. This never gets old. She loves her parents with all of her heart. They love her with all of theirs. They were open about her adoption from the start, but that had not changed their love for each other. Her strange puzzling memories didn’t stop their closeness. Everyday is a new adventure for the family of three, an adventure of love and trust, where every individual of the family bonds with the others to become one. Life is like a poem to them. A poem of love and friendship, of family and kinship. Lisa doesn’t mind she isn’t related biologically. The whole idea that a mother gave her up had gone down the toilet years ago. She doesn’t care now. They practically, no, really are her family.

At last they let go of each other to look at one another.

“Mom! Dad! I saw lots of cool birds today! I saw this cool bluejay, but it was missing a few feathers, so I cuddled with it for an hour. And later, I saw this hawk that must have flown from the nest by the lake.”

“We have’t even said what we saw today,” Mom says with a hint of mystery in her voice.

“What? What did you see?” Lisa begins to jump up in down in childlike excitement.

“A golden eagle.”

Lisa’s face lights up. She clenches her teeth and smiles. “A golden eagle?! But that’s impossible!”

“Nothing’s impossible,” Mom says.

“I’ve never seen one in person!” Lisa exclaims. “Did you take pictures?”

“Sorry, but no,” Dad says. “It swept down by out car before I could get my phone out. By the time I had it, the eagle was gone.”

“Oh, that’s okay, but next time but your phone on the dashboard or something,” Lisa says with a smirk. “See ya. I gotta upload some pics.” And with that, she bounds up the stairs to her room.

When she enters the orange-painted room, she sighs. All over the walls are pictures of birds of every kind. From the ceiling hangs a dozen cages of birds that tweet away to each other and sing songs. Lisa’s desk is a mess. Binoculars, cameras, wildlife magazines, and even some framed feathers or bird body-parts clutter the surface and her laptop. Her bed is equally messy. Instead of sleeping on it, she uses it a makeshift hospital bed for all lame or injured birds. There are tongs, a first-aid kit, some popsicle sticks and other things for tending to the flying creatures. One thing that isn’t there is a license to legally work on the birds.

The carpeted floor is littered with many various things: more magazines, books, old soda cans, a few used paper plates with pizza stains, and even a few clumps of bird droppings from the caged fouls. She has been meaning to clean up the latter for years. But Lisa doesn’t mind the mess. If anything, it is comforting. “Like a giant hug,” she would always say to her parents.

“You actually like getting hugged by this stuff?” Mom would say with a smile. “Wait, what’s that smell?” and she would go on her hands and knees to look for the source.

Lisa walks over to her desk and pulls the chair out from under. As she expects, a dozen books fall off the seat. She simply sits on the rest and she opens her laptop. She turns it on and meanwhile gets her camera out and plugs it in to the computer. The photo application pops open and she scrolls through all the photos. She imports them onto the computer to get a closer look.

Wow! she thinks as she examines each photo one by one. All sorts of birds riddle her photos. A gaggle of geese here. A couple of turkey vultures there. She clicks through the line of images, pressing the arrow key over and over again.

At last she gets to the falcon photos, though the pics don’t due it justice. The black falcon is amazing with its wings outstretched, beak curved and claws out.

The claws. Something’s in one. She zooms in on a certain image. Thankfully, the picture has a high resolution, and she can clearly see the object held by the claw. It’s a little note. A scrap of paper, rolled up into a scroll in the claw.

That’s strange. I didn’t notice that before. Even when I was in the falcon’s body, I didn’t feel a piece of paper in my…talons.

Lisa stands up. She has to go find that falcon again. Not out of interest for the note’s contents, but out of interest for the ‘carrier falcon,’ if she is to call it that.

Lisa stands up, takes her camera again, and begins to leave her room. But out of the corner of her eye, she sees a dark form coming near her window. She turns around just in time to see the black creature ram into her window. Lisa only has a moment to see the thing before it slides down to the ground outside.

The falcon! The giant bird looks quite funny, its face seemingly flat on the window. It slowly falters down. It almost broke the glass! Obviously it didn’t see it.

Lisa runs over and opens the window. She looks down. The bird is gone.

She hears a startling screech. The falcon swoops down and perches on the windowsill, and Lisa falls back to the floor in fear. The falcon screeches again, but Lisa can tell it’s not in aggression. Not in pain either. It is merely trying to get Lisa’s attention. After recovering herself, Lisa gives it.

“Are you hurt?” she asks, but she doesn’t step any nearer to the bird. It is a bird of prey, and she knows it can kill her if it tries. The bird, though, is not afraid of Lisa. It flies from its position at the window, circles around Lisa’s head, then lands firmly on her shoulder.

Lisa doesn’t know what to do. She feels like a tree for the falcon, and nothing more. She is afraid that if she moves, it’ll claw her throat. But very carefully, she turns her head to look.

She can only see the claws, and in one of them is the same scroll in the pictures. When the falcon notices her attention to the note, he leaps of her shoulder and sits at the top of the back of her chair. And with a swipe of its leg, it throws the note at Lisa’s face.

Lisa is startled by the sudden projectile. It pokes her eye and lands at her feet. She leans over and picks it up. After examining it, she finds a name.

Layis Bravewing

That’s not me, she thinks, so she carefully places it near the bird for it to have. But the falcon screeches once again, and this time, it is more forcing. Lisa swipes her hand back to her side to avoid any attack from the falcon. She looks at the note again.

Huh? It’s different. The name ‘Layis Bravewing,’ is gone, and a different name is scribbled onto the side.

Lisa Fairs

Why did it change?

Hastily, Lisa opens up the message. She expects a long letter with lots of words an a fancy signature, but there is none. Just a few words.

Don’t forget about us.

Who? Who would Lisa forget about?

Then in her mind’s eye, her weird memories flash in her mind like a slideshow. She sees her birth mother and father’s faces, the strange creatures, and in the end she sees a woman’s face.  The lady runs briskly with Lisa in her arms. The woman runs her to a large building, then leaves. Just her birth mother is left. She remembers the emotions of the moment. Her mother was sad at the time, and she knew it. Then her mother disappeared. When she woke up she was in a strange world that she learned to be home. A month later, she was adopted to her loving family.

But why would she get this message? Who sent it?

Lisa looks down at the bottom of the page. There is no signature. Today is getting stranger and stranger by the moment, she thinks. She looks up at the falcon, but as her eyes meet the claws first, she sees them holding the strange glowing machine. That seems to settle things for Lisa. Something connected with her birth parents and that device is going on.

But she can’t worry about that now. Her birth mother had sent her away somehow, and that is her fault. Not Lisa’s. She didn’t want to hear about her past. Now is good enough for her.

Lisa boldly walks up to the falcon. “Shoo, now,” she orders. “Go! I don’t want to here about my mother. It’s her fault!”

The falcon seems to be taken aback by the last line. It lowers his head and eyes Lisa. It leaps of the perch and lands directly on her head. And with one stroke, it knocks her out cold. Lisa plunges into the inky sea of unconsciousness.

The falcon looks at Lisa. He had hated to do such an awful thing to the princess, but it had to be done for her to see.

He flies up. He soars around the room one last time, then flies out the open window. Then he begins the long journey south.

Chapter Eight

The Choice

JACKSON LOOKS UP from the stack of papers in his hands. He had read the entire thing. It speaks of a kingdom called Ayvaria in a fantastical world called Terradorn. It describes mythological creatures made real like Fauns, Centaurs, Minotaurs, and Elves. It speaks of the rivalry of Humans and the shape-shifting Draegors, creatures that you can only identify by their black eyes. Jackson had wiped tears from his eyes on the story of the mother Seerka and her children, and he grew angry as he had heard about King Anven’s death. He feels connected to the royal husband and wife. He had seemed to go right into the story as he had read.

Jackson trembles as he slowly slides the story back in his backpack. He looks at the bathroom stalls in front of him. They seem foreign, as does the rest of the bathroom, as if he didn’t belong on the planet of Earth. Do I? Why do all of these strange events focus on him? Why does he learn about the story of Ayvaria in the world of Terradorn? Why him?

The bathroom door flies open. An adult walks in, and it takes a moment for Jackson to recognize who it is. It the principle Mr. Johnson. And his face is red. Angry.

“Jackson?!” he seethes. “What the heck have you been doing in here?”

Jackson looks strangely at the principle.

“Jackson?” Mr. Johnson looks mildly concerned. “Are you alright?”

It takes Jackson a moment to register the question. “Um…” he mumbles. “Yes, Principle Jackson. I’m fine.”

Mr. Johnson looks flustered. “I’m Johnson, child. Your Jackson.”

“Oh,” Jackson says, oddly stroking his chin as if in deep thought. “Right.”

“Jackson you don’t seem in the right mind, but you skipped several periods. After seeing the nurse, your coming to detention.”

Jackson looks around in the bathroom. Things still haven’t caught up with him. Reading that story had made everything seem like a dream, and the story of Ayvaria a memory. Then in a moment, it all flows back. He recalls all the classes, his teachers, and even his adopting parents.

Mr. Johnson looks at Jackson inquisitively. “Jackson?”

“Yes, Mr. Johnson?”

“You are going to have detention today, okay?”

Jackson looks at his principle. “Sure, but, how much time has passed since I got a hall pass?”

“I would say about three hours.”

Three hours? It only had seemed like twenty minutes of reading and thinking.

“Come on, Jackson,” Mr. Johnson says. “Let’s go.”

Jackson grabs his things and goes with the school principle.

Jackson slams the front door closed. He slips off his sneakers and struts in the villa.

“Jackson William Scepters!” his ma calls from the kitchen. “I got a call from Mr. Johnson. I’m very disappointed in you! Explain yourself.”

Jackson doesn’t listen. “Hey Ma, can you tell me all about my adoption?”

Mrs. Scepters looks struck. “Wha… Why? Did any more kids tease you? I swear if Melissa Statters insulted you again, I will call her mother up and—”

“Ma, no one said anything.”

“Oh. Well, sure I can tell you about your adoption, but, why?” Ma looks worried.

“I just want to know,” Jackson says. He sits down at the table. He winces as he hears the teleporter clink! on the chair back.

“Well, as you know, they found you in an office building. One moment you weren’t there, and the next, you were!”

“Like I appeared from thin air…” Jackson whispers as he connects the dots in his mind. The picture is becoming clearer.

“They say you smelled like smoke,” Ma says. “But not a single fire was inside the building. You were a mystery child.”

Smoke…like from a battle. Jackson recalls the scenes of the story of the Battle at the Capital Axis in his mind. When it had seemed like he was actually there, he had seen smoke. Plenty of it wafted on the children in the women’s arms.

“You were covered in a white sheet, more of a blanket. Do you know it was made of? Silk. You also had that strange device in your hands.”

The connections are too close. After a quick “thanks, Ma,” Jackson runs up the stairs and zips into his room.

Jackson unslings his backpack of his shoulders. He yanks it open and pours out all the contents. The teleporter, the parchment note, and the story of Ayvaria all get orderly lined up on the bed. Every object that he possesses that had the ‘help us’ note on it gets put in an orderly pile on the desk.

Time to think, Jackson thinks as he pulls up his chair to sit down upon.

Appearing randomly, the smell of smoke, the linen blanket: it all points to the baby in the story. The green eyes, the blonde hair, the teleporter: they all point to Jackson as a child. The riddle is solved. Jackson is one of the three lost heirs of Ayvaria, heirs of King Anven, his father.

Jackson runs his hands through his shoulder-length hair. What to do! What to do! It seems simpler to drive the first jet to scour the air than to understand the course of action to take. Jackson looks at the teleporter. It is still arranged in the sequence that Seerka had set it to when Jackson was a baby.

Jackson lays down on his bed amidst the junk. He flicks his light out. He needs to concentrate, and he found it best to do such a thing in the dark. Jackson doesn’t sleep, but is wide awake, racking his mind for an answer. Where should he go? Should he teleport to Terradorn and take his throne as a king in Ayvaria, learn about his past a live in his true home? Or should he stay in Earth and be with the world he grew used to, living with his adopted parents? If he goes to Ayvaria, will his siblings be there? If he stays, will he always receive messages from Ayvaria? The thoughts fly around in Jackson’s mind like fighter jets, all shooting at each other for a chance to be heard. But one jet dominates all, firing openly at all others. At last it is the only one left. Jackson makes up his mind. Go to Terradorn. It is is destiny.

He rolls over in bed and grabs the teleporter. He hopes that the sequence that sent him to Earth will work sending him back to Terradorn. He flips the light back on, lands the backpack on his back, and he presses the red orb in the center. In a moment, the listmere hum takes over and Jackson is snatched from the world of Earth.

The black falcon circles over the Floridan villa, slowly lowering down. He had sensed listmere, the energy of his world, and he immediately assumed that it was another one of the heirs. The falcon dives the rest of the descent, hoping to find where the listmere came from. He hovers near a window, careful not to ram into it like the time in the north land. The sense of listmere is stronger here. Maybe this time he would have to ram into the window on purpose.

The falcon flies back, then hovers in place again. Then with a burst of energy, he flashes forward. His head cracks agains the window, and it shatters with a crash. He feels blood edging down his face and on his beak. He dizzily flops in the window. On the thing the Humans call a bed, he sees a stack of paper. He slowly flies over. It is what he is looking for. He claws at the papers, but then hesitates before leaving.

Out of the corner of his eye he sees a little note saying ‘help us.’ He figures he should take that too, and after looking around to see if any one is looking, he soars out of the window.

Chapter Nine

The Unbreakable Bond

LISA ROLLS AROUND in bed. She grasps her face, then her head, trying to get rid of the visions in her mind. She attempts to open her eyes, but they seem glued shut. O why must I sleep?!

Lisa shudders as she sees a Minotaur fall to the ground. She is in her dream. She tries to run, but her legs are short and unstable. She is in the body of a mere two-year-old; it is even stranger than the time in the falcon’s body. As far as she can tell, the Minotaurs are trying to defend her. But strange creatures are slaughtering them, creatures that can change into any form they want, so long that it is the form of a living creature. And you can only see the difference by their black eyes.

Breathing heavily, Lisa runs near a massive wardrobe. An enemy creature in the form of a cobra chases after her, its black eyes shining and its poison fangs bared. The tiny jaws grow ever closer to her neck…SNAP! A massive Minotaur cleaves the head off with its massive battle axe.

