Anna Grayson and The Dragon's Lair

The Knights of Walpurgis

The Knights of Walpurgis

ONE

Anna wasn’t exactly happy about her time in the dungeons, but in the weeks that followed, she always felt the experience was worth standing up to the Minister of Magic. Although Captain Hayman and her father were very not pleased with her public display of dissent, Anna remained steadfastly defiant. Her only disappointment was missing the Easter holiday with her family. She was allowed one visitor each day for thirty minutes, but the Chancellor, who seemed overly amused by the entire incident, put the Graysons together Easter morning for more than an hour in an adjoining room outside Anna’s cell. Unfortunately, Anna’s father used most of that time to admonish her for openly challenging the Minister.

Damon was strangely discomforted at seeing his sister behind bars, which seemed odd to Anna until she realized he was more concerned about their family’s reputation than any discomfort the dungeons might have brought to her. Dowla on the other hand, having fully recovered from her injuries, appeared more impressed than ashamed by Anna’s incarceration. In fact, in the twins’ eyes, her imprisonment was the lasting evidence she was related to them after all.

To her surprise, Anna found that Eric was impressed with her arrest as well. Several months later, her brother would admit the incident was the first example of real leadership for the sake of the Guardians he had seen in her.

After the holiday, Anna remained in the dungeons for another three days, during which Lieutenant Dunning sought to increase her misery by placing a Crimson Guard outside her cell with an order to read aloud the Academy charter and the by-laws governing the students and their behavior while at school. Although most of the guards seemed to think this exercise was something beneath the dignity of any student at Castlewood, they did not fall short of the order. This was especially true given that Dunning was in the dungeons three to four times a day to insure his instructions were being followed to the letter, but Anna had come to the conclusion that Dunning’s visits had a second, more meaningful motive behind them as well.

Perhaps he wasn’t exactly sure his dungeon could really hold the first Guardian, given his belief that she had both broken into and then out of Drogo prison while under his watch. The thought of Dunning worrying about her possible escape had given Anna an unexpected level of amusement during the entire ordeal.

Debbie Dunning came to see Anna during her incarceration as well and she even took a turn to read the Academy by-laws to her. In fact, the girl took up three of her allowed visits just to taunt her until Eric’s complaints to the Lieutenant finally put an end to her torments. In the end, Anna spent a majority of the time worrying about how far she was falling behind in her studies and listening to the whispered voices of magic from the stones surrounding her. They sang to her in her dreams, in rhymes about Merlin, and a chorus of beautiful hymns fitting the order and its heroes of the past. The songs made Anna smile even as she slept, and each morning she awoke to find herself inspired enough to set aside most of her doubts and even Dumbledore’s warnings that someday she would have to face Voldemort.

Deep down, however, Anna was more concerned than ever about the Minister of Magic. Although it had always been clear to her that the Minister would work against the Guardians for insinuating the war between Voldemort and the Ministry was inevitable, it had never occurred to Anna that the Minister might also be corrupt. The Guardian just couldn’t understand why the Minister, of all people, would have the scent of dragons upon her. And not just any dragons; for Anna had also come to the conclusion that what she had detected on the Minister was exactly what she had sensed on the limping man; Vipertooth eggs. While there might have been some kind of explanation if it had only been the scent of dragons… Anna couldn’t think of an explanation for the Minister having the smell of dragon eggs on her person, least of all Vipertooth eggs, on two distinct occasions separated by months. Was the Minister somehow in league with this yet unknown limping man?

On the last night of her imprisonment, Anna awoke to a strange set of whispers that invaded her dreams like an echoed whine. In time, Anna would come to believe the stones had actually quieted themselves to allow the whispers coming from the other side of the dungeon to pinch her at her awareness. Three words in particular made the Guardian’s eyes fly open in the darkness.

“The Dragon’s Lair.”

Anna jerked up quickly and the choir within the stones immediately halted. She looked over from her bed to the barred door embedded within the walls surrounding it and she squinted through the gloom to listen with focused attention. She couldn’t hear anything, but somehow she knew there were two men whispering at the other end of the long dungeon hallway. Her nostrils flared as her lips stretched across her teeth, and an angry snarl rose from out her throat.

She got to her feet and tiptoed across the floor to look out, her mind focused intently on the door at the other end opposite, and then her eyes carefully scanned the long hallway between them. The other cell doors on the left and right were left open and set to the side. Only her room and the one at the other end were occupied. Suddenly, she heard the whispering start again and she pressed her face hard into the bars to listen. Their words were barely perceptible and suppressed.

