Beyond the Veil

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Chapter 9: The Hunt

Weaving at insane speeds through the trees, while something was stopping their escape into the air, they were running at a breakneck pace that could only be accounted for by their magic. It wasn’t as fast as air travel, not nearly.

Dani was gasping for air, and she could hear Caden’s breaths beside her, he didn’t seem nearly as exerted as she, but she could still hear that it was an effort to get air into his lungs.

After running for what seemed for years, they were about five minutes from the Elf Kingdom.

Dani halted and suddenly grabbed Caden’s arm.

“Caden, give me your Flame stone. Please quickly!”

His eyes widened in shock, but he trusted Dani. He knew that she wouldn’t stop him for no reason.

She pulled out the Flame stone and concentrated intensly, focusing all her energy into the Flame stone. She felt sparks running down her arm and it felt like the air was thickening around her.

She grabbed the piece of Cloud glass and held it next to the Flame stone, concentrating on both now.

She felt a power that could not be explained, ripple and flow through the Cloud glass, distorting it’s edges, it began to change shape and then all of a sudden burst into a silver dust that floated strangely around Dani’s hand.

She could hear the sound of the Beasts deafeningly loud in her ears, but she knew that she still had enough time. She stared at the Flame stone and thrust the power from inside her into the Flame Stone. It began to glow a fierce red that cast itself on the stardust and all of a sudden there were sparks everywhere. The stardust and the Flame stone melded together to become something comepletely new in that world.

Flame Dust.

Just then the creatures came flying relentlessly out of the trees and she saw Caden move like a blur to stand next to her and then emitted a shield of light from around himself and cast it around it Dani.

The creatures looked at her and Caden. Time moved slower as they stalked towards her and Dani knew what she must do.

She threw the Flame Dust towards them, it rocketed towards them in a synchronised movement, warping around the Beasts and the creatures.

They clutched at themselves in pain and they seemed to distort into different shapes, melting almost, until they exploded into black mist and it faded slowly into the night air.

Caden’s shield moved back inside him and disappeared and Dani stood there in shock, the trees themselves seemed shocked and Dani swore she could see faces emerging from out among the leaves and branches of the dark blue ferns.

She still had Flame Dust in her hand and it burned hot against her skin, she clenched the element against her hand and steeled her teeth. Caden was going to be mad. She had endangered his life!

She closed her eyes as she prepared for Caden to yell, with real anger at her.

“Dani, why are closing your eyes? I promise the shield’s gone. And the creatures. It’s safe to look now.” He said gently.

Dani was confused and she opened her eyes cautiously, looking out from under her lashes into his eyes that were a beautiful golden at this time.

She was caught off guard until she remembered that his eyes changed.

“Aren’t you mad at me?” she said quietly looking at him and then looking down shamefully at her hands, mad at herself, internally cursing herself to the depth of Hades.

“Why would I be mad at you? You saved us. You saved me. From the Hunter’s. I have no reason to be mad. All I can feel is crippling relief that you are safe!” he managed to choke out the last word.

She looked at him with tears in her dark green eyes.

“You could have been killed. And that was my fault. I didn’t even explain to you what I was doing. I’m sorry, I - I should’ve explained.” She shook her head incessantly and crouched low into the ground, still berating herself for her actions.

Caden took her by the arm and lifted her to her feet, cupping her face gently. He was still struggling to stay calm, but also he felt utter relief that she was safe.

He crushed her to her chest and held her there for a few minutes, despite Dani’s reoccurring protests into his chest, which were of course futile and she eventually relaxed into his chest, still breathing hard.

He released her a few moments later and took both her hands, silently looking at the moment as if the sight of the faint lines on her palms would give him courage to speak, and he quietly traced the tips of his fingertips along the plains in her palms.

He then looked up at her firmly with determination in his eyes.

“Dani, there was no time to explain. You are incredibly smart and I know that you would have not stopped me if you knew that you were going to put us in danger.” He said intensely, taking a strand of her dark locks and winding it around his finger.

“You did something incredible. We don’t have time to go into in depth explanations right now, but we’ll get to it later.”

Dani’s breathing had calmed considerably and she let out a heavy sigh of relief.

“Thank you. Your shield gave me confidence. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to do it. But then your shield was there and it urged me on.” She said quietly, glancing down at her hands and then putting her hands on Caden’s shoulder. She felt supported that way and Caden could feel that she was calm now.

“Dani, look. We’re outside the gates of the Elf Kingdom. And I’m pretty sure all the Elf guards saw that display. I don’t think they arrived in time to be able to do anything. But they have never seen what you made.

“Flame Dust. I think it’s a fitting name.” she said confidently now.

They looked around them at the winding black vines and the navy pines, that moved slyly in the floating, gentle wind; the sky splashed in golden light that was obscured by the sharp needles of the pines, that seemed to create a barrier between the forest and the sky. Separating them into two distinct realms.

