The Strongest Magic

Chapter 10: The Seekers

Jabbering gaggles of demons with glowing red eyes locked up in cages hanging from the ceiling were silenced at once and cowered in their small containers at the howls that were echoing throughout the darkened castle. This fortress was no stranger to cries of pain, but this wasn't one of those. Instead the howling was more akin to the tantrum of a child that wasn't getting his way.

"No, no, NO! I will not accept this!" Thoth cursed for the hundredth time.

"The terms of the wager were outlined quite clearly." Fay said smugly, looking up from the book in her lap.

"Indeed they were." Thoth replied, folding his hands behind his back. "We took sides on a wager between two opposing forces; luck magic, and your 'strongest magic'. We pitted subjects A and B, your strongest magic experiment, against subject C a luck magic user to see which magic was stronger."

"And subject C was eliminated."

Thoth rounded on her. "By a variable!"

"Correct. The same variable I observed before; the one that was touched by the strongest magic."

"Don't you dare attribute subject C's failure to that one. You know which variable I'm talking about."

"The variable was summoned here by Adair's wish." Fay explained. "And nothing but the strongest magic could have prompted a wish so powerful as to cross the boundaries between worlds."

"I'm not talking about the boy! We both know who really eliminated subject C, and we both know it is as capable of your so called strongest magic as you or I."

Fay returned her gaze to the book for a moment. "Your argument is valid."

Thoth breathed a sigh of relief.

"So the wager is a draw."

Thoth clenched his bony fingers. "But your strongest magic didn't prevail!"

"It wasn't conquered either."

The two locked eyes for a moment, his muddy brown and determined, hers icy blue and arrogant. It was a contest of wills and he knew there was no way he could win this one, not without the proper logic to back it up. He relented with a sigh and pushed his glasses higher onto his face.

"Nag is never getting that tick bath."

The two were stopped from further banter by a great commotion that sounded like it was coming from the next chamber. The two went at their leisure to investigate. They never really hurried anywhere. Unlike their associate Nag, Thoth and Fay were not impulsive creatures. As it turned out, their higher strung companion was the cause of this disturbance. They found it in its private chamber, and as usual it had made a downright mess of it. But there was a reason for it this time. Nag scaled the stone walls with the ease of a spider, retrieving objects from high shelves and then leaping down to the ground to stuff them frantically in an old beaten footlocker. It seemed bent on cramming its every last belonging into it, muttering frenzied sentence fragments to itself all the while.

"Can't leave anything behind." Nag muttered. "Never coming here again. Can't take any chances."

Thoth's eyes lingered for only a moment on the objects strewn across the floor. Nag's pursuits were its own, and Thoth found them, for the most part, rather distasteful.

"Nag," he interrupted the creature's agenda. "What are you doing?"

Nag looked up, stopping in the middle of scurrying along the floor on all fours with some kind of leash in its mouth. "Isn't it obvious?" it asked, dropping the leash. "I'm packing."

"Packing for what?"

"You heard what Fay said! She's here!"

Fay stepped gingerly over the clutter. "I believe Nag is referring to Iole."

"Well are you surprised?" Thoth asked. "We knew it was only a matter of time before she found out how to cross the boundary. It's what she does."

"It's one thing she does." Nag grimaced. "The other thing she does is hunt black magic practitioners like us! And now that she's here she'll hunt us to the ends of Fantasia. The only way to keep that from happening is to just leave Fantasia."

"Leave Fantasia?" Thoth said as though it was the most preposterous thing he'd ever heard. "What nonsense is this?"

"It's not nonsense, it's perfect sense. You remember Aluminaria? That was the last time your game with Fay let her catch up to us, and after we left I spent the next four weeks stitching my arm back on. I am not going to be that dragon's snack so you and Fay can prove a point. I'm not like you two. I don't care for big scientific breakthroughs like you, and I don't need to find out how far you can push someone until they turn on their family and friends like Fay. The only thing I need to make me happy is fine food, fine drink, and a living subjugate or two, all of which I can find in the next world we go to."

Thoth shook his head. "Nag, my dear Nag, do you hear what you're saying? This isn't just some other world we've stumbled into. It's the realm of human fantasy, the world where every dream and desire becomes reality."

Nag narrowed its eerie red eyes. "Yeah, the world of human fantasy. Earthling human fantasy. We're not from earth, and are you so certain we can even be called human anymore?"