“Uncle Crawth!” Lisa cries, but not on purpose. It seems as if she is not in control of her young body, only her mind.

“Not now, Layis,” Crawth growls. He lifts her up with his massive hairy hand and puts her in the wardrobe. Normally he would leave it open for people inside to breathe, but this time Layis’ safety from the sword is more important than her safety from lack of fresh air. He carefully rubs her dirty-blonde hair with his hands.

“Now you stay put,” he growls. “It’s for your protection.”

Lisa wants to thank him, but her mouth doesn’t open when she wants to speak. Crawth closes the doors and runs away. Lisa’s toddler body waddles to the keyhole and peeps out.

Crawth stand valiantly, sleighing all Draegors that get to close. A Faun Draegor gets decapitated. Another serpent Draegor has his long body cut open. So many of the strange creatures pour on the lone Minotaur, but he holds strong, even to the last.

Soon a dozen Draegors attack Crawth. He cuts them down like a sickle on grass, defending the young princess. More push in, and Crawth has no room to swing his axe. He feels fangs, claws, and talons bite his flesh. He feels swords, daggers, and spears tear at his neck. He falls to his knees, groaning in agony and merely attempting to bat enemies away. He swings his axe behind his back for one more fatal blow forward…

And he dies.

No! I don’t want to see! Move away! Lisa commands her body in her dreams, but it doesn’t listen. But these aren’t dreams. These are her memories of her past, clearer than ever. She watches in horror as more Minotaurs die for her. Her protection. Why is she so special? That is one thing that she does not remember.

At last her body steps away from the keyhole. It sits down awkwardly, then lays on a tunic, folded up on the wood. There is a flash of darkness, and then light again. It pours through the keyhole, making a single thread of light. There is no more noise outside. All is deathly silent.

This is my body when I was young, Lisa wonders. I must have fallen asleep. More pieces fit together in her mind, pieces of a puzzle that was broken up in the past. Lisa is just reliving these moments in her mind, but unlike most mental things, she can’t control it.

The Lisa’s toddler body stands up, stretches, and cautiously opens the door. Lisa admires her own bravery when she was young. Her fifteen-year-old mind seems more scared than the body of a two-year-old.

Lisa’s young body peeps out. The room smells of the dead, and everything in the room seems to have blood spattered on it. Younger Lisa steps out, carrying her older mind with her. She walks around a bit, examining her surroundings. It is a moment later that she is picked up and in the arms of a woman. The lady has short blonde hair and a charming face, despite the blood and gore upon it. Apparently she has been searching hard for the young Lisa.

“Layis!” she whispers softly. Then she shouts out. “My queen! I have found Layis! She was walking around by the wardrobe.”

Lisa listens to other voices around the area echo, saying similar tidings but about other children. Then the woman named Astrid begins to run. She runs out the doors and into the heart of the battle.

Dodging, ducking, and defending, Astrid runs with another woman by her side. The other lady is holding another child, presumably the one they call Honwise. The baby looks like a newborn. Lisa looks behind Astrid’s shoulder. Another woman is running too, her holding a different child, another newborn. This woman is the most familiar of all three. Then Lisa remembers. The lady is who she remembers as her birth mother. The toddler body of Lisa calls to the woman.

“Mama!” she shouts, holding out her arms. But Lisa’s birth mother stops and hides behind some gold bricks, letting the other two women run ahead.

In a few moments Lisa is in a room. Astrid and the other peer around, checking for other beings, both friends or foes. Upon finding no one, they begin searching the area, fanning out and spying every object in the domed room. They appear to be looking for something.

After a few minutes, Lisa’s mother runs in. She too joins the search, and she seems to have found what are looking for.

“Over here!” she calls. “I found the teleporters!” Astrid and the other run over by Lisa’s mom. They examine their find.

It’s my machine! Lisa screams mentally as she sees the glowing pentagon. A teleporter. That is what had taken her to Earth. That makes perfect sense.

Lisa thinks a few moments.

Okay, not perfect sense, but alot more than before!

Lisa finds herself on a table, looking up into the eyes of her mother. After the exchanging of a few words, the Astrid and the other holding Honwise run out of the room. The one Lisa’s mother had been holding, Bravmun, lies awake to her left. And farther than that, Honwise lies sleeping.

Her mother is arranging the triangular panels of the teleporters in a specific sequence.

The mother lifts Lisa up in her arms. “I love you,” she says. She gives Lisa a teleporter and reluctantly puts her back down on the desk. Lisa feels sad to leave her.

“Now don’t you turn any of these panels now,” Lisa’s mother says. Lisa can tell she is disheartened. It becomes clear what she is going to do. “We don’t know where that would take you.” Lisa receives a kiss on her forehead. “The Humans of Earth will take good care of you. But just don’t forget about us.” She places her finger on the blue orb. “Live and justify.”

Lisa tries to scream out, but nothing happens. Her mother presses down the blue button on the teleporter. Lisa sees a flash of light. Blinding light. And it doesn’t go away.

Lisa tries to turn her head. And to her amazement, her body obeys. She sees a white wall to her left with a TV on. She watches as cartoon characters hop around and tell lame jokes, certainly not a thing you would see in a medieval world. Lisa looks up at the blinding light again. As her eyes adjust, she realizes it is nothing more than an electric light from the ceiling. She turns her head to the right. In the corner, she sees her parents, her adopting parents that she had learned to love on Earth, sitting in some chairs and holding each other tight.

Sleeping.

On the table next to her parents is a clock. 9:16 AM. But when the falcon knocked me out it was around four o’clock PM!

Lisa slowly sits up. She feels gauze around her forehead, presumably where the falcon had hit her. She puts her hand up to touch the wound. She feels dried blood.

Lisa looks down at her body, and it is not of a two-year-old. I’m me again. Fifteen-year-old me.

She looks around. A doctor and a nurse exchange a few words. When the male doctor notices that Lisa is awake, he bumbles over to her bed.

“Ah, awake at last!” he cries in an over-emphasized voice. He pats his wide stomach and erupts in a forced laugh. His loud boisterous voice immediately wakes Mr. and Mrs. Fairs, and they both scramble over to Lisa when they spot her open eyes. Lisa’s mom begins to hug her like a giant pillow, not even being mildly careful about her daughter’s head.

“O my daughter!” she sobs. “My precious daughter.”

“Honey,” Dad says with concern in his voice. “You’ve been out for eighteen hours!”

“Eighteen?” Lisa asks. She knows its true, but it seemed only like one hour in her dreams, or memories.

“Is she fine, Dr. Shlavendas?” Mom asks.

“She looks it, Mrs. Fairs,” Dr. Shlavendas laughs. “Indeed, your daughter looks as fine as you do.” He winks and gives a signature broad smile.

Mr. Fairs eyes the doctor grimly.

“Mom! Dad!” Lisa says excitedly. “We have to get home. I need to talk to guys.”

“Yes, little girl, but your daddy has an awfully large bill to take care of first,” Dr. Shlavendas says in a hinting voice. He winks again and shakes his finger in the air as if pointing out something invisible.

Mr. Fairs stands up and eyes the man. “Just send it by mail.”

“As you wish,” the doc says more to Mrs. Scepters than her husband. He gives another big smile, then walks out of the room.

“Come on,” Lisa says, throwing the blanket off her. She slips her hand in her dad’s pocket and takes it out without him noticing anything. “Let’s go.”

Her parents sit there a moment, not knowing exactly what to do.

“Honey, you still need to rest,” Dad says.

“I got your car keys,” Lisa says, jingling her object of theft in the air. The parents looks at each other. Dad smiles and joins Lisa, followed by her mom.

They exit the the hospital and drive the long way back to their home. And on the way back, Lisa looks out the window at the birds. But she doesn’t see the black falcon.

“Okay, what do you want to tell us?” Lisa’s dad says as soon as the walk in the door. But Lisa doesn’t listen. She runs upstairs to her room. She swings open her door and tumbles in.

Her room is the same mess, but this time a bit of her old blood it on the floor. But that’s not what she is looking for. She sees the teleporter. She grabs it, then the rolled up note on the floor. She inspects it. It says the same thing: addressed to Lisa Fairs and a few words sprawled across the page. She is satisfied and she runs back downstairs.

“Honey, I don’t think you should run like that,” she hears her dad say. “You were just unconscious.”

“Dad, I’m fine,” she says. “Come here.”

Her mom and dad walk over and wait. Lisa holds up the note. “When I was bird watching, I saw a falcon. A big black falcon. The strangeness started there, when somehow I saw through the eyes of the falcon. Now I know that sounds crazy, but just hear me out. Later when I got home, I noticed in my pictures that it was holding something. A rolled up note. Long-story-short, this falcon ended up in my room. How it came there and knew where I live, I do not know. But it had this note, addressed to me.” Lisa points to her name on the note. “But at first, I didn’t know what this note meant. I have told you about my memories from before you adopted me, and I somehow thought that these words, asking me not to forget about them, whoever they are, and my memories are connected. When I looked at the falcon next, it was holding this.” Lisa holds up the teleporter, then gasps.

The teleporter must have changed when she had been gone, for now, the inside orb glows red, and only three adjacent triangles glow blue. Another one shines red like the orb, and the last one does not glow, but appears to be normal metal.

“I don’t understand,” she says. She must not have noticed the change when she got the teleporter in her room.

“What does that machine have to do with this?” Mrs. Fairs asks.

Lisa sighs. “I don’t know why it is different than before, but do you remember me telling you that this just appears out of nowhere like magic?”

Her parents nod.

“And the people who found me found this in my hands when I appeared, right?”

They nod again.

“Then I am right. After seeing the teleporter, as it is called, I tried to shoo the falcon away. I was angry. I didn’t want to hear about my past. If this note was from one of my birth parents, I didn’t want to have anything to do with it. Then the falcon knocked me out.”

“We found you after hearing you fall to the ground,” Mr. Fairs says. “Luckily your fall wasn’t muffled by all that bird scat.”

Mom elbows him in the ribs, then gestures for Lisa to continue.

“I dreamt the entire time I was out. If dreamt from the eyes of a little girl of two-years-old. I believe that that little girl was me, just younger. I learned that that those dreams I had were not just dreams, but my memories, just clearer, so clear actually that it felt like I was reliving them.

“I saw many things, including what I remember as my birth mother.”

Lisa notices that her mom tenses up, but her dad lays a comforting hand on her shoulder.

Lisa continues. “In my memory, I saw my mother give me this teleporter. She sent me away to Earth with it, but before she did she said the words on this note. ‘Do not forget about us.’

“I know this all sounds crazy, but something is up, and it’s connected with the falcon, this note, the teleporter, and my dreams.” Lisa waits for a response. Her parents are quiet. Stirring questions that Lisa had never thought before creep into her mind. Do they not believe me? Don’t they trust me? The questions begin to torment her mind, but Lisa remains quiet and waits.

Mr. Fairs is first to speak, and he seems to put all questioning thoughts away. “Lisa, your mom and I both trust you, and we believe that you are telling the truth in what you thought you saw. But we are going have to fit those thoughts to reality, and we must come to rational conclusions that reasonably makes sense. Unless something comes that changes things completely, we should assume that the answer of all these things are, as I said before, rational. For example, seeing through the eyes of the falcon is relatively crazy, if you don’t mind me saying. Perhaps you were tired, and when you saw the falcon you began to daydream. Your memories on the other hand, can not be a daydream. I acknowledge that they are strange, but I think it could make some sense that you would recall them later in sleep, clear or unclear.”

Lisa nods as she listens. She doesn’t care about how rational their conclusions had to be. She doesn’t care that her father suspects that she might not have really seen through the eyes of the falcon. Lisa can tell her dad is trying to work it out and not just put it aside like some child’s fantasy.

A loud flapping sound echoes through the room. Then a clawing at the door.

“What’s that?” Lisa asks worriedly.

“I’ll go check,” Dad says. He walks over to the door cautiously. He sees the doorknob rattle. A dark spot passes over the peephole, then disappears. Dad takes hold of the doorknob and he carefully begins to twist it. As soon as the door is free to swing open, it does. A black form flies through the mere crack in the door and around the house. It passes around Dad, then Mom, then finally stopping near Lisa.

“The black falcon!” Lisa cries, almost happy to see the thing that harmed her.

“Stay back!” Mr. Fairs shouts, his face angry. “If this bird harmed you, I’m gonna harm it right now.” The big man steps to the falcon, not quite knowing what he is going to do to it. Fists may not work with something so small but fast. He knows its just an animal, but it seems smart enough to be a Human. If what Lisa had said is true, as he believes it is, this creature is able to see someone, enter her house, leave, then come back.

The falcon watches the tall Human approach him. He is angry, and rightly so. The falcon had after all hit his adopted daughter to unconsciousness. But now they need to see it was for a reason. The falcon raises the bundle of papers with his claws and puts them at the feet of the man gently.

Mr. Fairs watches as the falcon cautiously approaches him with the bunch of papers. As the bird flies back, he lowers his fists. With a burst of motion, the falcon flies away back out of the door. And somehow the small family thinks that that is the last they would see of the falcon.

Dad slowly reaches for the papers. When he lifts them up, his eyes narrow, trying to work out the mystery before him.

“Help Us, Jackson Scepters,” he reads.

Lisa walks forward. “What is it?”

“It’s a story,” he says. “for a school.”

“Why would the falcon bring that here?” Mom asks, drawing nearer.

“What does it say?” Lisa asks.

“I don’t know what to make of it,” Mr. Fairs says, turning the papers over and examining each one.

Lisa peers over his shoulder. She reads a little bit until her eyes fall to a certain section. “Its my memories!” she shouts. “That describes what I dreamt about!”

“Slow down,” Dad says. “Are you sure?”

“YES! YES! READ IT! READ IT!” Lisa hollers, jumping up and down excitedly.

Dad smiles. He looks at the front page.

“‘Sure is gorgeous tonight, huh Jacken,’ Vren the Minotaur says to his Faun friend…”

Mr. Fairs lowers the papers and looks at the two ladies’ faces. The younger is of awe and excitement, and the older is of fear and concern. His own face shows no feelings; he is too shocked to show any.

“I should go there!” Lisa exclaims.