Anna looked intently around at the bars blocking her way and at the hinges and the welds holding them together; she pulled back on the steal to test their strength. The door was unmovable and enchanted to remain that way. She growled under her breath again as the whispers continued.

Two minutes later, the Lethifold was winding its way across the dungeon ceiling and heading for the locked cell on the other side. The whispers were getting louder as she approached and the creature froze when a face suddenly peered out from between the bars. The features of the man seemed familiar to her, but Anna’s concentration was hampered by the deeper needs given the creature she had become. From every crevice and fracture within the stones surrounding her, it could smell the scent of prey.

Food!

When the man was convinced nobody was listening, he fell back into the darkness of his cell and the Lethifold slipped easily between the bars above him to follow. She spread herself wide across the ceiling; only the moonlight streaking through the grilled window offered enough light to see the two men huddled together in a corner.

“Are you crazy?” one man whispered to the other.

“Why not? They’re offering us a chance to avoid Azkaban if we tell them what we know!”

“Don’t be stupid. You can’t really believe that.”

There was a sharp squeak heard in the hallway outside. “What was that?”

The second man leaned over to look through the bars again, but returned quickly.

“Rats — nasty devils are looking to strip the flesh from our bones when we sleep.”

The first man reached over to grab his friend by the shoulders. “We have to stay together on this… don’t tell them anything!”

The other man shook his head. “But we can’t go to Azkaban for five years. Who do you know that’s ever been there that long and survived?”

“We’ll just have to take our chances… that’s all there is to it!” the first man grumbled back.

“But we’re talking five years… for stealing a few eggs from the Cliffs of Knowtor!” He shook his head. “It might as well be a death sentence for the both of us. I know I won’t survive it.”

The Lethifold ballooned with rage as thick trunks of blackness reached out like clawed appendages downward toward the prisoners. It took all of Anna’s strength to pull back, but only after the part of her that remained human finally recognized the two men below her. They were the wizards arrested in the city; two of the original three who had survived the dragons’ attack after stealing her eggs.

“I know you can’t see it now… but Azkaban would be a far better choice than betraying those who hired us to go into the Shadowed Forest. For God’s sake, you should be thinking about your parents. You’ve heard the threats. Any informant labeled a traitor puts their family at risk.

“But how do even we know those threats are real?”

“Do you want to take that chance and put your mother in the path of the snatchers?” The first man grabbed his friend again. “Listen, you and I made hundreds of galleons for the eggs we took from those nests. What good would all of that gold do our families if they’re found dead in their beds?”

The man fell back against the wall and then slowly looked out at the moon through the window. “We knew the risks, we took the chance, we made some money, but we got caught.” He looked at his friend again. “It’s a hard thing… but it is what it is, and we’ll have to take whatever punishment they decide to give to us for our trouble.”

The second man rolled onto the cold floor and heaved. “And we were so close to the biggest score of all.”

There was a pause and then the other replied, “Yeah… I know. The rest of the team will be going back out to the Lair three days before the ships leave to take the children home again.”

His friend reluctantly heaved. “One hundred eggs. Wow…” he whispered, longingly. “Tens of thousands of galleons… and we’re stuck in here.”

Anna’s mind was buzzing. One hundred eggs! No… they can’t! They wouldn’t!

The creature ballooned again and reached for one of the men in the darkness. It halted once more when the first man suddenly whispered back. “Just put it out of your mind. It won’t give you any comfort given what’s soon coming to us.”

From the center of the blackness that was the Lethifold, Anna’s face was visible and blackened tears were slowly stretching down and then up again.

“Have you ever wondered what they’re doing with all of those eggs?” the second man asked the first.

There was a long pause as the features of Anna’s face were absorbed once more.

“I asked one of the snatchers that question once,” the other man whispered back, “after the last delivery.”

The second man looked over. “And?”

“I got the impression he really didn’t know, because they were buying them for someone else.”

The second man looked surprised. “Someone else? Who?”

“He wouldn’t give me a name, but…” his friend looked over at him, “I remember he called the buyer the collector and… he said this man wasn’t reselling the eggs for profit. They had another, much greater purpose for them.” The man telling the story stared unknowingly back up at Anna in the ceiling. “The collector said the eggs were to be used in the great war to come.”

Although Anna had forced some control over the creature’s deadly ambitions, she was immediately tossed into the well of her most frightening memories. ‘The war to come’… she knew was the war between Voldemort and his supporters against the rest of the Wizarding World. The coming of this war was the reason magic had brought the Sithmaith into existence in the first place, the first Guardian since the time of Merlin to act as its protector from the madness to come.