"Be that as it may, look at what we've accomplished in these ten short years. We've carved ourselves our own niche in the dreams of humankind. We've learned this world's ins and outs. We know all of its natural laws and how to bend them to fit our desires. The white dragon just found her way into this world. We have a decade of experience on her here. This is a whole new game even for her."

"If we're going to continue the experiment, we simply need to find a way around her." Fay added.

Thoth turned to her with an unpleasant grin. "Am I to trust you already have one in mind?"

Fay nodded. "Even the white dragon has rules she must follow. The solution is simple. We insert a new factor that she can't fight."

Nag's furry blue ears perked up. "But everyone in Volrac's forces has made a contract with us."

"Not everyone." Fay reminded.

Thoth nodded as a look of understanding dawned on his face. "Ah, you mean them."

"I still can't get over it." Jason said again, casting his eyes about their surroundings. "Everything here is exactly how I pictured it while I was reading, only... I don't know, better." His eyes lingered on Atreyu for a moment. "Well most of it anyway."

Adair wondered briefly what that was about, but she dismissed it. After all she'd been through in Fantasia, she was sure nothing could surprise her anymore. But another look at the strange woman who was sitting by herself just outside their camp reminded her she was wrong. That woman could not be her cat. But she hadn't gotten the chance to ask her anything. After she'd woken up, the woman who claimed to be Iole had gone to sit by herself and stare at nothing. When they tried to talk to her she'd simply shake her head or nod. Not sure what to do, they'd set up camp for the night. Atreyu had foraged for food, but hadn't found anything besides a few rabbits. They were currently roasting over the fire pit, and though the idea had repulsed her at first, the smell of cooked meat had reminded Adair how hungry she was.

"So when did you start reading the book?" Adair asked.

"When I came to your house and found you gone." Jason answered. "I've been at the bookshop reading about you ever since. Then when I saw you were about to get yourself killed I called out to you to wish for me. I guess it worked."

A thought occurred to Adair then. "How long has it been since I came here? In our world I mean. I've been in Fantasia for two weeks now I think."

"Yeah I know." Jason said somewhat sourly. "It's been three days since I sent you to the bookshop."

"Three days? That's it?"

"That's it?" Jason said incredulously. "Do you have any idea how worried we've all been?"

"We?" Adair asked.

"Rosemary is totally freaking out."

"Really?" of that, Adair was highly skeptical. "What did you tell her?"

Jason looked embarrassed. "Well... I tried to tell her what happened."

"Let me guess, she didn't believe you."

The dejected look on his face told her she was right. "She really is worried about you."

Adair shrugged. "Whatever."

They were silent for awhile. Atreyu spoke in an attempt to break the tension. "So you're Adair's friend from the Human World?" he asked Jason innocently.

"No I'm her best friend from the human world." There was a sharpness in Jason's voice that Atreyu didn't quite understand.

"Adair, why did you never tell me?"

For reasons she didn't understand, Adair felt her face grow hot. "You never asked."

Jason snorted and looked away. "So any ideas on her yet?" he indicated Iole and spoke in a low voice.

"No idea." Adair replied. "You said she was with you the whole time you were reading?"

"I couldn't get rid of her. I had a feeling she was reading with me, but then I thought of how crazy that was. Guess I was right."

"Well if Iole can read, or can turn herself into a human..." Adair glanced back at Iole who remained staring off into space. "or elf or whatever, then she's been keeping a lot of secrets. Atreyu, have you heard of anything like this in Fantasia?"

"Anything is possible in Fantasia." he answered solemnly.

Jason rolled his eyes. "Profound, really. Any other sage advice for us, oh wise one?" Again Atreyu was confused by Jason's apparent hostility. They sat in silence for awhile longer. Then at the sound of a soft chuckle their heads snapped to where Iole was sitting.

"That's long enough. She had to have gotten bored by now." the strange woman said to herself. Then she turned her sky blue eyes to the other three. "I imagine you have questions. Well now that we're not being watched I can answer them. Go right ahead."

Adair didn't know where to start, so she began with the most obvious. "Are you really my cat Iole?"

Iole chuckled again and shook her head. "I am the Iole you've known, but I'm not exactly a cat. That was just the form I took when I was with you."

"Then what are you?"

At this Iole seemed to hesitate. Her eyes said she wasn't sure how to answer. "Well I guess you could call me a Dragon."

In a flash, Atreyu notched an arrow to his bowstring. Jason and Adair looked to him in alarm as he held its tip level with Iole's head. "The only dragons I've heard of in Fantasia are luckdragons, and the evil dragons that live in caves and swallow travelers whole."