“No!” Mrs. Fairs shouts. “We’re not deciding on anything now. We need to think. This all must be a coincidence. A cruel joke. Someone probably just trained that bird and maybe drugged Lisa.”

“Drugged?” Dad asks, trying to be direct but stern. “This all sounds to crazy to be true, but something out of our hands is happening here.”

“But Dear,” Mom asks. “How can there be some magical world out there. I mean, this is like Lord of the Rings made real! It’s impossible!”

“Nothing is impossible,” Lisa says. “Mom, you said it yourself just yesterday.”

“She’s right,” Dad says. “I agree that this feels like some wacko TV show. I’m half-expecting zombies with shotguns to barge in through the backdoor. I don’t know what’s going on except for one thing.” Dad points to Lisa. “Someone’s calling out daughter. And there’s a whole bunch of people in this place called Ayvaria that are in danger. Lisa, or Layis if her name is really that, is a…a princess!”

“We can’t just send her somewhere without knowing what will happen!” Mrs. Fairs says. “A world like that, fake or real, is dangerous. The whole story there just described a battle where thousands died! We can’t let Lisa see that, let alone be in it! If she goes there and rules those people, the fate of thousands would depend on her.”

“Which is why I should go,” Lisa whispers. “Listen. I love you guys. I will never not love you. But my birth mom didn’t abandon me. She was protecting me, and she might have saved herself from death if it wasn’t for me and those other two children. And you are right Mom, that if I make bad choices, I would be the one responsible. But if I make good choices, I could save thousands from the death that awaits them if I don’t go.”

Mom places her face in her hands. “I know,” she sobs. “but you can’t leave me.”

Lisa places a hand on her face, and she lifts it up slowly. “I will never leave you,” she says. “We will always be together in our hearts.” Lisa stands up. “And besides, I can always teleport back to see you guys, right?”

“That’s true, I guess,” Mom says, wiping a few tears away. She looks at her daughter. They had gone through so much together. Mrs. Fairs doesn’t want those adventures and poems of love to ever end. But now, her daughter is slipping from her grasp. Just like her husband had said, it’s out of their hands. And Mrs. Fairs isn’t about to kick and scream out of lack of control. If she has to let go of her daughter no matter what she does, she won’t do it resentment. Her daughter would go with her love.

“Alright,” she whispers. A little louder, “This is out of our control, but Lisa, I give my consent that you can go.”

“Really?!” Lisa squeals, and she runs and embraces her mother. They exchange love and connect more that they had ever done before. Mr. Fairs joins in, and together as a family, they relive all adventures of love in that moment. Their bond grows so tight that none can break it, not even the sharpest swords in the world.

For where Lisa is going, there are plenty of sharp swords.

“You ready?” Dad asks after zipping the last of the suitcases. Lisa’s parents had made her pack eight bags of junk to bring on her journey. It feels to Lisa that she is going on an abnormally long vacation. She has eight toothbrushes with gallons of toothpaste, a bathing suit and a wardrobe of clothes, her laptop and cell phone, and a whole mess of other things.

“Are you sure I need all this stuff?” Lisa asks, absently rubbing the handle of a suitcase. “I’m not sure I can even teleport all this stuff with me. And I doubt they have cell phone reception in Terradorn.”

“I’m not sending my baby away empty handed,” Mom says. Lisa is impressed how well she is still holding up. Lisa had been scared that the prolonging of the teleportation by packing would make things worse, but it didn’t. Mrs. Fairs seems to have an internal resolve that she would love her daughter to the end no matter where she is.

Mom walks up to Lisa and gives her one last hug. “I’m so proud of you,” she sighs. They release. Dad runs and lifts up Lisa, and he practically crushes her in his embrace. But she doesn’t care. He finally sets her down and hands her the strange teleporter.

“Do you remember the sequence?” he asks.

“I think so,” she says, beginning to twist the panels in the right way. At last she’s done.

“Make sure all the bags are touching your skin…somehow,” Mom says. “Hopefully that’ll let everything go with you.”

Lisa obeys and attempts to stack bags around her to make contact with her body. After a moment, she had made a massive barricade of suitcases around herself.

Her parents come up and lean over a stack of bags. “You best get it over with,” Mr. Fairs says.

“I guess this is it,” Lisa sniffles. “I love you both.”

“We love you too,” Mom says. They look at each other for a minute, taking in their last moments.

“Come on, Lisa. It’s time for you to go.” Mr. Fairs places a hand on her shoulder as he speaks.

Lisa lifts up the teleporter. He finger hovers over the button. “I’ll try to come back,” she says. “Goodbye.”

“Go save the world,” the parents say. Lisa presses the orb in the center and she with her wall of bags disappears from Earth.

Chapter Ten

The Teleportation

THE FOREST.

Silas often goes out to see its splendor. Its tall trees, its vast variety of wildlife. A few scattered boulders here. A cluster of pines there. Drifting leaves, scurrying squirrels, birds gliding over and through the canopy. It is Silas’ second home, fire being his first. Throughout his life he would take long walks through the maze of plants and trees, telling the dense vicinity of nature his troubles, his worries, and his concerns. Since his thirteenth birthday, the day he learned of his abandonment and his adoption, he goes there when not with fire, wandering aimlessly through trees with a match in his hand, telling the woods and his fire all his problems.

But today as he speaks to them through his mind, contemplating all the events of fire dream, the forest is unusually quiet in its responses. Even the fire seems discomforted, and it chooses to remain silent and to only listen to Silas’ fears. He still doesn’t understand the daydream, or daymare as he chooses to call it. Its mysteries are unending. It brings up new questions in his mind, but no answers. All Silas can figure out is that something else had given him that daymare. It wasn’t luck, or coincidence. Something, or someone had caused it. Silas’ first guess was the Adoption Device, but now he wonders whether something so small and ‘lame,’ as he calls it, can be the cause to something so complicated like his dream. Sure the machine was in it, but Silas can’t figure out why it would lead to all those other events in his dream as well.

Another thing that disturbs Silas is his immunity to fire. It still manifests itself in his body every time that Silas uses fire. He conducts many mini-experiments on his own body. At first when he entered the woods he had brought the match dangerously close to his face. Silas had felt  the intense heat, but just as in the daymare, it didn’t hurt. He still had felt the hotness just as much as before when it did give him pain, it just plain out didn’t hurt. Now he tries all sorts of tests. He lets the flame lick his skin, he sticks the match partly up his nose, and now he lights his hair on fire. At first he becomes deathly frightened that he would lose all of it, reducing his hair to a tiny crisp. He can’t imagine being bald. But the fire doesn’t consume his hair, and it still doesn’t hurt him. Silas is almost wants the fire to hurt him. His immunity just adds another unanswered question to the list of others. And he doesn’t want that.

And to add to his collection of torments, he still hasn’t spoken to either of his parents. He is afraid to. What would they say? What would they do? Would they forgive him? Surely not. That is why he doesn’t go to them now and confess his wrongdoing. That is why he doesn’t go and admit he had been selfish and cruel. How strong can the power of forgiveness possibly be?

Wait a sec, Silas thinks as he stops in a dead halt. He had heard a screeching sound, almost like a bird’s cry. He had never heard anything like it before. He had long ago grown accustomed to the usual sounds of his woods. Indeed, he had memorized them like everything else in the wood. But this sound is different.

There is goes again! It is clearer this time…and closer. Silas looks around. He sees plenty of birds in the trees, either in their nests tending to their young or finding small insects for themselves. But none of them looks big enough to have shrieked like what he had heard. Slowly and carefully, Silas begins to climb a tree.

Just because he does it carefully doesn’t mean that he is afraid of falling. On the contrary, he has grown used to scaling the tallest trees in the forest, jumping from limb to limb, crawling across the branches. No, right now he is afraid what he will find at the top of the tree. This is why he climbs carefully.

Silas watches as he plants one hand in front of the other, sometimes grabbing strong holds on firm branches, other times simply palming the trunk. His bare feet dig into the hard bark, inching upwards into the tree canopy. Higher and higher he climbs, passing the tops of smaller trees, then bigger ones, steadily advancing farther. Silas begins to see the density of the leaves lessen as less trees reach as high as he climbs now. He climbs branches like a ladder, despite their lessening sturdiness. And at last Silas sees the sky. He looks around at acres of the canopy, almost looking like another level of the world.

He peers around, spying the skies for the bird that could have made that stirring screech. If nothing else, it gives him something to do, something to take his mind of his troubles.

But Silas will find that the bird he is about to find will change his life forever.

Ah! The bird! When Silas sees the large bird of prey, he is immediately in awe. He had never seen anything like it except in a picture of a book he had once read. Except then, it was a dark brown. This bird is black. A black falcon.

Not only is this bird a different color than the bird in the picture, it is bigger. Its nearly three, no, four feet in wingspan. It circles around the tree Jackson grasps onto as if showing its beauty and its splendor.

When the falcon had seen the third heir, he had done that smile-like expression again. He is glad he brought the note from the villa. It would make perfect use on this Human here. It is time to give it to him.

Silas watches the falcon slowly fly closer. For the first few moments, he is in awe, almost beckoning the falcon to come closer. But when they are only about five feet apart, he begins to be afraid. He slowly descends the tree, but the bird behind him isn’t about to let his Human go. The faster Silas climbs down, the faster the falcon dives. Their distance from each other grows smaller and smaller. Silas can practically feel the curved beak near his head. But he doesn’t know that the falcon can go much faster if it likes.

Silas sees the ground beneath him, and he is about to take one final leap to the ground. But as he leaves the branch, the falcon shoots beneath him. Silas attempts to shift his fall forward in midair to avoid collision, but this sends him off balance. Instead of landing in his sturdy bare feet, he tumbles on his back, immediately knocking the wind out of him.

Silas feels his body. No broken bones. He slowly sits up, and he doesn’t forget the falcon. He turns his head back, anticipating to see its beaked face lunge at him.

But it doesn’t.

Instead, the falcon hovers above Silas for a moment, and it drops something rolled up to the ground. The scroll uncurls in the air, and it flutters down slowly before lightly touching down on Silas’ lap.

What…what’s this? Silas wonders as his hand reaches toward the note. He picks it up carefully and examines it. Only two words lay on it in all capital letters and with an underline underneath. The phrase ‘help us’ stretches across the note.

“Help who?” Silas says aloud. Then in a moment, he sees hundreds of flashes in his mind, each a different scene from his daymare from earlier. He sees faces, faces of the Humans that fought in the battle. He sees all the strange creatures: Fauns, Minotaurs, Elves, and Centaurs, now as if he is familiar with them and as if he had known about them from birth. They all run about, but none of them are Draegors in disguise. The flashes shift from one face to another, showing each in detail. And in the end he sees the face of the mother from the daymare, holding the child that looks just like a young version of Silas. But this time, all the similar traits of the mother and son stand out, and all the similar characteristics between the son and Silas stand out even more. Then in another moment, Silas’ vision returns. On his lap near the note is the Adoption Device, still different from the original. And at once everything clicks in his mind.

The quick vision had made it all clear, even in so brief a time. He is the son that the mother had teleported to Earth, and that means that he is her son. An heir of the throne in that world he had seen in his daymare. All those faces he had just seen are his people. And he is destined to take back his kingdom.

And before him is the very machine that had taken him to Earth. Can i’ take me to tha’ world too? Silas is swept into another vision, but this time he looks and listens more carefully. He sees his mother arranging the device into the perfect sequence to send him to Earth. When he sees normally again, he begins to arrange the teleporter in the exact same way that his mother had thirteen years ago. He doesn’t think about it and he doesn’t hesitate. It seems almost second nature for him to arrange those panels, as if some of his mother’s talents had been passed down to him.

In a moment, Silas’ finger is halfway to the button for him to teleport himself. But he hesitates. What about his parents? What about all the other problems he had on Earth? He has to take care of those first, right? And he doesn’t even know where he’ll end up. Does he have to find out those things first?

No. He can go there, then zip right back after making a quick check. Then he can think about this logically.

Silas takes his matchbox out of his pocket. He strikes a match, and he watches the flame burn in the air. It makes him feel safe, somehow. He slips the matchbox back, then presses the button on the machine. And Silas with his flame vanishes for the world he had gone to thirteen years before.

Chapter Eleven

In Ayvaria

“SIR? SIR? WAKE up, sir!”

What? Jackson’s eyes open a crack. Light. Lots of light. Overwhelmingly powerful light. Jackson snaps his eyes closed again. Having lost his sense of sight, he feels around. He is on a bed of some sort. He feels his chest. He only feels skin. Is he naked?!? Jackson forces his eyes open to look at his body. Though he feels his vision will burn like his eyes, he sees his chest, arms, and everything stomach and up bare. He looks lower. Phew! He is wearing a skirt of some sort, not that that is much of an improvement. The skirt-like cloth appears to be made of shiny scales, mostly black but with a few gold. After his eyes adjust to the light, he looks around with his keen green eyes.

He appears to be in a room of marble. The walls, the floors, the ceilings: all marble. Giant marble pillars hold up the ceiling, reaching from the floor. He turns his head.

“Ah!” Jackson starts. He almost falls off the bed he is on to the cold, hard floor. There on the left of his bed stands a woman…from waist-up. Beneath her linen garments reach two goat legs, both hoofed and covered with curly brown hair.

“A Faun!” Jackson exclaims in awe.

Yeffera the Faun, if you’d be so kind to call me as such,” Yeffera says in a thick country accent.

Jackson is nonetheless amazed. “Yeffera…”

“Welcome to Delinhoof, capital of Dareveil, the Faunish province of Ayvaria, which is the leading kingdom of our world of Terradorn.”

“Delinhoof? Dareveil?” Oh, right. Ayvaria is divided in five provinces, or six if you count the Capital Axis in the center. I guess Dareveil is one of them.

The question arises. “Where am I?”

“Well I just said!” Yeffera exclaims with a swat to her leg. Her goat leg.

“No, I mean, where in Dareveil am I? Are you the only one here?”

“No, I’m just a mere maidservant of The Remnant!”

“The Remnant?”

“The Remnant is a group of people who still support the rule of the Humans from thousands of years ago,” Yeffera says in a matter-of-fact tone of voice.

“Thousands of years ago?” Only thirteen years has passed, right? I’m only thirteen!