“What war?” the other man shot back incredulously.

His friend shrugged. “The snatcher didn’t know, but he called the collector something else during one of our exchanges.” The man looked over at his friend again. “He called him a Knight of Walpurgis.”

“A Knight of… of what?”

“Walpurgis.” The man slowly sat up to look over. “You ever hear of them?”

“No.”

The man telling the story solemnly shook his head. “I’ve only ever heard the reference one other time and it was during the trials after the death of You-Know-Who. I heard the Director of Wizard Law Enforcement reference the Knights of Walpurgis by another name in court.” He stared at his friend again. “Death Eaters.”

The other man gasped and then quickly sat up to stare back at his friend. “What? Wait a minute… are you saying one of You-Know-Who’s old Death Eaters is buying all of these eggs? Is that what you’re telling me?”

His friend shrugged cautiously. “All I’m saying is the snatcher who bought our eggs was doing so on behalf of a Walpurgis collector.”

“But you also said they were doing this as a prelude to war! Does anybody else know about this?”

“Nobody is supposed to know. Honestly, I always thought he said it just to scare us into keeping our mouths shut if ever we got caught.” He looked over again. “If the threat of snatchers against our family wasn’t worrisome enough, then the mention of a Death Eater might deliver an even stronger message.”

“But… if that’s true… if they were only trying to scare us… then we all would have heard it. Do you think the snatcher was lying or maybe just boasting?”

The other man stopped to think, his eyes returning to the moon now in full view outside the window. “I don’t know; I don’t think so. The snatcher seemed afraid of the collector too.” He looked back down at his friend. “All the more reason to keep your mouth shut, because if it is true… then our families would be in even greater danger than we know. I don’t want to take any chances that…” There was a loud squeal outside the door.

“What the…?” one of the men stood to look out.

The second man crowded in next to the other to see several rats scattering in every direction across the floor and into the open cells down the hallway. Suddenly, the silhouette of something very large caught their eye in the ceiling before melting into the shadows.

They looked at each other and then down at the cell on the other side of the dungeon. A set of glowing eyes were staring back at them through the bars and a low rumble could be heard reverberating through the floor under their feet. The two men fell back and then turned took look fearfully into the ceilings as the echoed growl rumbled on. When it finally stopped, they peered out again down the hallway, but the eyes they thought they saw looking back were gone.

Anna was finally released the following Thursday morning to the cheers of her fellow Guardians in the Union Hall, which also included two unexpected visitors. Valeria Ines was there along with one other.

“John!”

John Dell was smiling broadly even as he leaned on a cane to keep his massive frame upright. Anna rushed over to hug him tightly.

“I’ve been so worried about you,” she sobbed into his middle.

“Worried?” he answered back with a chuckle. “You’ve been sitting in a dungeon cell all week… and you’ve been worrying about me?” He laughed again.

Anna smiled up at him and then shrugged. “Nothing better to do when you’re down there but to worry.” She hugged him again. “I’m so glad you’re out of the hospital. You and Trog… you saved my life.”

Looking embarrassed, the large man gently laid a heavy arm across her shoulders to hug her back. Then, appearing somewhat irritated, he pushed her back again.

“On another matter… I need to speak to you about your father’s charity. It wasn’t necessary for him to pay me more than the agreed amount for taking this job. You must convince him to take it back.”

Anna frowned and then looked over at Valeria.

“Your father called it, ‘hazard pay’,” she said with a smile. She looked up at John Dell with tears sparkling in her eyes. “And I’ve been trying to convince him that he earned every knut of it.”

“Yes… but five thousand galleons. It’s preposterous!”

Anna smiled, and as she reached out to hug him once more as she whispered, “Whatever my father gave you… wasn’t nearly enough.”

TWO

“Trog? Are you there?”

It was late in the evening, and Anna was peering through the iron portcullis and to the empty drawbridge on the other side.

“Anna… we shouldn’t be out of the Guardian Tower after curfew… never mind outside the castle. What are we doing out here?”

Anna turned to look over her shoulder at Gwen, Sarah Bell and Gabriel, standing in the courtyard entranceway behind her.

“I already told you… I have to speak to Trog. It’s urgent that I tell him what they’re planning to do!” Anna whispered back.

Although Gabriel had agreed to escort Anna to the front gate, she was clearly having second thoughts.