Despite the lethal weapon of a practiced archer being pointed at her head, Iole seemed little more than amused. "And tell me young plainsmen, what would you do if I were one of these evil dragons?"

Adair screamed as Atreyu's arrow whistled through the air. But before she could blink, the arrow stopped. Iole held it in her bare hand. Its tip was no more than an inch from her nose. But she was still smiling.

"I like you kid." she tossed the arrow back to him. "You don't waste time. And lucky for you I'm not from Fantasia."

"Then where are you from?" Atreyu demanded.

Iole sighed. "I'm going to try to make this as simple as I can, but it's still a long story so settle in." She got up from where she'd been sitting and joined them at the campfire. She sat down and crossed her legs. Her eyes lingered over the spitted rabbits. "Are those done yet?"

Atreyu gave her a puzzled look. "Not exactly."

She leaned forward and sniffed the first one (the fattest). "Close enough." Without another word she reached into the fire and snatched the partly cooked rabbit off the spit and took a fierce bite out of it. They didn't know whether to be impressed or disgusted. She hadn't flinched at the heat of the fire, and was tearing the meat apart with her teeth like a wolf. She looked up and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand.

"Sorry, I've always had a weakness for meat. Anyway, back to what I was saying. So you three are already pretty open to the concept of other worlds right?" She looked to each one as if expecting them to answer. When they didn't she continued anyway. "Well there are worlds even beyond Earth and Fantasia, and each world is filled with different people that are learning and growing throughout their lives just like you do here. Mostly you're supposed to learn how to choose between good and evil for the betterment of your kind and all that other mumbo-jumbo. The world of Dragons is one of the oldest. It completed its round of creation a long time ago, and now my kind has other jobs."

Jason creased his brows together. "What kind of jobs?"

"Well some of us blend into other worlds and help it along. They become teachers, helpful strangers, that sort of thing."

"Like angels?" Jason asked.

Iole shook her head. "Sure we'll go with that."

"But what about you?" Adair asked. "You just posed as my cat for ten years."

Iole got a mischievous glint in her blue eyes. "I'm different. I'm a white dragon." she said as though that would clear everything up.

"And what do white dragons do?"

Iole took another savage bite into the rabbit's side. "Wish I had some seasoning for these legs. They're the juiciest part you know." she looked back at Adair and smiled. The girl's anxiety was plain on her face. "You see every world has rules and natural laws, and they're all at different points of progress. Because of this, world diving is forbidden to most."

"World diving?" Jason asked.

The look on Iole's face made it plain she did not appreciate his interruptions. "Traveling between different worlds." She explained. "Too much contact between worlds before they're ready really throws off the balance. Try and imagine someone from a world full of magic coming to another world where no one believes in it. The result is complete chaos!" She took another bite of meat. "Anyway, the problem is more common than most realize. Dragons can dive between worlds freely, because that's our job. Others are special cases that are granted special permission like here for instance. Humans of Earth have always found ways into Fantasia because the two worlds depend on each other. But then there are others, evil beings who dive between worlds for personal gain. Some powerful black magic users can learn the technique or are taught it. Because most of them sell their souls for dark powers we call them Witches. And these Witches cause distortions in whatever poor world they travel to."

Distortions. Adair and Atreyu exchanged a look as Princess Gaya's words came back to them.

This didn't go unnoticed by Jason. "Hey didn't that dark princess say a distortion that was causing all the problems in Fantasia?" The other two looked at him in surprise. "What? I told you I was reading the book."

"I know, but it's still a little creepy." Adair admitted.

Atreyu returned his attention to Iole. "The Dark Princess of Spook City told us that Volrac was given evil powers by something called the distortion. Could she have been talking about one of these Witches you mentioned?"

"Three actually." Iole's answer was a blunt one.

"You know who they are?"

"I should hope so. I've been hunting them for a long time. That's what White Dragons do."

Jason nodded thoughtfully. "So White Dragons are like extra-planar police?"

"It's a better analogy than your last one. Anyway these particular Witches I've been hunting are especially notorious. I'm one of the best the White Dragons have, and they've escaped me for decades now."

"What can you tell us about them?" Atreyu asked eagerly.

"They're high-level servants of a powerful evil. They're called the Circle of the Night. Another name for them is The Seekers. But for all their power and experience, at their core they're just a trio of idiot teenagers messing with things they don't understand."

"Why do you call them The Seekers?"