“Ugh, so many questions!” Yeffera laughs a loud boisterous laugh. “Wouldn’t you rather eat? I’ve got lantern fruit, mashed p’taters, and a whole platter of darn good roast pithrig! Come on, sit up!”

Jackson obeys and sits up on the bed. “I have one more question before I eat,” Jackson cautiously says. “Why am I wearing a skirt?”

A pause passes. “Only girls where skirts, dear,” Yeffera says.

“I know. That’s why I’m asking why I am wearing one.”

“O silly me! You probably don’t have tesserols in your world.”

Tesserols?” Jackson slowly asks. Is that what this is?

“Very stylish for most males, if I might add. It is merely the lower part of a tunic. Yours is made of dragon scales. You look most handsome in yours with your backcoil.”

“Backcoil?” Jackson feels behind his head. His shoulder-length blonde hair no longer hangs down as normal, but is up in a short ponytail behind his head. So that’s what a backcoil is.

Yeffera smiles and waddles over to a pedestal. Despite her largish size, Jackson can tell that her legs are strong. Yeffera takes a huge tray off the stand and brings it over to a closer marble table. Jackson looks at the meal. It appears to be delicious, but would his foreign tastes appreciate this Terradornian food? He sniffs at the meal. Mm, mm, mm! He can’t wait to eat.

“Here’s your fork,” the Faunish maid says, handing an utensil to Jackson. “And dig in!”

Jackson doesn’t argue. He immediately pierces some of the fruit. It appears to be glowing, and when he tries it, Jackson is sure his face glows too. The combination of juicy flavors coming together into one bite is perfect. It has a touch of peach, along with a dash of apple-like taste.

“Ah, you like the lantern fruit, do you?” Yeffera asks. “A personal favorite of of many of the Fauns. Centaurs, too.”

“Itfs delifous!” Jackson mumbles with a mouthful of food hanging out of his mouth.

“Aye, but not appealing to the eye when half-chewed,” Yeffera says, slowly leaning away from Jackson. He realizes his bad manners and chomps his mouth closed. Next he tries some mashed potatoes. It is more familiar, but different at the same time. Instead of a heavy starchy taste, the potatoes are more smooth and naturally buttery. Next he tries the meat called pithrig. It appeared to be a roast boar, spit still intact through pig, but Jackson can’t tell which end is which. He reaches for the end that he thinks is the head, stabbing his fork in it under a tuft of hair, but Yeffera stops him before pulling meat out.

“Careful,” she says, looking at the pithrig. “The area right below the tail there where your fork is is not the mouth, but quite the opposite.” Jackson understands and he pulls his fork out.

“Um, do you have a new fork?”

The rest of the meal carries on with new food and new tastes. But the rest of the time, Jackson isn’t focused on the breakfast. He is amazed that he is actually there, in the world of Terradorn. If any unfamiliarity lingered in earth, it disappeared at Jackson’s arrival in the kingdom of Ayvaria. Everything feels like home. He is awestruck that he had managed to teleport here, the place of his family. Yeffera carries on, talking about the honor of meeting a Human and a king at that, but Jackson doesn’t listen. To most of it.

“You must be eager to meet Chief Taurth,” Yeffera bobbles.

“Chief who?”

“Chief Taurth, a Centaur chief. He’s been put in charge of overseeing all Remnant affairs concerning the Centaurs. Cenosia, the kingdom of Centaurs, is in favor of the Remnant, just like Dareveil, and of course Minodom, the land of the Minotaurs. Taurth, along with Fost the Elf and Jeravidd the Faun, is in charge of the Remnant, here in Luminion Palace.”

“When am I seeing him?” Jackson inquires.

“When ever your majesty pleases!”

“Oh,” Jackson says. He isn’t used to such authority. Back at home, he always was the mere kid, barely any say in any matter. This is not the case. Though he doesn’t realize it at first, he is a king here. Though he is king over only a small portion of the kingdom that is rightfully his, he is still a king, among two others.

That brings up a new question. Are his two siblings there? Taurth will know, he assumes, and her resumes speaking.

“Well then,” Jackson says, a slight mischievous tone in his voice. “I would like to see Taurth and the other rulers here.”

“As you wish, my king,” Yeffera says, clapping her hands in excitement. “Your father went through the same stage when he was made king. It took him a while to get used to his position.”

“How do you know?” Jackson exclaims. “You said it was thousands of years ago that Humans ruled. How would you personally know about my father?”

“You will find the non-Humans of this world can live for extremely long times, up to thousands of years. I for one am too old to mention, but many including Taurth have reached the age of ten thousand years. I will allow the males to tell you about how thousands of years can pass here while only thirteen pass in your world.” Yeffera stands up. “Come on, then! Lets go see the Centaur.”

Jackson stands up and walks with Yeffera. They exit the marble room through the heavy door, only to see a place more beautiful. A large hall stretches from one end of the castle to the other, lined with doors and elaborate pillars that support massive stone arches. The one side of the hall is open, save the rows of white columns that hold up the ceiling and stories above, to the surroundings. Jackson cautiously walks to the edge, not a gate nor wall to save him from the drop that awaits him. He gasps as he surveys the long steep wall of the castle below him, starting at the floor and continuing to the distant ground. It is then when he realizes that the hall is several stories up. But more breathtaking than the drop is the view. Before Jackson lays miles and miles of the countryside. Farms of wheat and orchards of lantern fruit checker the flat lands like a large quilt of land. Acres of woods fall to his right, and a city of quaint cottages and homes sits to his left, which he presumes to be the city of Delinhoof. It is amazing to see the medieval world; its so unlike Earth. Everything in the landscape is coated by rays of light from the huge blue sun above. Again unlike Earth, the blue sun seems to cover a quarter of sky.

Jackson closes his eyes, despite the long fall before him. He inhales deeply, feeling the warm air fill his lungs and strengthen his mind and spirit. The air here must have a lot more oxygen than the air of Florida. It seems to be filled with something, something Jackson can’t quite put a finger on. But whatever it is, it strengthens and gives peace to the body. He feels whole here, like he can preform any physical task needed; his body seems unlimited.

Only Yeffera’s soft voice stirs Jackson from his calm. “Sire?”

“Mm?”

“Chief Taurth? You wanted to see him?”

“Oh, yes!” Jackson says, quickly resuming his walk down the hall with Yeffera. “Just caught up with the beauty of it all.”

“Aye, Ayvaria is beautiful,” Yeffera sighs as she trots along with Jackson. “but I wish I could say the same for all of its inhabitants.”

“What?”

“The Draegors, as you must have heard, are mostly all evil, save a few here and there. But the same is with all of the creatures of Terradorn. Every action is a choice, and all have failed, fail, and will fail in those choices of what they do. While some manage to choose the right path sometimes, most fail quite frequently, maybe every time they are given the opportunity to. Some set out to do wrong, others do it without a conscious thought, but no mortal is perfect.”

“Mortal?”

“There is One immortal, and only He is perfect.”

The two continue down the long hall to the very end where it opens to a large portico with towering pillars scattered through the stone expanse. Throughout the majestic area, Fauns, Minotaurs, and Centaurs all walk, some together making conversation, while others trot by themselves, attending to an urgent task that can’t be interrupted by chat. Jackson is in awe with all of the mythological creatures walking about, but his eyes fall on something better.

“Another Human!” Jackson exclaims to Yeffera, pointing to a distant figure. This man has normal legs and not a single horn. Not a hair can be seen on his able-looking body except on his scalp, where almost white hair blossoms in handsome curls, effectively tied into a backcoil.

“I’m afraid that’s not a Human, m’dear,” Yeffera says tentatively. “That’d be Fost, the only Elf that sides with the Remnant.”

Elf? Jackson looks closer. Sure enough, at the end of his pale ears, little points pierce the air like little daggers at the end of the elf’s ears. Fost speaks with two other men: one a majestic Centaur and the other a muscular Faun. The Centaur’s horse body is covered with short brown hair, the bulk of it covered with thick leather armor. His torso is bare, but over his back he wears a longsword. His face is square and his brown eyes set evenly. His short brown hair clings to his scalp unlike his light beard.

The Faun wears a gold-colored tunic with a crossbow slung over his back. His small horns reach out of his curly brown hair, curling slightly in a bending circle. Unlike Fost and like the Centaur, his face has a light beard.

“Come on!” Yeffera says, slapping Jackson in the back. “The Centaur is Taurth! Go talk to him, for he will answer your multitude of questions.”

Jackson staggers forward from Yeffera’s slap. He seems to have an exceptionally hard time finding balance once again, but soon after he stands upright and walks to the group of three.

The three creatures talk and talk and talk. It is only when the Faun sees Jackson out of the corner of his eye do they stop speaking.

“Hail, Humankind King Honwise Bravewing!” the Faun says with his left hand up in a sign of greeting.

Honwise? Jackson has never heard this name before. O wait! The note. “Hi!” he says, waving his hand. The Centaur, Taurth swivels on his rear legs and looks at Jackson.

“Ah, it is the Human!” he says in a deep but outgoing voice. “Welcome to Luminion Castle, the palace at the Remnant! I am Chief Taurth Etmaul, Son of Maurth Etmaul, a prince of the Centaurs. Live and justify.”

“Oh,” Jackson says. “I’m Jackson Scepters,” he introduces himself awkwardly, “Son of Noah Scepters, and I hail from Florida, the Sunshine State, and,” Jackson claps his hands in front of him. “and now I live with you guys! Live and, er, justify.”

Fost the Elf laughs aloud. “Well said Honwise,” he grins. “but not entirely true. Remember, you are King Honwise Bravewing, Son of Anven Bravewing, and you hail from Ayvaria. I am Fost the Elf, and this is Jeravidd, the Faun.” Fost gestures to Jaravidd, who in turn nods his head and speaks.

“I trust you had a pleasant journey from Earth to Terradorn?”

“Oh yeah it was fine!” Jackson says, waving a hand in front of him. “But that brings me to a question: how come I teleported here? My real ma sent me from that castle in the battle, right? That was the Grand Palace, but this is Luminion Castle, right? How does that work?”

“We went to great lengths to get you here,” Jeravidd says. “In similar ways we contacted you on Earth; we indirectly tampered, if you will, with your belongings to show the messages.”

“Right,” Jackson says.

“The same we did with the teleporter, and it brought you right in the room with Yeffera!” Jackson spies the Faunish woman waving over to him through the crowd. “But don’t worry. The male attendants changed you.”

“Honwise, or Jackson, as you call yourself,” Taurth says. “You must be tired. Have you rested yet, or even eaten? It was nighttime when you left Earth, but it is mere morning here!”

“I have eaten,” Jackson says. “and the air seemed to do the trick to wake me! I would much rather figure out what I’m gonna do here! I’m home!”

“You are right; there is much work to be done here, including taking back the whole of Ayvaria,” Taurth states grimly, pawing his hoof gently as if the mere mention of taking back Ayvaria is battle itself. “But you will not go to the Grand Palace unarmed, nor untrained. Indeed, you have much to learn, and tomorrow you will begin you Phaelan training.”

“Phaelan? What’s that?”

“The word is most commonly translated to Spartan,” Fost says. “But the Phaelans are not from the country of Sparta in Earth, but have the ability to pass through almost any treatment. They can fight well, and are divided two classes: Alpha Phaelans and Omega Phaelans.”

“You will be trained to become an Alpha Phaelan,” Jeravidd says. “But that’s tomorrow. Today Yeffera will take you to Yathessor Mentorpen, her husband, and he shall answer your multitude of questions, as I’m sure you have them.”

“But—” Jackson starts.

“Yeffera!” Taurth calls. The Faun bumbles over and gives a sign of greeting. “Yeffera, take Honwise, or Jackson, to your charming husband and the other two that should have just woken up. Yathessor will begin teaching his lessons there, with the others of course.”

“Oh yes, your chiefship,” Yeffera says with a smile. “Come on, Jackson!”

“Oh, my king!” Jeravidd calls. “Your pouch.” Jeravidd passes a large red bag.

My backpack! Inside Jackson sees his old clothes and other things that he brought with.

“You look most handsome in your tesserol, King Honwise,” Fost says. “It almost is as amazing as mine!”

Jackson smiles. “Live and justify!” he calls over awkwardly. He is beginning to like the three. He learned much of their attitudes already, even with their brief meeting. He walks off with Yeffera, leaving the Centaur, the Elf, and the Faun alone.

“Honwise has much to learn,” Jeravidd whispers, watching Jackson leave.

“Aye, as do the others,” Fost says. “but I’m sure they will learn it all well.”

“I hope, for the fate of all Ayvaria depends on them.”

Chapter Twelve

The New Beginning

AS YEFFERA ESCORTS Jackson through the long open-sided hall, Jackson begins to get more excited. He is about to meet his brother and sister, two kids he hadn’t seen for thirteen years! what would they be like? Would they like him? He has to wait and see.

Slowly, the wide hall begins to thin, and soon it becomes so narrow only four men can stand shoulder-to-shoulder without one falling of the edge. Jackson begins to feel worried, but watching Yeffera comforts him. If she can waddle through this precarious hall, he can too.

Soon both sides of the wall are open, besides pillars holding up the ceiling, and soon, even those go. It is only a long narrow bridge now. Jackson looks over the edge, and then he struggles to keep in the delicious meal. Even though it is the same hight from the ground as before when he had enjoyed the beautiful view, with so little to protect him from the fall he can’t help but be scared. He seems miles and miles from the ground. Nothing lays between the bridge and it, and nothing stands between his head and the sky. The bridge seems completely separate from the main castle, but soon Yeffera explains.

“Luminion Castle is what some call a double-complex palace,” she says. “We were just in the Secondary Complex, the smaller inferior one. The next one is the Primary Complex, three times as large as the Secondary.”

Three times as large?!? That seems impossible. The part of the castle Jackson had just been in is huge, much larger than any building Jackson had seen in Earth. To think that there is a bigger part, three times the size of the previous section, well, it just steals Jackson’s breath away.