“Gwen is right, Anna. This was a mistake. You’ve already told Captain Hayman about the smugglers plans to raid the Dragon’s Lair again. This isn’t necessary.”

“The Guardian Knight is correct, she is, little one.”

Anna wheeled around to look up into the scowling expression in Trog’s enormous face. She smiled.

“There you are… I thought maybe you didn’t get my message.”

The ogre glared over at the other guardians behind her. “The Captain sent an owl into the forest about the egg thieves, he did. I have been keeping vigilance in all the valley passageways, and Glors sniffs at every trampled roots leading to the cliffs. But… it is unnecessary, it is.” He looked into the moonlit sky over their heads. “The winged ones can smell the thieves’ treachery well enough now, they can, and long before their greed reaches the cliffs.”

Trog peered down at Anna again and smiled. “Still… your warnings are worthy of your post, Guardian, they are.”

Anna looked back at her friends and then up to Trog again. “I also needed to see you tonight because I wanted to ask you about something else.”

Trog lifted a curious brow. “What — something else?”

Anna thought about her words guardedly and then, “Trog… how long have the smugglers been stealing from the nests?”

Trog seemed surprised by the question. Gabriel came forward and was quickly followed by Gwen and Sarah Bell.

Anna grabbed the iron bars in the gate separating them. “I mean… I never heard about the smugglers in my first year. When did they start going into the Shadowed Forest?”

The ogre looked curiously at the other girls standing next to her. “It began last summer, it did… soon after the wizard children left the school to return home.”

Anna pressed her face into the rusted steel. “Are you sure, Trog. It’s vital I know exactly when it started.”

“Why, Anna?” Gwen said, putting a hand on her friend’s shoulder. “Why does it matter?”

Trog thought about it again. “Glors said the winged ones started their songs of lament during the first full moon of summer, they did.”

Anna turned to Gabriel. “So… it was in June.”

The Guardian Knight shrugged. “I suppose that sounds about right… so… what of it?”

Ignoring her, Anna turned to look out again. “Trog… I’d like you to tell me… about the first time it happened?”

The ogre cocked his head to the side, looking curious again. Even in the shadows he could see something changing in Anna’s face; he could sense the anger in her growing. The green in the young girl’s eyes had turned black. Trog’s expression fell. It was like looking into liquid wrath.

“It happened before, didn’t it Trog? Years ago…? Maybe more than ten years ago?”

Trog frowned at her. “How did you know?” he finally answered.

“And wouldn’t you say that it stopped around…” Anna hesitated, “around the time I was born?”

Trog looked away to think. “I… do not know…”

Anna could see the creature struggling to remember. “Think, Trog. It’s so important that I know,” she pleaded.

“Anna… what is going on?” Gwen finally turned Anna by the shoulders to look at her. “Why are you asking about… OH MY GOD!”

Now Gwen could now see it too: the white of Anna’s eyes were completely black and beads of ebony sweat covered her forehead. It looked like blood in the moonlight. Gwen’s face jerked back when she saw threads of black reaching out of the black wetness to snatch at her.

“What’s happening to you?”

Gabriel and Sarah Bell quickly looked in.

“Oh no…” Sarah whispered. “Anna… it… it…it’s happening again… wh… wh… what should we do?”

Alarmed, the young girl quickly looked around. She saw the fountain in the courtyard and ran over to dip the sleeve into the water. She returned and then pressed the cloth into Anna’s forehead.

“This sh… sh… should help.”

Trog’s eyes were wide with wonder as he watched through the portcullis gate.

Anna seemed to go rigid, seized by the sudden coldness pressing into her face. “No… don’t…” Anna whispered. “I have to know… and… only Trog can tell me.”

And then, to everybody’s surprise, they watched in amazement as Anna’s body melted into a pool of blackness at their feet.

“What in God’s name?” Gabriel yelped.

The four of them watched as the pool slid under the iron gate and then elongated itself once more to stand upright. A few seconds later, Anna was on the other side reaching out to Trog.

“Please tell me, Trog. Tell me about the first time years ago when the smugglers were stealing from the Cliffs of Knowtor.”

Anna sat down in a manner one does when conversing with ogres and Trog quickly squatted to join her. They sat cross-legged, facing each other, as they whispered somewhat urgently back and forth. Gwen was straining to hear what they were saying until Gabriel reached out to Sarah Bell.

“Will you please explain to me what just happened? How did she do that?”

“She’s an Animogus,” Gwen answered back.

The Guardian Knight scowled. “What!?” She looked at Sarah suspiciously. “No!”