Dani moved backwards slightly to take the sight of it all in and backed into stone doors. She turned around, startled, and then saw that they were directly in front of the Elf Kingdom and the Elves were all staring at them, shock evident on their pale faces.

Caden angled his body in front of Dani’s, shielding her from the prying eyes of the Elf guards. His wings were out completely and created a wall around them and Dani felt somewhat amused at his protectiveness, but her heart still softened as she knew that he did not take her safety lightly.

She placed a gentle hand on the top of his wing and he looked behind her with a worried expression on his face.

“It’s okay Caden. They’re just curious.” She said, and he let his wings lower slightly and she gestured that he should draw them back to their usual span that he kept them.

He relinquished to Dani’s request but still stood in front of her, his wings down but the feathers still brushing her softly.

“A bit too curious for my liking,” he muttered, putting his arm over Dani’s shoulder and she relaxed into his firm hold.

The Elves moved closer to her, shouting to each other in a language that Dani did not understand, their pale almost white air whipped in the wind that moved quietly but purposely through the trees.

They were dressed in all black, but gold links and buckles adorning their pants, boots and shirts that they were clothed in.

The gold glinted in the golden that tumbled down in small crevices in the pines, and the black gave them the stride of a warrior, the look of a menace, the aura of a fierce hunter; and Dani could hear their heavy footsteps rushing down the stones to the massive towering gate that shut them in the forest.

Dani could still hear them shouting in their foreign tongue, the words melding together to form almost a song, a song of battle, a cry for war.

Dani couldn’t help but press herself against Caden a bit more and whisper in his ear.

“Elvish, right? But will the Elf King understand us?”

He let out a short chuckle.

“Clever girl. The Elf King is educated, luckily for us, he made his quest to learn the languages of the Dimensions and since Earth is the only world in your Dimension, he learnt that as well.” He spoke into her ear, not that the Elves could understand them anyway.

“The Elves can speak basic English, just enough to be able to communicate with any passerbys that may happen to venture in here accidently. No one ever ventures here of their own will, except for Amanda of course. Since she basically landed right in the middle of the Forest, unknowing of the Elf Realm, she walked right to it.” Caden said again, ghosting his fingertips comfortingly against the top of her shoulder.

Dani heard a thunderous rumbling sound a few feet in front of her. She watched as the Stone gates began to move slowly inwards, the path before them into the light seemed ominous to Dani, but then they saw flashing lights and realised that the Elves were wielding lanterns.

The Elves faces were illuminated under the pale yellow light of the lanterns and they gestured towards Caden and Dani; she looked upwards at the distant Forest, seeing movement in the pines and vines swaying in between the pine needles, up again at the distant golden light cascading through the dark blue tops of the pines.

She felt a gentle pull on her arm and she was drawn through the Stone Gates by Caden and Caden’s wing wrapped around her and blocked the Forest from her view and she turned to path, only the dim lights of the lanterns guiding their hesitant movement.

Dani heard the Gates thud shut loudly behind her and she turned her attention to the view in front of her. The darkness wrapped around her like a heavy cloak, and she could see the outlines of the Elves moving slowly in front of them, their boots somehow silent now even though they were travelling over stones.

“Caden, why is it so dark? It’s still daylight.” She said anxiously into Caden’s ear, so that the other Elves could not hear her voice. He said they could only understand basic English, but Dani didn’t want to take any chances.

“The Elf King has a certain aversion to the light. He isn’t fond of the sunlight. Honestly I think it’s a heavy case of vanity. He values his pale skin, which is a little ridiculous because Elves live for thousands of years and age nonexistantly over the age of 30.”

“Maybe there’s other reasons he doesn’t like the light as well.” Dani replied quietly, gripping Caden’s hand closer to her and Elves continued to move now swiftly past her and Dani suspected that they were going to reach the palace entrance any moment now.

“You’re probably right, Dani. From what his Elves tell the outside world, that was a reason for his avoidance of the light.”

A loud yell jolted Dani and Caden from their conversion and caused them to fall silent in expectancy.

Although Dani could feel that Amanda was safe, she didn’t know how the Elf King had been treating her.

Dani could hear another door, rumbling ominously before them and grey mist seeped out of the doors. It surrounded them; the colour weighed down on them and Dani’s vision became a little clouded.

They grey mist surrounded them as Dani and Caden’s footfalls became silent after a few moments of walking forward. The ground felt smooth underneath Dani’s shoes and it was easier to walk. The fact that Dani could not hear her own feet under made her feel as if she was walking on air. After a few moments the mist around them retreated, crawling back into the unknown and Dani could finally see the inside of the palace.

It was not what Dani expected after seeing the Dark Forest, the menacing Stone Gates and the claustrophobic walk up to the entrance of the Palace.