Yeffera continues, “This is what we call the Lone Bridge that connects the Secondary and Primary Complexes. It is the only way. The benefit is that the Main Gate is in the Secondary Complex. However, everything important is in the Primary Complex. Thus, if attacked through the Main Gate, the enemy would most likely make their way to the Primary Complex. The Lone Bridge and the Main Gate are far apart, while the barracks in the Primary Complex and the Lone Bridge are close, allowing time for out armies to pass over and defend the bridge, thus defending all of the Primary Complex. They can all cross over before the enemy would be able to make it to the Bridge.”

Jackson walks and listens to Yeffera’s words. It seems like a good strategy. But what if the enemy is riding griffins, or they are Draegors that shape-shift into flying creatures. What then?

Yeffera seems to have read Jackson’s mind. “If the enemy takes the air, we have two legions of archers to defend the Primary Complex. Plus, the Aviary is in the Primary Complex. Our Sky Cavaliers are trained to tack and mount their griffins in five minutes so that they can arrive in time to defend the castle. The Cavaliers themselves are great warriors who prefer the air more than the ground, and can fight better in the sky than on the earth.

“Maybe all of that answers one of your questions you just never asked. That is why King Thorneous Rageblood does not attack; we are too well prepared.”

“That’s amazing,” Jackson says. “Luminion Castle seems so grand, and so open to all attacks. It doesn’t seem like some hidden outpost in the woods. It seems ripe for invasion. But you guys are so well defended, so even the Draegors don’t attack.” Jackson pauses for a moment. “But why don’t you attack him? You certainly seem prepared enough. Why didn’t you use what you call the Sky Calvary and invade the Capital Axis? You say you have Dareveil, that place called Cenosia, and also the province Minodom on your side. That’s three provinces of armies! You should have attacked long ago.”

“Oh, King Honwise, or Jackson, we are not prepared to attack. While we have thousands of warriors, the Draegors have tens of thousands. But even if we exceeded Thorneous in might and strength, I doubt we would have attacked.”

“Why?”

“We were waiting. There are two things that needed to be done first. Ware’dar, the Werewolf province, had long been a part of Ayvaria during the Humans’ reign, but most were reluctant. When the Draegors came, the Werewolves were left alone. Ware’dar now is practically its own country. Most Werewolves enjoy being separated, and now they support Thorneous. The Elves, on the other hand, don’t seem to care. They don’t see the difference between the Human and Draegor reign, so alas, they are not a part of the Remnant. You see, before we invade, the Remnant wants all five provinces to be in alliance against the Draegors so that we can all attack the Capital Axis. Ayvaria is made of many different creatures, but what had made it so powerful during the Humans’ reign is that the citizens were united. Though most of Werewolves were reluctant to be a part of Ayvaria, others were happy about it. Ayvaria had been unconquerable. The Remnant doesn’t want to win this fine country by forced subjection. It want every province to be wholly united for the better of everyone as individuals and Ayvaria as a whole. Then again we can become unconquerable.

“The other thing that needed to be seen to first was your arrival. That was difficult. As you were told, we went at great lengths to get you here, and the other two for that matter. For getting your attention, we, as Jeravidd said, tampered with your belongings. And we also sent you the dream. We are all too grateful that your mother had slipped that note saying ‘help us’ in the teleporter. If she hadn’t done that, it would have been alot harder. As for the other two, we used different means. We let one see through the eyes of a falcon that we had sent to Earth by raw listmere.”

“Raw listmere?”

“Raw listmere is a dangerous force, an energy, but your mother had used the last teleporters to send you to Earth. We used raw lismere to send the falcon, for it was too dangerous to send any sentient men or women to Earth with out a teleporter, so raw listmere it was. Anyway, we let the girl see through the falcon’s eyes just to give her a sense of something otherworldly. The falcon was trained, and it even helped get the attention for your other sibling. For him we also gave him a sense of something otherworldly by giving him a strange immunity to fire. We also sent him a dream.”

“What are my siblings names?” Jackson asks.

“I don’t know what they were called on Earth,” Yeffera says scratching her hair. “but the names they have here are Bravmun for the boy, and Layis for the girl.”

“Bravmun and Layis,” Jackson whispers.

“Bravmun means son of fire,” Yeffera explains. “while Layis means wind maiden or woman of the wind.”

“And my name, Honwise, what does that mean?”

“It means, king of the skies,” Yeffera says. “Oh look! We are at the end of this bridge. Oh dear, I do believe I see my husband in that there window.” Yeffera waves and points. Jackson follows the invisible line from her finger to the window. Inside he sees a face similar to Jeravidd’s but it is a bit paler. Instead it has black hair and no beard. The horns are a bit shorter as well.

“Come on! Let’s go!” Yeffera takes Jackson by the hand and escorts him to the first tower of the Primary Complex. She throws open the marble door as if it is a bit of wood and she drags her and herself inside. Jackson groans as he sees a long set of spiral stairs. Yeffera immediately begins trotting up, the sound of her hoofs beating on the stone echoing up the tower. Jackson reluctantly follow, trudging behind her, losing his breath quickly despite the nice air.

Five stories later, Jackson and Yeffera enter the door to a small cozy looking room. Inside are curved couches that line the circular walls. A nice fire crackles in a fireplace at the edge of the room. Shelves filed with books lean against the walls, and a burgundy carpet with an ornate design covers the floor. A young man not older than Jackson by the looks tends to the fire silently. He to is wearing a tesserol, and his ginger hair is back in a backcoil behind his head. The Faun know as Yathessor speaks to an older girl who looks fourteen or fifteen years old. She has dirty-blonde hair, and her eyes shine brilliantly blue. At Jackson’s arrival, all three look up to see the pair at the door.

“Ah, you have come!” Yathessor says. He stands and trots over to the pair. Jackson expects a greeting or an introduction, but the Faun simply passes him and goes to his wife Yeffera. They give each other a big hug, leaving a long and rather awkward moment of silence in the room. As the two release their embrace, Yathessor turns and says to Jackson, “You must be King Honwise! You slept for a long time after your teleportation. Welcome to the world of Terradorn, and again welcome to our fine country of Ayvaria.” He spreads his hand out to the room around him. “This is the Study where you will receive daily lessons from me, Yathessor Mentorpen. As you see, Queen Layis has already begun with me!”

At the mention of her name, the girl on the couch stands up and walks over to Jackson. She reaches out her hand. “I’m Lisa!” she says. “Or Layis as they call me here. Nice to meet you.”

Jackson takes her hand and shakes it. “I’m Jackson,” he says. “Or King Honwise. And I’m…I’m your brother!”

Lisa laughs and points to the boy by the fire. “Silas! Come over here!”

The boy walks over and smile as he sees Jackson. He had seemed so amerced in the fire earlier, he seems only to notice the pair’s entering now.

“Ah, King Elbiron’!” he says, he too extending a hand. He says in a dramatic knightly manor, “I’m King Id’nwise, and I hail from the land of the Aussies. Live and just’fy and g’day to ya!”

“Your from Australia?” Jackson asks. “I’ve never met an Australian before. I’m from Florida in the United States. You?” he asks Lisa.

“I’m from Canada.”

“Sweet,” Jackson says. “I’ve been to Canada once. We have a cottage by Lake Ontario on the New York side. I went boating one with my dad, and we kinda got lost and went to the Canadian side.”

“So when you went it was more of an accident?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh, tha’s fine,” Silas says. “I meself have neve’ been to Canada. Far to…far away.”

“When did you get here?” Lisa asks Jackson.

“I’m not quite sure, but I left Florida at evening time,” Jackson says. “Then I slept for a long stretch. Apparently they had altered my teleporter so that I would come here, to Luminion Castle.”

“Same ’ere,” Silas says. Lisa says the same.

“Speakin’ of which,” Silas says. “Where are our teleporters. Yathessor?”

“Your teleporters are not in Luminion Castle,” the Faun responds.

“So where are they?” Jackson asks.

“They are in what we call the Void,” Yathessor says. “It is the area between worlds.”

“Will we ever get our teleporters back?” Lisa asks. “I need mine.”

“Sadly, no. As I have told you before, your teleporters were the last of all teleporters in Ayvaria, and any other place in Terradorn for that matter. But they are expired. All teleporters can provide two teleportations, in your cases from Terradorn to Earth, then back. After that they are lost between the worlds, in the Void.”

“Is there any way to go back to Earth?” Silas asks with an expression of worriment. “Besides raw magi’, I mean.”

“No.”

“But that’s impossible,” Lisa says. “I need to get back. It said to my parents that I would visit back.”

“I ’ave things to tend to in Earth,” Silas says. “Personal matters.”

“Unless you brave raw listmere, you cannot go home. Were you not informed?”

“Nobody actually talked to us in Earth except in dreams,” Lisa says.

“Well I’m sorry,” Yathessor says. “I truly am. But there is no safe way to get back to Earth now.”

Lisa and Silas look down to the ground. Jackson immediately feels sorry. After all, they are all siblings. Though they only had met moments ago, Jackson can feel the connection. He wants to do something to cheer them up. And an idea pops into his head just in time.

“Hey guys, where’s the bathroom here?”

Lisa looks up. “The bathroom? Oh, that’s right. You Americans use bathroom. But there’s not a bath in every bathroom though. That’s why we use the term washroom.”

Silas stands a little taller. “Washroom? Bathroom? What are those?” A pause follows. “Ohhh! Ya mean the donny, don’t ya?”

“The donny?” Lisa and Jackson say in unison. They begin to laugh.

“So Yathessor,” Jackson says to the Faun. “Where’s the bathroom?”

“The lavatory is in the Second Tower, lowest level,” Yathessor says. He laughs as he hears Jackson groan. “Don’t worry, Jackson. There’s less stairs this time. There’s a connecting bridge that actually extends to one level lower in the Second Tower from this one. Jut walk out the door and turn to your left. The doorway to the bridge is there.”

“Thanks,” Jackson says. He smiles and exits the room.

When Jackson returns, he sees everyone in a lighter mood. As soon as he opens the door, he feels a giant pillow wailed in his face. He falls backwards, but his connection with the ground takes much longer than usual. After a few seconds he lands on the hard floor on his rump.

He looks up to see who struck him. At the doorway stands Lisa with a large smile on her face. She suddenly makes room as she sees another giant pillow come from behind her. She dodges, but Jackson isn’t as fast. The red plump pillow collides into his face. He shakes it away and looks up again. Further in the room is Silas, grinning like a mischievous cat. Jackson grabs the two pillows and hurls them at his brother. He easily dodges them by leaping clearly over them. Jackson’s jaw drops.

“How did you jump that high?” he asks with eyes wide.

“Didn’t ya notice?” Silas asks. “The gravity’s not as strong here!” Silas jumps in the air again, almost touching the ceiling. But while he is distracted by Jackson’s questions, Lisa steals two more pillows. She jumps into the air and throws them both at Silas’ hindquarters. Silas, now off balance, lands with a thud on the carpeted floor. But he isn’t hurt. He rolls on the ground and says to Jackson, “Yer turn! Give it a go!”

Jackson laughs and jumps as best as he can. He travels higher off the ground, growing further up every time he thinks he will fall back down. He reaches for the ceiling, touches it, and he begins his decent. Just before he lands on the ground, Lisa slides a pillow just under his feet. He slips and falls…right onto Silas. They both grunt as one lays on the other, leaving Lisa to laugh with Yathessor and Yeffera.

Soon after, Yathessor gathers the group up and sits them on the couches. He dismisses his wife, and he begins his speech.

“Today I am not going to give you a lesson. I am going to introduce you to you new schedule starting tomorrow, and I will also briefly cover what you will learn in your studies and training. After that you may ask your questions.

“Everyday you shall wake up at three hours to dawn. When I am done Yeffera will show you to your new rooms in the Eight Tower of the Primary Complex. Vren, your training instructor, will wake you up then, and you will run to the courtyard to begin your training.”

Jackson and Lisa look at each other at the mention of Vren’s name. They can’t wait to meet the Minotaur from the story they had read.

“Vren shall train you physically until noon, he taking you and teaching you what he desires. After you eat your brief meal which Yeffera and the other maids shall bring you, you will again run over to here, the Study. Here I will teach you the things that you must dedicate yourselves to remember. All exercises here will be mental and require the mind to help you. These lessons will go till dusk.

“After dusk you shall go to the Grand Hall to eat. After that, you are free to go where you wish, do what you wish, and speak to whoever you wish. Only on the sixth day of each week can this schedule change, and on the seventh day you may rest from your normal training. Do you have any questions so far?”

The three shake their heads.

“Good. As I mentioned a few moments ago, during your training with Vren you will learn how to master your body physically until you are an Alpha Phaelan, or Spartan. You will learn to fight, how to work, and you will do exercises daily. You will not just be in the courtyard, however. Vren and I have arranged that you three will go to other parts of the castle. For example, you will go to Jacken the griffin tamer at some point, and at other times you may go to the barracks and have competitions with some of the soldiers.

“When you are in the Study with me, we will learn about all sorts of splendid things. We will learn about all the creatures in Terradorn, we will lean of battle strategies, and we will learn of history and geography. I believe in the art of memorization, so you will have your hands full with things to devote to memory.

“Now I would like to ask you, do you have any questions related or unrelated to what I have said? I will answer both.”

Lisa, Silas, and Jackson all raise there hands.

“Yes, yes,” Yathessor says. “Layis, or Lisa, what is your question?”

“Will we have breaks during our training?” she asks with a tilted head.

“Besides the lunch-break, the period after dusk, and the seventh day of each week, no,” the Faun says. “Unless you count sleeping a break. Right now, your life is that of learning, taking in all you can. You need this information and practice to be rulers and warriors. Now Bravmun, what is your question?”

“Ya neve’ mentioned breakfast,” Silas says. “Will we be havin’ tha’ in the mornin’?”

“Vren will give you a morsel of bread, and maybe some water. You will have to ask him. Honwise?”

“This question is unrelated. How can thousands of years pass here, and only thirteen pass in Earth?”

The two others look at Jackson and nod. They all look at Yathessor for an explanation.

“When you three experienced dreams, visions, or strange events concerning Ayvaria or Terradorn, did any of you notice how much time had passed?” Yathessor asks, stroking his clean shaven chin and watching the three.

“Aye, I remember,” Silas says with a grin. “When I experience the daydream in the fire, much time had passed.”

“And when I had visions or when I read the story of Ayvaria,” Jackson explains. “much time had passed for me too.”