Sarah Bell looked over at Anna whispering to Trog on the other side of the gate. Even in the seated position, the ogre was much taller than all the girls watching them. Obviously, if her roommate had wanted to keep her ability to change a secret, she wouldn’t have done it right in front of the Guardian Knight.

Sarah looked at Gabriel again and then nodded. “She is.”

Gabriel was incredulous. “But that’s impossible. The only other Animogus known to exist is…”

“Professor Minerva McGonagall,” Gwen answered quickly. “She’s the Transfiguration teacher at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”

“I know who she is, damn it!” Gabriel fired back, trying to keep her voice to a whisper. “Everybody knows who McGonagall is. She one of only seven Animagi ever known to exist in the last hundred years!”

“And… she’s also Anna’s mentor.” Gwen replied. “McGonagall was assigned to help Anna by the Headmaster at Hogwarts when Anna’s family found out she could change.”

“What?” Gabriel sputtered, disbelievingly. “Are you serious? But… how long has she been able to do it?”

Gwen looked at Sarah Bell and shrugged.

“Since before she came to Castlewood,” Sarah answered. “I saw her do it in our dorm room soon after her house elf came to live with us. She doesn’t do it very often.”

Gwen peered out at Anna again. “I’m her best friend… I’ve known her ever since we were children living in California… and this is the first time I’ve ever seen her do.”

“Gabriel… please… you can’t tell anybody about this,” Sarah pleaded nervously. “If everybody found out she was an Animogus… then…”

“Then she would be forced to register that fact with the Ministry of Magic,” Gabriel finished.

Gwen and Sarah nodded.

“Her father and Professor Thordarson think it best to keep it a secret while Anna is still in school. They don’t want to draw any unnecessary attention to her,” Sarah added.

“Thordarson knows?” Gabriel shot back.

“Yes… of course he knows,” Gwen said. “He and the Headmaster of Hogwarts know about it and they both agree that, for now, Anna shouldn’t reveal this skill while at Castlewood.”

Gabriel suddenly found it difficult to focus. In all the years at the school, she had never known or even suspected that the Chancellor might be a party of something illegal. She looked over at Anna still sitting in front of the enormous ogre. “But she’s so young,” she mumbled.

“Who is that down there?” yelled a voice above their heads and all three girls quickly fell back into the shadows.

“Oh no… it’s one of the Crimson guards on the upper wall,” Gwen whispered. “We’re doomed!”

Gabriel put a finger to her lips. “Shhh… leave it to me.” She suddenly stepped out.

“It’s just me, sir.”

“What? Who goes there?”

“It’s Laroche, sir.”

“Laroche? Gabriel… what are you doing out here?”

“My duties, of course. I was checking to make sure the gates are secure.”

“But the duties outside this week are the responsibility of the Defender Knights — not the Guardians.”

“They are? I thought this was our week.”

“No… they’re not, which means you are out of bounds after curfew, young lady. I suggest you get yourself back inside before I’m forced to report you to Lieutenant Dunning.”

“Yes, sir. Right away,” Gabriel replied, and she quickly turned and headed for the castle’s front doors.

“And have a mind to check the schedule properly next time!” the guard yelled out after her.

Gabriel waved and then disappeared into the castle entranceway. Sarah Bell and Gwen were holding their breath as they pressed their backs against the wall below. A few minutes later the castle door opened again and the girls could see Gabriel cautiously peering out. They watched as she scanned the upper walls, looking to make sure the guard had moved on before waving them to her. The two girls dashed across the courtyard, up the stairs and through the front door in a flash of robes and panicked fear.

“Whew! That was close,” Gwen sighed.

“I’d better escort you back to the tower,” Gabriel told them. “You’re still out of bounds.”

“What about Anna?” Sarah said.

Gwen’s eyes widened. “Oh my God… I forgot… she’s still out there,” She reached for the door’s latch again.

“We’d better get back,” called a whisper somewhere behind them, and they looked up to find Anna standing at the top of the staircase. “Come on — back to the Tower.”

Gabriel looked at Gwen. “How the hell did get back without our seeing her?”

Gwen shook her head as she followed Sarah up the stairs. “I wouldn’t be surprised if she can fly too.”

A few minutes later, the four girls flopped into the couches and chairs within the Tower Room. Looking somewhat relieved, Gabriel pointed at Anna and sneered, “You’ve got a lot of explaining to do!”

Anna nodded and then pushed herself upright. “Okay… I definitely owe you that, given we could have been suspended tonight.”