Iole sighed and set her meal down next to her. "Jason, make yourself useful and get me my bag." she indicated a messenger bag she'd left lying against the rock she'd been sitting on. With a little hesitation, Jason did as she asked. The desire to learn more about their situation trumped his resentment of being told what to do. Even though her form was different, she was still the insufferable feline that had stolen his car keys just for the fun of it. She snatched the bag away from him and began to rummage through it unceremoniously. "Where is it? That's not it, that's not it, nope, no, no," she muttered to herself as she pulled various items out of her mysterious satchel, among which were a brass leaf pin, a small circular mirror the size of a palm with no handle, a tattered gray scarf, a little black book with a label on the front that said "DO NOT TOUCH", and a random assortment of maps.

"Here it is!" She pulled out a leather bound notebook fastened shut with a clasp. She unfastened it and opened it to a certain page, turning it so they could see. On it was a rather unimpressive sketch of three people; a young man with glasses and messy hair, a girl with black hair and a cat's tail, and a thing in the middle that looked like some kind of blue fox-person. But their proportions were all off. Their heads were freakishly round and much bigger than their bodies, and their limbs looked like the arms and legs you would find on Raggedy-Ann-an-Andy dolls.

"Here you have the face of evil."

Jason frowned. "You mean those chibis you doodled?"

Iole glowered at him. "These aren't just sketches. They're my case files."

"But they're chibis."

"I'm not the best artist okay! Chibis are all I can draw! They used to be stick figures!" She exhaled slowly and pointed. "This is a sketch of the Witches I was telling you about, the ones that are infecting Fantasia. Once upon a time they were just three children probably the same age as any of you. But they each had dark twisted hearts. They were hungry for power and that led them to black magic. Eventually they sold their souls and gained dangerous dark powers. No one remembers who they were before that, probably not even them. And they've been wreaking havoc from world to world ever since. The first here is Nag, the Seeker of Life." She pointed to the blue fox-person. "Not terribly complicated. Nag is incredibly greedy and likes to use its powers to get the 'finer things in life'; food, drink, money, anything it can get its grubby paws on. It let the other two experiment on it and turn it into some kind of creature. That's what they do. They take whatever they please and twist it into something dark and unnatural just to see if they can."

She pointed next to the young man with glasses. "Then we have Thoth, the Seeker of Truth. He's driven to understand anything and everything. His hunger for knowledge has led him to several experiments that are completely void of morals. He's tested his theories on scores of living creatures without a single care."

Next she pointed to the girl. "And lastly we have Fay, the Seeker of Love. She's a cold and twisted Witch, and for some reason she's always been obsessed with matters of the heart. She believes that love is the most powerful magic there is, but she's never felt it herself so she doesn't understand it. She's searched for years hoping to find a way to use it for power, and she's hurt a lot of people to get it. Now one thing these three have in common aside from being total psychopaths is this; they love games. They love outsmarting each other, and proving they're more clever than everyone else. So each time they travel to a new world they start a new experiment. They each take different sides of it trying to prove a point and make it into a game. And this time their game board is Fantasia. That's why I'm here, to hunt them down before they cause any more damage. Any questions?"

Adair had remained silent and unmoving the entire time. Horrible artistry aside, she had recognized the descriptions at once. These were the three she had met at the Ivory Tower. She hadn't spoken of that meeting to Atreyu for obvious reasons, but they had never been far from her mind. That meeting had carried so many implications. They'd claimed not only to be the ones that had brought her here, but also the only ones capable of getting her home. But she had never guessed they could have been the ones behind all of their troubles.

"That power... world diving?" she asked. "Did they give that to Volrac?"

Iole nodded. "From what I've gathered, this Volrac character made a contract with them. Making a deal with a Witch can give someone dark powers. But there's benefits for the Witches too. For one it adds to their power. But I think the Seekers had another reason for making a deal with him. Sometimes a world's magic is so powerful that when someone like the Circle of the Night dives in to mess it up, the world itself can just expel them. Fantasia is a world of dreams. It's one of the most powerful worlds there is. But if the Seekers can make a deal with someone from that world, that poor soul's will would tether them here. In return for his help, they give him all the power he could ask for."

"Like the demons." Atreyu said.

"Summoning demons is one of the first things a Witch learns. Demons are evil beings that don't have a world of their own. They feed on the darkness between worlds. Evil allows them to enter a world and become real. If someone's heart is dark enough they can summon a demon to their world. The greater the evil in the world, the more demons can be called into it."