“That is because you were experiencing a bit of Terradorn,” Yathessor says. “And with that bit of Terradorn came a bit of its time. That is why so much of time had passed during the times you saw or felt things of Terradorn or Ayvaria.”

“But Yathessor,” Lisa wonders. “What they explained says that much time passes in Earth, and a little time in Terradorn. But Jackson said first that lots of time passed in Terradorn, but only a little in Earth. How does this work?”

“This is the reason,” Yathessor says. “It is not like three days pass in Terradorn for everyday in Earth, or vice versa, but instead, time is just plain out different. A day in Terradorn can be a thousand years on Earth, or a day in Earth can be a thousand years in Terradorn. In what I described as the Void between worlds, time is tampered with. This leads to the different time.”

“Now, do you have any more questions?” Yathessor asks.

“No,” they say.

“Then go out and find Yeffera,” the Faun says. “Once you do she will direct you three to your rooms. In there is a wardrobe containing your sleeping clothes. Lisa, your multicolored bags are in your room. Tomorrow and the next few days Vren will wake you to get you adjusted to rising early. After that, you will have to wake up at the right time by yourself.” Yathessor stands up. “I will see you all in the afternoon, I presume?”

Silas yawns. “Yep,” he says. “I am a wee bit tired now. G’night teacher.”

Lisa and Jackson say their goodnights and the three exit the room, stumbling down the stairs to go to bed. It is only another hour later that they finally fall asleep, dreaming dreams of home and of their new life that has just begun.

Chapter Thirteen

The Run to the Goal

“EVERYBODY UP!” ARE the first words that Jackson, Silas, and Lisa are destined to hear every morning for a long time. “I want you out in the hall in five minutes!” the thunderous voice pounds in the three’s heads.

Jackson opens his eyes. He can’t see a thing. He looks out the window. The blue sun isn’t even up yet. He likes to get up early, but not this early!

“Get dressed now! If your still getting dressed after five minutes, you come out in whatever your wearing, no matter how scarce. Your training garb is in your wardrobes, so get it on quick!”

Vren. Jackson’s training instructor’s voice echoes through the castle hall running along the bedrooms. He mentally makes a note never to cross that Minotaur.

Jackson sits up in bed, but he stands up a bit too fast. He stumbles around dizzily until he puts a hand on the wardrobe to steady himself. He lets his eyes adjust to the darkness a minute.

“Four minutes left!”

O drat! Jackson throws open the wardrobe doors, and he hears Lisa and Silas do so in the adjacent rooms. He hurriedly peers around inside. There are all sorts of clothes inside: tunics, tesserols, cloaks, mantles, and capes. He fishes around inside. He doesn’t know what the heck he’s looking for; just something to wear for training.

“Three minutes left! Hustle, hustle, hustle!”

Jackson feels around inside. A box. He feels the edges and pulls it out. It is a black box, about two feet long and one foot wide. On it says Training Garb. He tries to open the lid, but it doesn’t move. A lock. He sees the keyhole in the side, but where’s the key? He looks around, trying to see anything in the dark. He runs to a writing desk. He opens the drawers and looks inside. He throws out papers, devices, and all sorts of useless things. Where is it?

“Two minutes left!”

Is this guy really keeping a proper count? Jackson runs to the fire and grabs the poker. After swinging it around a bit, he dashes back to the box.

He takes the end and shoves it in the keyhole. He pushes harder and harder, twisting it back and forth. He hears metal shift inside, but not necessarily the way it is supposed to. That’s fine. Even if I break the lock to do it, I need to open this box.

Click! The lid pops open a bit and reveals its contents. Inside are black clothes: a dragon scale tesserol, a pair of black leather boots, a few backcoil straps, a mask that covers the nose and mouth, and a strange belt.

“One minute warning!”

Jackson pulls out the bunches of clothes. He never had put on anything like this; it will take a while to learn. He yanks of all his sleep clothes and grabs the tesserol. He slips his legs through and pulls it up to his waist. He takes the belt-like thing and examines it more closely.

It has not ends; it is a circle of seemingly elastic. Jackson tries to put it on, and he finds the best way is to put it over his head and wiggle it to his waist. When he does this, he puts the backcoil strap around his hair. He shoves the boots on and at last the mask. And with that he runs out of his room.

When he is out in the hall he sees three other figures. One is Lisa in beautiful training garb. She wears a black tunic under a beautiful cloak. Her hair is behind her in a ponytail instead of her usual braids. She looks at Jackson and smiles.

The next is Silas. He looks very similar to Jackson, except his belt is on his head and his backcoil high on his scalp. He gives Jackson a strange smile.

The third is a big, brutish, muscular Minotaur. He has black curly hair all over his body. He has a bull-like face and a strong stance. Over is shoulder he has a massive battle axe.

Vren.

He stands about seven feet tall, all muscle. He has massive horns that remind Jackson of cattle from Texas. He eyes each of the three with a grim frown. When he sees Jackson and Silas though, he smiles. The two look at each other sheepishly.

“You have all done well and passed your first test,” Vren growls.

“Test?” Lisa asks. “There was a test?”

“All your uniforms were locked in a box,” Vren says. “In one way or another you opened those boxes and got your clothes. You put your clothes on despite the pressure of time I gave you. You have all made it through, but not without failure.

“Bravmun! You backcoil isn’t meant to be on the top of your head. You look like a six-year-old Faun that way. Next time make sure it is right. Your tesserol is wrong as well. Tomorrow see to it that it isn’t inside-out agin like now.”

Silas looks down to the stone floor.

“Cheer up chap,” Vren says. “There were tough times when I was being trained as a youngster.”

Silas looks up and smiles. Vren moves on.

“Honwise! Tomorrow I want to see your headband in the right place. It looks better the way Bravmun has it it, on his head! Did you think it was a belt or something?”

Jackson is about to nod his head, but he thinks better of it. Vren passes on.

“Layis! Your—” Vren stops. “Well I can’t say I can find anything wrong with your dress.”

Lisa winks at the boys.

Vren leans in closer.

“But next time, don’t break the box. The locks were supposed to be for this test only, but the boxes were not. Honwise used a poker. Bravmun used fire. They both broke the locks. But you had to kick it with your heel to get it open, didn’t you? From now on you will always have a lock to open every morning until I say differently, alright?”

Lisa looks at the floor. She nods slowly.

The Minotaur lifts her chin up. “Oi. You never know when skills in opening locks will come in handy. I know you didn’t know about the box or the locks, but there’s one thing about my tests to keep in mind.” Vren leans in closer. “I may not tell you all the rules to start with. It keeps you toes, a handy habit to have in life.”

Lisa looks up and smile. She can tell already that beneath those mats of hair and muscle, there’s heart and love. She knows she can trust this Minotaur.

Vren stands a bit taller. Then he addresses the whole group. “You three. We begin your training in the courtyard. That is in the Secondary Complex.”

“Great,” Jackson says with a sarcastic tone. “Do we have to walk down more stairs?”

“No,” Vren says. The three sigh in relief. “We will not walk the stairs, we will run them.”

The three groan.

“Come on then!” the Minotaur shouts with a smile. “It’s a rainy day today and the courtyard awaits! Hasten your feet and follow me!” Vren runs off, followed by Jackson, Lisa, then Silas stumbling behind. Without stopping Vren opens the stair doors and runs in. And the four start down the stairs.

“Endurance is key, my students,” Vren calls behind him. “Stick to a steady pace in running and in breathing. Do not sprint to begin, for you will be tired later. If anything, be slow to start and fast for the finish.”

“Ooh!” Lisa groans. “I’ve got the cramps!”

Vren laughs a laugh that echoes through the long tower stairs. “Do not worry. I will train the cramps out of you.”

And so the run continues down the spiral stairs for eleven stories. Less than halfway down they are all out of breath, tired, and they stumble rather than run. They slip and bounce a few stairs down, adding bruises to their collections. Sweat pours down their brows and dampens their headbands or masks. Their hair becomes loose and begin to fall out of their backcoils or ponytails. Their chests burn with exertion. They had long ago passed their limit. But throughout the run, Vren meets their needs with a simple “Don’t stop,” or “Endurance is key.” He runs as if this is a mere stroll through the garden. He seems to scarcely breathe. How many times has he done this? the three all wonder to themselves. He pushes on as if driven by some internal force.

“I can’t endure any longer, Vren!” Silas complains after one of such comments. “I love to run at ’ome, but not this much! This is ridiculous! It’s our first day.

“Lad,” Vren says, pounding his heavy feet continually down the stairs. “I know this is your first day. That’s why I’m taking it easy on you!”

“Easy?!” Jackson calls from the back. He had fallen there long ago. “This is the hardest run I’ve ever done. Eight blocks to school: easy-peasy. Running down eleven stories in some giant tower: a bit hard.”

“Wait until we run up it!” Vren shouts behind his shoulder. “Ah! We’re here!”

“At the bottom?” Lisa asks.

“Yes,” Vren says. “But we’re not done running yet.” Vren pushes through the doors before him. The three others do the same.

And for the first time for the run, they stop.

All around them is water. Tons and tons of water. Lightning flashes above them and thunder rumbles moments after. Sheets of rain fall down on every exposed thing. But that’s not what the three are amazed at.

Luminion is thriving with people. Fauns, Centaurs, Minotaurs, and Fauns bustle about and attend to anything needed to be done. Military squads patrol the walls, women distribute food for breakfast, and others go about cleaning the area. How can everyone be so active in such an early hour and in such dreary weather? It seems more crowded than yesterday in the afternoon. It hits the three in that moment. They aren’t anything special to wake up before dawn. It is a custom for everyone. The people are dedicated to rise early to work. They are diligent to start things a soon as possible, and for what benefit? Everyone’s. They are trained to work as a whole and never to stop until the end is reached.

“Tarry not, my students!” Vren call back to them. “We aren’t even halfway their yet, and the rain will continue to pour whether you stop or not!”

The three begin to run again, and immediately Jackson feels different. His chest still burns. The cramps still hurt. His feet still are bruised. But something pushes him on. Every time he inhales, he takes in a bit of life that pushes him on. The air. That something that he had felt yesterday when in the open hall is stronger now. He hadn’t felt it in the tower, but now outside, he feels it filling his very body. The running comes a bit easier now. But he knows he has alot of training ahead for his running to be completely easy. He takes another breath of the literally lively air and pushes on.

The four run through the castle more through the pounding rain. They slip. They fall. They soon feel worse than in the tower. But they, like the busy hubbub around them, have their mind set on a goal. The end. The courtyard.

As Jackson’s feet cover the last few steps of the Lone Bridge, he sees Vren turn. In a moment, he throws open a trapdoor and jumps in. He sees Silas and Lisa follow him in, and not knowing what else to do, he jumps in the darkness.

He waits. He doesn’t feel his feet on the floor. After a few more seconds, his fall ends. He sees the rest running forward to a distant faint light. He runs after them, again without the life in the air. But as he grows closer to the light, the life in the air again grows stronger. He begins to see shapes in the light: trees, bushes, flowers, and grass. Vren turns into the courtyard, and the rest follow. Jackson smiles as he sees the garden in the castle.

The area is beautiful. Flowers of all sorts and kinds, some of which Jackson had never seen before, are sprinkled around the entire area like scattered sunlight. Towering trees grow along majestic pillars that hold up parts of stone walls. Bushes and hedges border and divide different sections of the courtyard. And in the center is a lone well with sparkling water within. Around the plants are targets, dummies, and barrels full of training equipment. The rain from above pours in, but it no longer looks cold and dreary, but mystical and enchanting.

Vren spreads his hands out as if to display the area’s majesty. “Behold!” he exclaims. “The courtyard! The small bit of nature inside of Luminion and…” He pauses for affect. “…your training area.”

The three stand in awe of the courtyard. They with their trainer are the only ones inside, or so they think.

“Greetings!” a voice calls. It echoes around the garden amidst the rain. Silas looks around for who had spoken.

“Over here!” the voice says again. All four turn. Near the edge of the courtyard, a lone Faun stands with a leather bundle over his back. The Faun has curly brown hair and a slight goatee. He wears no shirt, revealing his strong muscles. His horns are short, but the Faun’s figure is not. And on his face his mouth curves into a friendly smile.

“Ah! Jacken!” Vren says. “Come over here and let me introduce you.”

“Don’t mind if I do, my friend,” Jacken says. He struts over on his sure-footed goat legs. Lisa and Jackson exchange knowing glances: they had both shared that they both had read about Jacken the Faun.

As Jacken enters the congregation, Vren places a firm hand on his shoulder. “My students, this is Jacken, chief griffin tamer in Luminion and my self-appointed helper in training.”

“And Vren’s good friend, though he may refuse to admit it,” Jacken says. His voice reminds Jackson of Mr. Tumnus’, the Faun from the Chronicles of Narnia. “Welcome to the courtyard.”

Vren is obviously very proud of his friend’s position. “When I say griffin tamer, he tames and catches them.”

“That’s quite enough, Vren,” Jacken says. “They know my position. I only wish my newfound knowledge of griffins was there in the Battle at the Capital Axis. Perhaps then we would have noticed the attack earlier and we could have had more time to ward off the attack. That is why I have devoted myself to learning of griffins so that I will not make the same mistake twice.”

“Think nothing of it, friend,” Vren says. He pats Jacken on the back. “You did your best and warned all of the Capital Axis of the attack.”

“And you still smell like cow manure from the time you jumped into a mess of it!” Jacken laughs. The two clutch their sides and laugh and chuckle.

“That is enough,” Jacken says, wiping a few tears from his eyes. He approaches Lisa. “You must be Princess Layis,” he says. He bows to her. “It is an honor to meet you.” He looks at Jackson. “Prince Honwise,” he says. “I can tell that Vren allowed you no time to fix your headband. I suggest you do so now. And Prince Bravmun, there is some privacy in the bushes over there if you wish to fix your tesserol and hair.” The boys nod and smile. They like Jacken already. And Vren. They make quite a pair of friends, and the three can’t wait to see more of them.

Silas leaves to fix himself up while Jackson fixes his headband. After a few moments all three are ready to conquer their next challenge.

“Here is your breakfast for the morning,” Vren says. He grabs some food from a bench in the garden and tosses it to the three. They greedily devour the small meal and look up to their two teachers to see what’s next.