Ten minutes later, Gwen was pacing around the room. “Okay… so now I understand how you were able to spy on the smugglers down in the dungeons, but I still don’t get it. Why did you insist on seeing Trog tonight?”

“And why does it matter that the smugglers started going to the Dragon’s Lair last summer?” Gabriel added.

All three girls were staring at Anna pryingly.

“Because…” Anna whispered, “that’s when the first reports started coming in about Voldemort’s return.”

Gabriel and Gwen gasped at the name and Anna immediately looked apologetic.

“I mean… He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named,” she added quickly.

Gwen sat down next to her. “But… why would that matter, Anna? What do the smugglers have to do with You-Know-Who?”

Anna looked at her and sighed. “His Death Eaters are buying the eggs because they want to use the dragons in the war to come.”

She let these words settle for a moment and then added, “I heard the smugglers in the dungeons talking about selling the eggs to a Death Eater they called the collector.”

Gabriel suddenly looked worried. “What war are you talking about?”

Anna heaved again and then looked at her. “Do you believe He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named has returned?”

The Guardian Knight rolled her eyes. “If you recall… I was one of the few people who said I believed it when you and John Baird were fighting that first night we returned to school.”

“Yes… I know… but have you taken the time to really think about what it would mean to the Wizarding World if he did return? Do you understand the repercussions?”

Once again Gabriel remembered the last time she had entered the Mirror of Enlightenment and its warning to her: ‘You-Know-Who and his minions were gathering strength’. The Guardian Knight looked back at Anna again. “It means a lot of people are going to get hurt.”

“It means a war is coming!” Anna shot back. She looked at Sarah and Gwen. “It means hundreds… maybe thousands of people are going to die.”

Gabriel heaved. Of course Anna was right. If Voldemort was back then he would surely begin where he left off the first time. There would be killings. There would be the type of disappearances they had already seen in the Wizarding World recently over the last year. There would be war. She looked at Anna again, nodded, and then walked over to sit next to her on the couch.

“But together…” Gabriel said, thinking again about the words within the Mirror, “we shall turn chaos into harmony.”

Anna’s eyes widened and began to fill with tears. She reached out to Gabriel and hugged the girl.

Gwen stepped in. “But I still don’t understand, Anna. I heard you asking Trog about somebody stealing the eggs years ago, and you thought it might have stopped after you were born. What was all that about?

Anna pushed back from Gabriel to look up at Gwen. “If his Death Eaters are stealing these eggs for the war to come, then he would have done so before he disappeared the first time as well. I had to confirm what the smugglers in the dungeons had said. I had to know if they were planning to use the dragons as a weapon of war again.”

“And? What did Trog say?”

“He said the same thing happened almost fifteen years ago. Wizards were going into the Shadowed Forest and searching for the Cliffs of Knowtor, and when they finally found it, they began smuggling the eggs off the plateau. Whenever one of them was caught, Trog said they were soon killed in their prison cells and sometimes their families too if they revealed anything to the Ministry about who sent them into the Forest. Nothing was ever learned about why these wizards were stealing the eggs, but then it suddenly stopped and even Trog was unable to tell me why.” Anna stared at her friends. “But now we know: they were doing it then for the same reason they’re doing it now.”

Gwen straightened. “I see. So when You-Know-Who disappeared years ago…”

“The war was stopped before it could start,” Anna finished. “And with You-Know-Who gone… there was no longer a reason to take the eggs. They didn’t need the dragons any longer.”

“And all of this ha… ha… happened just be… be…before you w… w… were born?” Sarah asked her.

Anna nodded. “Like all of you, I was born a Guardian. We were all born to protect magic from the chaos of war that might very well destroy everything we know.”

“But you w… w… were also b… born to le… le… lead us,” Sarah added.

Anna shrugged. “Perhaps… and that’s why I believe I was born a squib. Like the dragons, once the war was stopped, there was no need for the Guardians or for me.”

“But now that You-Know-Who has returned…” Gabriel added.

“Then the Guardians were needed once again to protect the ways of magic. War is on the way… and the Dark Lord will stop at nothing to take over the world by whatever force is necessary, but he can’t do it by himself… he needs help. He wants the dragons and any number of other magical creatures to give him an advantage.”

Anna stiffened. “My father is continually trying to keep the Guardians out of this fight, but I believe we should be doing all we can to protect the dragons. And if that means our actions would put He-Who-Shall-No-Be-Named at a disadvantage…” she sneered satisfactorily, “all the better. We can’t allow these thieves onto the cliffs ever again.”


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