"Fantasia is the world of human dreams." Jason said with realization. "Think of how many humans have evil dreams! The Seekers could use all that evil to summon-"

"An army." Iole said, confirming his fears. "And they've been teaching Volrac and everyone who follows him how to control them."

"For what?" Jason asked. "We know what Volrac gets out of it. He wants to take over Fantasia. But why should they care? What's in it for them?"

"It's like I said, they're making Fantasia play their game. Volrac may think they're his loyal servants, but to them he's just a piece on their game board. I'm sure they have their reasons for supporting him, but as soon as it's in their best interests they'll turn on him. A deal with a Witch always has grave consequences."

Perhaps she was being paranoid, but Adair could swear that Iole looked right at her when she said that. She had been reading the book with Jason. Did she know about the run-in she'd had with the Circle of the Night? And if she did, did she also know about the ring she still wore? Did Jason know too? The thought made her cringe. What if they told Atreyu she was still holding onto it? Would he think she'd betrayed him? She looked to Atreyu who wasn't looking at her. Instead he was looking contemplatively at the ground.

"So now we know what we're fighting, but we're still no closer to saving Fantasia than we were before. And Falkor is..." She caught him bite his lip. "Chember said those Witches had Falkor. They must have made that sword for him. It had his fur on it."

"You mean your Luckdragon?" Iole asked. Atreyu only nodded. "That's perfect!" she cried gleefully. All three looked to her like she'd just lost her mind. She didn't pay their looks any attention. She just returned to rifling through the things in her bag. She reached in once more and pulled out something they all recognized; the red and black sword that Chember had attacked them with, the one with Falkor's fur tied to the pommel.

"Where did you get that?" Atreyu cried.

"And how did it fit?" Adair asked, looking curiously at the small messenger bag. Now that she thought about it, the things Iole had pulled out of the satchel altogether should not have fit inside it. It must have been enchanted or something.

"I could smell magic all over it." Iole explained. "I snatched it up just in case. Looks like I made the right call. This is your Luckdragon's fur?"

He nodded. "He also said some of Falkor's luck magic was inside it."

"Even better. I'll be able to track him through this. If what you're telling me is true, then I can find Nag, Thoth, and Fay there too."

"So when do we leave?" Atreyu asked.

"We?" Iole laughed. "No way kid. No offense, but these guys are way out of your league."

"You mean you plan to leave us?"

"It sounds harsh when you put it that way, but yes."

The boy narrowed his dark eyes. "You can't! We didn't come this far in our quest just so you could take it away from us!"

Iole rolled her eyes. "Look, I admire your bravery and all, but at the end of the day I've got a job to do, and three kids would just slow me down." She got to her feet and dusted herself off.

"Hold on." Atreyu stood up and planted himself in front of her. "You said your job tells you to respect the natural laws of whatever world you travel to."

Iole turned her sky blue eyes on him. She was only a little taller than him, but something about the way Iole carried herself made her seem a far heavier presence than her slight frame would have led one to believe, especially when she centered her eyes on you.

“Are you sure you want to play this game with me?”

Atreyu felt a strange weight come down on him, as if the universe had suddenly turned its attention on him as well. But he still held his ground. Dragon or not, Atreyu was still a warrior and Iole was going to listen to him.

"The most important law that holds Fantasia together is that whatever human comes here must see their journey through to the end. Without their help, Fantasia cannot thrive. And if Adair doesn't take what she learns back to the human world, then neither world can grow."

"So you're saying that if I didn't let you three come along, I'd be stopping Adair's journey." Iole mused. "If I remember right, a human in Fantasia has to go 'the way of wishes'. Is that right?"

"Right. Adair wished to find Falkor. Right after that, you came to Fantasia, and you say you can lead us right to him."

Iole gave him a wry smile. "Adair wished for a way to find Falkor. But now that she knows where he is, and who's holding him prisoner, does she still wish to go?"

Atreyu was silent. The two of them looked back at her.

"Well?" Iole addressed her. "Do you want to go rescue Falkor, or would you rather leave it to me?"

Now it was Adair's turn to feel the weight of Iole's gaze. Still sitting down by the fire, she felt very small. But she managed a soft "Yes."

Iole raised an eyebrow at her. "Really? Miss 'keep-my-head-down-until-graduation, stay-invisible-til-I-move-out, you want to go headlong into danger? Keep in mind the Seekers are more dangerous than anything you've seen so far and I might not be able to protect you."