“We will begin today by instructing you in the basics of swordplay,” Vren says as Jacken takes the bundle from his back and opens it at the top. He pulls out three long objects from it. Swords. Jacken pulls a sword partly out of its leather sheath to see the blade. After inspecting some ancient writing on it, he places it down. He repeats the process with the other two swords as well.

“These are your swords,” Jacken says as he hands the weapons to Lisa, Jackson, and Silas. The three feel the blades and test their weight. They are heavier, than they expect.

“Honwise,” Jacken begins.

“Jackson, please,” Jackson says.

“Okay, Jackson,” Jacken chuckles. “For you I have Raptorblade. May it guide you in battle and serve you well. It is a medium weighted blade with detailed inscriptions done by the smithies here from Luminion Castle. Take a closer look.”

Jackson slides the sword out of the sheath until it shines against the blue sun’s light. The curved blade itself has inscriptions of birds flying with talons out and claws outstretched. The hilt is curved but has no crossguard. Where the pummel should be is a small blade that extends like a fang from the bottom, its length no more than six inches.

Raptorblade. I like it.

“For you, Princess Layis, of Lisa if you prefer,” Jacken says. “I have given you Talonblade, a majestic weapon to protect you in the hands of battle and war.”

Lisa examines the sword. It is light and fits easy in her hand. It has only a few inscriptions on the side showing images of men and women united together and fighting against something that cannot be seen. The blade seems to shine a silver light. It too doesn’t have a crossguard, but it has a rounded pummel at the bottom that shows the globe of Terradorn and all her lands.

“And to Bravmun I have given Fangblade, the mightiest of all dragon ivory swords. The blade is not made of varadesk as are Raptorblade and Talonblade, but of it is made of the very ivory that comes from dragon fangs. Though varadesk is strong, indeed the strongest metal in Terradorn, it is not as light and sharp as dragon ivory.”

Silas pulls out the blade from the sheath. It doesn’t shine as the others, but instead is a spotless white. The blade shows inscriptions of dragons and their kin, all breathing fire. The hilt is of a majestic silver as is the crossguard and the pommel. Silas gives it a test swing. Sure enough, it is light and easy to handle.

“Thank ya, Jacken,” Silas says. “Thank ya so much.”

“Thank you,” Jackson echoes, as does Lisa.

“You are all welcome,” the Faun says. “Now what do you say about some real training? Vren? Are you ready?”

Vren smiles. “Always.”

Chapter Fourteen

The Training of Royalty

“EN GARDE!”

A sword sings down through the air, only to be blocked by another blade. Tiny sparks glance of the varadesk blades and litter the grassy ground. The swords lift up again and begin striking each other wildly.

“Your going down!” Jackson cries, swinging Raptorblade at his opponent. A smile lines his face and sweat pours down his brow.

“I wouldn’t be so sure about that!” Lisa laughs as Talonblade sweeps under Jackson’s feet. He leaps up and brandishes his own curved sword in the air before landing bak down on the soft turf. He rolls out of the way of another lethal stroke, then flips up to his feet.

“Ya need to lower your defenses, Jackson!” Silas calls from the sidelines. “Try to get her!” Silas sits on a bench with Jacken and Vren, all watching the duel in the courtyard. He is amazed how far they have progressed since the first day in the courtyard. Running is easy now. They are learning swordplay like the back of their hands. Silas is sure that each one of them had memorized all of Vren’s teaching phrases.

“Just don’t forget, Silas,” Jackson says. “You play winner!” He begins throwing his attacks at Lisa, but she is just as prepared. She parries each swipe of the blade and kick of the foot. She twists her sword in her hand, giving an unexpected slash near Jackson’s face. He can’t block it with the main blade, but he uses the small one to bat it off. He spins around, flinging tiny beads of sweat of his bare muscular chest.

“Watch where you aim that!” Lisa shouts as she wards of the shower of water droplets. “And stop showing off!”

Jackson smiles, then runs at his sister once again. Raptorblade and Talonblade cross in the air, then slide off each other to the ground. But Jackson lifts his blade up faster, and he swings it around behind his back. He slashes it forward again, and Talonblade is not there to stop it. Jackson halts his sword just short of Lisa’s neck. He gives a broad smile.

“You call this showing off?” he asks.

Lisa sighs and drops her sword in surrender. “You win. Good job. But don’t you forget that I can beat you in any test from Yathessor.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Jackson says. “You’re smarter. You practically memorized everything Yathessor teaches you.”

“It just comes naturally,” Lisa says, brushing the compliment off. “Come on, Silas. Your next.”

Silas jumps off his seat and says, “If Jackson’s best at fightin’ and your best at studyin’, where does tha’ leave me?”

“You’ve got your fire,” Jackson says, cracking his neck and back for another duel. “That’s cooler than smarts or skill in fighting.”

“You ought to think about becoming a Yanor Sept,” Vren grumbles.

“What’s a Yanor Sept?” Jackson asks.

“A Fire Weaver,” Jacken explains. “A master of the flame. Only the best fire-wielders can become one.”

“Yeah?” Silas asks with a lopsided smile, taking on the challenge. “And where can I learn tha’?”

“I was going to tell you earlier, but you and Lisa are always in the Aviary!” Jacken laughs.

“The Aviary! Ha!” Jackson chuckles. “That’s where all the weak birds are. Jacken, you can take this as a compliment. I like your griffin cage much better.”

“Hey, falcons live in the Aviary, but they aren’t weak,” Lisa says.

“Neither are phoenixes,” Silas says. He makes a slight clicking sound with his mouth, and a large bird soars down into the courtyard. It perches on Silas’ shoulder and caws out loud. Anyone from Earth, would say its just a large black bird of prey, but that is not the case. Silas lights a match and brings the flame closer to the bird. In a burst of light, the bird lights on fire as if soaked in gasoline. Fire bursts from all of the feathers of the bird, and it screeches not in pain, but in the thrill of fire.

“He seems to like fire just as much as you,” Lisa says after calling her own black falcon.

“I think he does,” Silas grins.

Jackson smiles. This is everyday to them. Waking up before dawn, running to the courtyard, and spending time with each other, and enjoying their time despite the brutal training. They become well rehearsed in every challenge that Vren and Jacken throw at them. One may advance in one skill while a different sibling in another. They all have their talents and things they enjoy doing above all else.

For Jackson, it is riding griffins. It’s just as he had wanted on Earth: to fly. To touch the sky. To soar under the sun’s warming rays. In Terradorn, the life in the air is stronger higher in the air. I is as if the sun gives it off and the closer you are, the more you feel it. Whenever he flies he is attached to Jacken and his griffin by a long cord of woven varadesk in case Jackson falls, but even Jacken admits that his new student is a great flyer. Jackson connects with his griffin, Strapar, as if a personal friend. He knows him in and out. Indeed, Jackson has learned the names of all griffins in the stables and he takes care of each. He loves to fly, and the griffins are the way to do that. They are majestic in size and in all breeds.

For Lisa it is birds, but particularly falcons. She spends hours in the Aviary feeding them and tending to their needs. She trains them, and they train her in their ways. They become he friends everyday. She learns their names and where how they fly. All the knowledge of them she had in Earth doubles in Terradorn, if not more.

For Silas, it is fire. He tampers with it in his own time and learns more of its ways than on Earth. He begins to learn how to control it, how to hold it, and how to form it in any way he wants. He feels as if it fives him a taste of home in Earth, but it also reminds him of the great life ahead of him. Because he likes fire, he also likes things that use it. Like phoenixes. He often spends time in the Aviary with Lisa, playing with the dangerous birds of fire. He trains them with his sister. And he learns to love them.

After the siblings’ training in the arts of the body, they run back to the Study to learn the arts of the mind. Yathessor teaches them about all things that can be taught of. He reads from massive books and shows them detailed maps, making sure they memorize every part of Terradorn and its inhabitants. He tutors them in the Ancient Tongue, the language used at the dawn of time. He doesn’t teach them about how polysaccharides are broken down through hydrolysis in the lysosome. He doesn’t teach them about the Treaty of Versailles and how it affected Germany and the world as a whole. As the three look back after classes, they realize that Yathessor never teaches them, but shows them. Why do griffins migrate from the north to the south? Why does the blue sun rise every day? Why do the people of Ayvaria mainly judge time  by moons? These are some of the questions that Yathessor answers.

“Who won the Trollish War of 4290?”

“The Elven host of the Twin Cities!” the three answer in unison.

“What and where are the Twin Cities?”

“They are the two capitals of the Elven country of Deerendom!” Lisa hollers.

“And they’re jes’ north of the Swamps of Darhew in Ember Wood,” Silas says.

“Good!” Yathessor cheers. “You three have done well.”

“Yathessor?” Jackson asks. “Why aren’t the Elves with the Remnant?”

Yathessor looks at the floor. “Lord Kasent of Deerendom doesn’t see a difference between Draegor and Human rulership. The good thing is that they are not with the Draegors either. They remain neutral to both of us.”

“Yathessor?” Silas asks. “What of the team of Humans that our mother saved?”

“The team of Humans?” Yathessor scratches his chin in thought. “Oh, you must mean the Lost Tribe. No one in Luminion knows of their whereabouts, or if they are alive.”

“Can we count on their help in war?” Jackson asks.

A pause.

“I believe not, King Jackson,” Yathessor says. “Many here show contempt for the Lost Tribe for not showing themselves long ago, if they do exist. I—” Yathessor falters. “I am one of those people. It is nothing against Humans, but if a band of Humans live out there somewhere, they should have shown themselves.”

Jackson nods. “I agree, Yathessor, but I will not give up on hope. I believe that they would be utter fools if they wouldn’t help Ayvaria in the final battle.”

“Agreed,” the teacher says. “But now, back to our lessons. When was the eight Ice War of the Northern Islands?”

Jackson sighs. “21143.”

After their strict showing, they are free to do what they so desire except on certain occasions. They often have to enter in the Council of the Remnant in the Primary Complex to keep up to date with Taurth, Jeravidd, and Fost. They would meet and discuss any important enemy movements, advances on their part, or anything else that the three commanders of Luminion thought important. There the three learned Taurth’s own military strategies and preparations for war.

“So even though Luminion is three hundred leagues from the mere edge of the Capital Axis,” Jackson clarifies. “our troops can clear the march?”

“Indeed, Prince Jackson,” Taurth says, pointing to a map. “The terrain is flat. The only thing we should worry about is if the Minotaurs need to come quickly. They do not fly griffins, for they are much to large.”

Vren scoffs in the back.

“…but there are ice dragons which can bear them,” Taurth continues. “They live at the base of Mt. Tar. That is a possible way that they can go to the Capital Axis quickly.”

Jackson nods. He can tell now how ready the Remnant has made itself over the first year they have been there.

And this is how their first thirteen moons progress, waking up early and going to bed late, almost the whole day learning and practicing. And according to their aim, they grow steadily closer to their goal.

Chapter Fifteen

Wild Griffin Chase

“HEY! LOOK AT tha’!” Silas grins as he sees his phoenix, Simber, fly around the Aviary like a massive ball of flame. He leaves a trail of fire wherever he goes. He passes under and over numerous amounts of cages each filled with trained fouls. He finally lands back on Silas’ shoulder.

“Hey!” he says. “Good boy. That was your third time in a row!” He reaches in his pocket and pulls out a bit of dried meat. He lifts his hand to the bird’s beak. Simber devours all the food in one peck to his master’s hand.

“You’re losing you accent, you know,” Lisa says, softly stroking her black flacon’s feathers like a delicate creature. “You’re sounding more like us.”

“I’ve noticed,” Silas says. “I can’t say whether I’m happy or sad. My Aussie accent gives me a piece of home to keep. I sorta miss Australia. Earth. I still have alot to do there. I thought I could come back. But apparently the only way to go there is far to dangerous to risk.”

“I miss home too,” Lisa says. “I left my parents from Earth with the idea that I can come back when I want. But, that didn’t work out.”

“Your parents know you’re here?” Silas asks in awe.

“Yeah,” Lisa smirks. “Crazy, huh? I guess that means that your parents don’t.”

“Yeah,” Silas frowns. “I didn’t have as good of a relationship with them as you did with your parents. I sorta left thinking I could come here and go right back. If I really wanted to go, I would work out my problems on Earth and come here long term. Pretty stupid, huh?”

“Well, you didn’t know,” Lisa says. “I’m sorry, though, that it worked out that way.”

“I’m sorry too.” A moment of silence passes, the sister and the brother immersed in their own thoughts.

“Hey!” a loud voice rings in the Aviary. “Look up here!”

The two look around and then the peer out of the glass walls of the Aviary. Outside are two griffins, one with golden colored feathers and fur and the other cloaked in all black. On their backs is a complex system of leather saddles, stirrups, and cords for the riders’ ease. Both pilots hold leather reigns that reach all the way to the bridle over the griffins’ heads. The griffins themselves fly with their broad wings outstretched, riding on the back of the wind. It is an amazing sight to behold.

“Hey, Jackson!” Silas calls to one of the riders. He watches his brother smile from his position on the saddle.

“Silas! Lisa!” Jackson calls back. “I’m not tied to Jacken anymore! I’m riding by myself!” Jacken on the black griffin smiles at the two down below, then looks at Jackson again.

“Are you ready to catch some wild griffins?” Jacken asks.

Jackson clutches the reigns even harder. “Bring it on.”

“To the Western Mountains!” Jacken shouts. The two riders kick their griffins into a fierce fly. The wind whips in Jackson’s face. The two slowly press higher, growing closer and closer to the clouds. The sun’s blue rays warm Jackson’s cheeks. The life in the air grows ever stronger as if the approaching droplets of water in the clouds contain it in little packets, but he knows that that’s not the case. He had learned through Yathessor that the the life in the air is actually listmere, and all listmere’s source is the sun in the sky. It glows with it. It sustains with it. It gives life to all living creatures in Terradorn with it.

Jackson watches Luminion pass away, and he turns his head to see the rest of Dareveil. But now he can see more than just the Faunish province, but he can see Minodom to the west and Cenosia to the east. And somewhere between them is the Capital Axis.

“Which way do we go, Prince Jackson?” Jacken tests. “Can you remember from Yathessor’s many lessons?”

“You said it yourself!” Jackson calls over against the wind. “West!” The two griffins dive down in the direction of Thunderbront, the river that separates Minodom from Dareveil. The river serves as a border that splits the two provinces from each other, and around its many waterfalls and rapids are steep mountains and tall cliffs. Snowcapped peaks and natural tunnels cover the land both high and low. And there in the caves and dens of the mountains are the nesting places of the massive wild griffins. And that is where Jacken and Jackson are heading.

The two griffins plunge ever closer to the mountains by the border. They feel the ground grow closer and closer, but yet so far. This is farther then I’ve ever been from Luminion, Jackson thinks to himself. He watches Jacken pull out his lasso and begin swinging it around in the air. In the courtyard, Jackson had seen Jacken’s fighting with a whip and a lasso. He says he uses them with catching and training griffins so much he had grown to use them as weapons. Jackson can’t wait to see the Faun use them the way they are meant to be used.

“Steer to the left!” Jacken cries behind his back. “There are griffin caves in Mt. Vrain down there. In front of the mountain is a wide plateau. That is where we are heading.”

“Aye-aye!” Jackson calls forward. He slowly leans his weight to his left flank and pulls on the reigns. His griffin Strapar obeys and shifts his tail wing. He slowly descends closer to the mountain. Jackson feels excitement bubble up inside of him. This is the first time he goes without being connected to Jacken, and he is helping him catch wild griffins! This is too good to be true.

Jackson listens as he hears Strapar screech to Jacken’s black griffin, Velden. The call seems to be a signal. Almost as if he is speaking to his fellow griffin. Velden purrs back and then straightens his head for a dive. These griffins are just full of surprises.

“Glide down there!” Jacken calls. “I smell fresh griffin scat. We are close.”

Jackson obeys and follows his teacher closer to the large expanse of rock just at the top of a high cliff. To the side of the plateau is the large Mt. Vrain dotted with many caves and dens. Jackson can already here the wild griffins calling to each other.

“Jackson, this might be beyond your level,” Jacken warns. “The wild griffins are no small creatures; they are much bigger than the ones we breed at Luminion. While our standard griffins can grow up to ten feet from beak to tail, wild standard griffins are sixteen feet long at the minimum.”

“Wow,” Jackson muses. “That’s a big griffin. Are there only standard griffins in Mt. Vrain?”

“No. There are a few soot griffins like Velden here. That’s why I brought him.”

“Any other breeds?”

“Soot griffins and standard griffins are the only breeds that live in this environment. If there was a bit more ice, we might see some snow griffins, but otherwise, we’re limited to just those two types.”

Hm. In his lessons with Yathessor and Jacken, Jackson had learned the names of many breeds and types of griffins, but in Luminion Castle he only sees two types: standard and soot. He’s kinda disappointed that he can’t see more breeds. He has heard of the lithe panther griffins, the wild snow griffins, the giant tiger griffins, and the burning phoenix griffins. I guess there’s just not that wide of a variety in the Western Mountains.

Slowly but surely, the pair spiral down on the plateau. They dismount, give their griffins a pat on the back, then look around. All up the side of Mt. Vrain are caves of all shapes and sizes. And from each echoes the eerie communicating shrieks of the giant wild griffins. Occasionally a black or golden wing extends from the mouth of the cave, then goes back in, but nothing flies out.

“Look here!” Jackson cries. Jacken gallops over and looks to where Jackson points. In the stony ground are large scratches.

“They’re from griffin talons,” Jacken says. “Can you tell anything more?”

“They’re from a standard griffin,” Jackson begins. “Male. I would say fourteen feet long in size. Wingspan’s about eleven feet long. These tracks are fresh. The wind hasn’t blown away any of the loose rock dust yet.”

“Very good,” Jacken chuckles. “I’m impressed! Where are they going?”

“Not towards the caves, that’s for sure.”

“Then where?”

Jackson stands from his crouching position and points. “There.”

About thirty feet from there position lays a massive griffin, purring in sleep. Jackson shudders as his eyes cross the massive claws, then the curved beak. That thing can swallow a man whole if it chooses to by the looks of it. A mix of golden feathers and fur covers it, and two massive wings extend from its back.

“He’s sleeping,” Jackson says. “Why?”

“I expect it was kicked out from its den by new griffins looking for a place to stay,” Jacken frowns, scratching his light beard. “Look at its left flank. There’s a slash from a claw and the blood is fresh.”

“So it lives out here now?” Jackson asks worriedly. “In the cold? It won’t survive!”

“Shh,” Jacken whispers, putting a finger to his lips. “Best not wake him.”

But apparently it is too late for that. Strapar watches his masters keenly, but when he smells another griffin he growls deeply and lets out a deep shriek. He can’t let his masters go unwarned.

“Strapar quiet!” Jacken calls. The wild griffin perks his head up from under his paw and darts his head around. His glare locks on the strangers. His mouth curls into a growl, and he begins to rise from his laying position. He gets a running start, then he flies off into the air.

“Quick! After it!” Jacken calls. The two run to their griffins and hop on. Then they pursue the griffin.

Speeding hundreds of feet above the plateau, the three lionlike creatures pass quickly against the wind.

“There’s a flock of birds straight ahead!” Jackson cries over the wind.

“Ignore them! We need to stay directly behind the wild griffin!” The two riders flash through the pecking and shrieking black birds, not leaving without scratches and wounds on their faces. Jackson feels a bird’s claw stuck in his backcoil.

“Get off!” he cries, momentarily letting go of the reigns. The bird scratches and rips Jackson’s flesh, rendering wounds that would later turn to scars. At last Jackson tears the bird from his hair and throws it from his hand. He catches up with Jacken.

“We need to get above it!” he calls. “Drive it down to the plateau!”

Jackson nods and kicks Strapar’s flanks. The beast responds and pushes upward until Jackson feels like he can reach up and touch the clouds. He examines the air until his eyes find the wild griffin, mighty wings flapping. Jackson pushes forward, then back down closer to the untamed beast.

The wild griffin obviously notices Strapar coming from above, and he attempts to move faster as to not get pushed lower. But the small tamed griffin is too fast, and he finds himself being given no choice but to fly downwards.

“It’s working!” Jackson yells. “Better get your lasso and whip ready again!” Jacken obeys and begins twisting his wrist to make the lasso spin in the air.

“We’re about fifty feet from the plateau!” Jacken calls. “I’ll go get him!”

He steers Velden away from behind the griffin and flies left. In a moment he leaps of Velden, falling steadily to the ground. Jackson can’t bear to watch; won’t his legs break from the drop? But no. Jacken lands with a crack! but not from his bones but from the rocks under his hooves. Not for a moment dazed, Jacken runs perpendicular to the wild griffin, steadily growing closer to where they would cross. He twirls his rope faster and snaps his whip. Almost there! he thinks as he speeds farther. At last the griffin is right above him. He sends the loop of his lasso around the griffin’s neck, then swings on it like a vine from a tree. The rope takes him up and over the back of the griffin and he lands clear on his back.

At first Jackson is relieved that the Faun made it. But a new fear dawns on him. Now Jacken is on the back of a literally wild griffin with no tack whatsoever. Great! But Jacken is not as helpless as it seems.

The Faun flicks his wrist, sending a ripple down his whip. It cracks in the air and swings around the massive griffin neck. The other end hurtles under and around, Jacken catching it just as it passes in front of his free hand. Then to even the griffin’s surprise, he uses the whip to forcefully steer the griffin.

After much wild riding, Jacken slowly cruises the griffin to the end of the cliff. He lands just at the edge. Jackson had found the loose Velden and he leads him and Strapar to Jacken. The wild griffin breathes out of his nostrils heavily then inhales again, then looks up at Jacken. Though the process seems cruel, caught griffins trust their new masters more than their own kind and love them more than their mates.

“That was amazing,” Jackson laughs. “I was worried there for a sec when you went on his back. But you just cracked that whip and boom! You had the griffin!”

Jacken is usually not one to accept compliments, but this time he bows and offers his thanks for the comment.

“What are you going to name him?” Jackson asks.

“Why don’t you give him a name?” Jacken says with a smile spreading wide.

“Me?!” Jackson exclaims. “But I didn’t catch him!”

“But I’m giving him to you,” Jacken says. He pats the now tamed griffin, and the massive thing rises to his feet. It prowls over to Jackson following jut behind Jacken.

“I don’t know what to say,” Jackson whispers. He puts his hand on the head of the griffin, feeling its soft fur and ears.

“Strapar is a great griffin,” Jacken says. “but he is not enough for battle. May your new steed bear you well.”

Jacken gestures to Jackson, using his hands to show the griffin’s new master. The griffin turns his head to the prince and studies him. Then it purrs slowly in affection.

“Thank you, Jacken,” Jackson stutters. “Thank you so much.”

“Your welcome,” the Faun says. “Now what are you going to call him?”

Jackson thinks for a moment. “What’s the word for gift in the Ancient Tongue?”

Parthos,” Jacken says.

“Then Parthos it is.”

The two spend the night at the edge of the rushing river Thunderbront, watching their griffins by the fire. As the two moons rise high in the sky, Jacken retires to bed with Velden and Strapar behind some rocks. The Faun lays on a small bed of moss with his griffin’s wing over him for warmth. But Jackson doesn’t slumber. He stays up, watching Parthos in the firelight. The massive griffin calls in the night to the other wild griffins around, not in longing but in simply letting them know where he is. At least, that is what Jackson thinks. He memorizes every sound that Parthos calls, and he keeps note of what he thinks to be its meaning. A growl and an intimidating shriek: stay back. A purr and a soft click: the closest thing to expressing fondness. A few times Jackson tries himself to make a signal either to Parthos or to other griffins he hears around him. And to his surprise, they respond just like they do to Parthos.

It seems to him that the griffins almost have a language: much less sophisticated and detailed as any Human language, but a language all the same. Jackson then and there decides he wants to learn it. To be the first one to speak to a griffin. He knows they are just animals. But they are smart. They have a complex system of signals Jackson wants to learn.

In the morning, Jacken and Jackson wake up, eat breakfast, and fly home, Jackson riding Parthos bareback and Jacken leading Strapar from Velden. And the entire time Jackson quietly practices speaking to Parthos.

Threr flies as fast as his bird wings will let him. I…must…tell…Thorneous! That Elf, or Human if Threr’s suspicions are correct, threw Threr into a giant mountain boulder after getting his backcoil tangled in Threr’s claws. A Draegor was never meant to be such a lowly animal as a bird, disguise or not!

Threr watches as the haunting Black Fortress comes into view. He shudders. Thorneous didn’t want to stay in the Grand Palace by the border of the Capital Axis. He wanted to be in the very center where he built the great new castle. The Black Fortress took three hundred years to build; that is how complex it is. It is as hard to get it as it is big. Thorneous has sentries on duty all along the massive walls at all times to report if anyone comes. Spies like Threr patrol all grounds of Terradorn to hear of any possible threats of war. It would take all of Ayvaria to bring it down. The only thing that keeps Thorneous away from full power is the Remnant. He knows about Luminion Castle, and though he refuses to admit it, it is too well protected even for him to attack. Its leaders are so cunning that they would have to either be absent or dead if Thorneous is ever to lay siege on it.

I hope King Thorneous will like this new news I will give him, thinks Threr. He soars down closer to the main tower in the center where the throne room sits. Slowly Threr changes his form into a griffin. He can’t let the king of Ayvaria see him as a mere bird! Threr lands on a balcony, and after morphing into the form of a Faun, he enters.

Inside is as deathly quiet as the black stone walls around the throne in the center. In the throne sits a Draegor. This Draegor is slender and tall in his Elf form, but pale-skinned. He has long hair that runs down his back, and malice pollutes in his dark, black eyes. He wears a long black cloak that runs to his feet. This is King Thorneous Rageblood, Draegor king of Ayvaria, and all tremble at his sight.

Threr shudders. He hates to have to be the bearer of this news. Why me? Why am I the one to make the discovery of the Human? Threr walks up to the Marble Throne and stands by it. The king seems to be sleeping. Threr waits, not knowing quite what to do. The king’s chest rises and falls slowly as he breathes.

WHY DO YOU NOT BOW TO ME?!” shouts Thorneous. He opens his black eyes and stands up in rage.

“I— I— I thought y— you w— w— were slee— sleeping!” Threr stammers.

“So you thought there was no need, did you not?!” the king roars.

“I— I— I didn’t know!”

“I deserve your respect in all manners, sleeping or not!”

“I— I’m sorry!”

“What did you come to tell me?” asks Thorneous, sitting on his throne once again.

“I bring news,” Threr says. “News from the W—Western Mountains.”

“And?”

“I— I—. . .”

“Spit it out!” The emperor stands up again and punches Threr down to the dark stone floor.

Threr looks up from the ground. “I believe I have seen a Human.”

Thorneous appears to be struck. “From the Lost Tribe?”

“Do those of the Lost Tribe ride on griffinback with a Faun so openly?” Threr asks.

“No,” Thorneous says. “Your right. It can’t be. Are you sure it wasn’t an Elf?”

“I’m not positive,” Threr says, absently rubbing his bruised cheek. “I could not see his ears, but his skin is not as pale as the Elves’. And his eyes are not as bright.”

Thorneous begins pacing back and forth. “I do not want to take action yet, Threr,” he growls. “but I want you to keep a close eye out for Humans. Understood?”

“Yes, m’king,” the spy says with his head bowed.

“If you or any of your forces see another Human, tell me. Do not kill any. Simply let me know of there movements and where they reside. You are free to go.”

“Yes sir,” Threr says. He runs out of the room and leaps off the balcony. He morphs into a small dragon and flies off from Thorneous’ view.

“You can kill us, but you cannot wipe us out.”

“What?” Thorneous cries, looking around in his throne room. “Who said that?”

“Even if we lose all of our numbers, the memory of us will never be lost.”

Thorneous looks around anxiously. “Threr? Is that you?”

“It will remain till the end of time.”

“Show yourself!” Thorneous cries. He draws Terrorgorn from his sheath. I have heard those words before.

“Whether it is through rebels, or words, or war, you will be fought by our memory.”

“Anven?” Thorneous asks the air. The voices are gone, out of his mind. Thorneous swipes his sword in the air.

“I will wipe you out! I will destroy you and your memory! The Humans will not survive!”

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