Adair sucked in her breath and got to her feet, trying to make herself taller than she felt. The idea of seeing those twisted three again frightened her, but she knew they needed to go. Atreyu needed his friend back, and she needed answers. Atreyu was right. Nothing would be resolved if she bowed out now.

"Yes." she answered more firmly. "I want to go rescue Falkor."

Iole looked taken aback. "Well how do you like that. Looks like the kid was right. Fantasia does look good on you." She lifted her eyes to Jason who was behind Adair. "What about you beansprout?"

Jason was on his feet in an instant "Is that a question? Of course I'm coming!"

Iole sighed. "To be seventeen again. Alright we'll take off in the morning. You'll need plenty of rest. When I fly, I'm not as nice as Falkor."

"Jason?" Bastian called, letting himself into the small bedroom. "Dinner's ready." However when he entered he was met only by the familiar copper silk-bound book lying open on the bed. As strange as it sounds, Bastian was only a little surprised. Although, to any who knew the man well, that wouldn't be a surprise at all.

Nostalgia crept over him as he lifted the book in his fingers and let his eyes glide over the green text.

"Are you two coming down?!" he heard his wife call. "It's going to get cold!"

"Be there in a moment dear." Bastian called back. "Slight change of plans, it doesn't look like Jason will be joining us tonight after all."

The steady chirping of crickets was everywhere, and the moon was high in the sky. The fire had begun to die down. They'd all gone to sleep right after Iole had told them her intention to set out tomorrow. It had been strange for Adair to be ordered to bed. It made her feel like Aunt Rosemary had come to Fantasia instead of her beloved cat. She still didn't know how to feel about the change. Iole had been a dragon the entire time. For ten years a dragon had slept in her bed and prowled her house. And all to chase these three Witches to Fantasia. That was the second time she had learned of a connection she had to Fantasia that she hadn't known about before. All the confusion and anxiety that came from these thoughts was the reason Adair was still awake.

"What do you think you're doing?" Adair jumped when she heard Iole's voice, but she remained motionless so she could hear what was happening.

"Owe, let go." It was Jason speaking in a hushed voice.

"Not until you tell me what you were planning to do with that sword."

Adair tensed. What sword was Iole talking about?

"Oh come on, he's dead. He's not going to use it."

She had to bite her lip because now she was really anxious. What did Jason want with Chember's sword?

"And that entitles you to it?"

"Come on, you told Atreyu you'd teach him how to kill demons. I want to know how to fight too."

There was silence for a moment until at last Iole answered "No." She didn't know why, but Adair felt a sense of relief at her refusal.

"Why not?"

She answered his question with another question. "Let me ask you this. Why do you want to know?" Jason didn't sound like he had an answer at first, so Iole prodded further. "You forget I know you almost as well as I know Adair. You think that if I let you have this sword and teach you how to use it, that will make you some kind of hero." Adair agreed with Iole in her head. Ever since they'd been kids, Jason had talked about having an adventure like this. He'd never admit it to her, but she knew he still played Dungeons & Dragons on the weekends when he wasn't with her, and his room was full of books and anime about Fantasy. "But someone who fights without a reason is no hero at all. Unless you have a true reason to pick up that sword, fighting will just make you empty. So I'll ask you again. Why do you want that sword?"

There was silence again, and Adair wondered if Jason didn't have a reason after all. But Iole's response proved her wrong. "I thought so." Adair didn't know, but Jason had actually looked at her instead of answering. "Alright, if that's the case I'll teach you how to fight. But there's two conditions. The first; that sword was made from pieces of Falkor. I don't know how Atreyu would feel about you using it."

"I don't care about that. I think Falkor would rather let me have it then Chember."

"But he's not here. So unless Atreyu is okay with it you can't have it."

Jason huffed, but he didn't argue further. "Fine, what's the second one?"

"The second, I don't ever want you to pick up that sword unless it's to protect her. Deal?"

"Deal." he answered without hesitating.

To protect me? Adair thought. She didn't like the idea of Jason putting himself in danger for her. But whether she liked it or not, they were all in danger here. And things were only going to be more dangerous from here on out. Atreyu had already thrown himself in harm's way protecting her. Now Jason was going to do the same, and she knew she wouldn't be able to talk him out of it. He'd been there for her since they were children against bullies, life problems, and even Aunt Rosemary's wrath. Now he was going to fight off monsters for her? It made her feel so powerless. It's not like she could learn how to use a sword or shoot a bow.

I wish there was something I could do to protect them. She thought. It wouldn't occur to her until later, but Adair had just made another wish.

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