The room they were in dazzling from what Dani could see. It was lit by thousands of candles that floated in the air and moved lazily around the room, some floated from the middle of the room down the floor and some gravitated towards the edges of the room where it was more difficult to see. The walls were encrusted in jewels of dizzying array, of so many shapes and sizes that it made Dani’s head spin in wonder.

The floor was like glass, but a deep red colour and Dani was fearful that she might break as she carefully stepped across it. It glinted with the light of the candles and cast curious shapes on the walls that were encrusted in the sides and this caused the gems to radiate their own light eerily across the room.

The Elves motioned to the them and grunted out a word.

“Stay.” They rasped the word and Dani thought that this was because they were not used to speaking English and more accustomed to singing out their own native tongue.

They turned to an unseen door and Dani saw their gold links and buckles glint briefly in the light before they disappeared into an unseen abyss, along with their pale hair that swayed gently over their broad shoulders.

Dani looked around in awe once more before casting her attention back to Caden. The candles drifted aimlessly around his wings that he allowed to span to their full breadth and the light glinting off the candles cast an ethereal glow across his eyes, picking out the silver stars in his eyes.

“Where is the King?” Dani asked a little nervous, she definitely did not know what to expect. Alright, she did, she just did not know how he had been towards Amanda and that caused distress to whip through her soul.

Caden moved towards her and spoke, while looking around at the candles around him that floated near his wings.

“Probably in his – “ Caden stopped all of a sudden looking behind her. His jaw stiffened and then relaxed.

“Never mind, he’s – “

“Ah, you two have arrived. Your…friend spoke of you. Dani.” He said, nodding an adorned head full of pale hair at her, intricately braided behind him. His dark eyes bored into her own and Dani returned the gaze, she was dubious of him and she let him know that by her look.

“And your…friend? Yes, Amanda said that you were a half phoenix.” He said, allowing himself a small smile before smoothing his features and darkening his eyes once again.

Dani though that they should at least show some form of respect to him and moved slightly unwillingly to bow, but the King stopped her and Caden pulled her back from the King’s reach, his eyes glaring into the King’s own dark orbs.

The Elf King chuckled, looking at both Dani and Caden.

“Bit possessive there, aren’t we?” he said, smirking and then looking away in amusement.

Caden pulled her closer to his side and regarded the King with a cool expression, staying silent.

“There is no need for that, she is yours, I can see. I already have my – “ he cut off the sentence suddenly. He became vulnerable for a moment before hastily rebuilding his walls and putting his shields back into place. Then he looked back at Dani and Caden, and Dani noticed that the King’s eyes had lightened slightly. Only slightly though.

Caden had realised this as well and Dani could practically hear him let down his guard. He was guessing at something…what Dani couldn’t tell yet.

He spoke again.

“You have come for Amanda, then?” his tone seemed slightly forced and Dani noticed the slightest tremor in his hand as he let the words slip out.

“We wish to know if she is safe…and happy.” Dani spoke out, her voice seeming to echo and bounce off the gem encrusted walls.

“Safe she is, if she is happy, that is your job to find out.” He said, his voice also filling the room and he turned back into the black abyss and then Dani could see another figure next to him that Dani couldn’t quite make out yet.

It moved closer towards them with the King next to it. The frame of the figure was tall and slight, Dani’s heart leapt in her chest as she recognised it to be Amanda.

“Dani!” she heard the cry of Amanda and Dani rushed towards her and stopped in shock. Amanda looked…different. Glowing, radiant and ecstatic almost. She couldn’t understand why. And she was dressed in clothing fit for an Elf Queen. It was pure white, an exquisite floral pattern splashed with tiny crystal like gems that glittered in the light. Dani ruefully acknowledged her own garments at that moment, as they were somewhat a little…worn from their journey.

Her hair was braided like the King and the crystals were a shining light in her hair and Dani noticed something different in the smile of her friend. But she cast the feeling aside for the moment and tried to embrace her friend without soiling her stunning dress, gently placing her arms around her and then was caught off guard when Amanda hugged her tightly.

“Amanda!” she said, trying to pull out of Amanda’s exuberant embrace but not succeeding.

“I’m going to ruin your dress! I’ll get all my mud and dirt all over it!” she exclaimed and then turning her attention by vainly trying to tidy up her disarray.

She heard a soft chuckle coming from behind her and turned her head to look at Caden.

She rolled her eyes and smiled at him, Caden returned it with his own playful smirk. Shaking her head in wry amusement she turned back to Amanda.

Amanda was still was beaming and she seemed to be looking behind her at…something.

Dani had a feeling…but she was most likely wrong, but she’d quiz Amanda later when they were alone. Amanda might not want to speak around Caden. Dani didn’t like leaving Caden unless it was absolutely necessary but Amanda was one of the most important people in Dani’s life, besides the obvious. Dani smiled to herself and she looked up at Amanda, and then she saw that Caden and the Elf King had moved to stand with them.

The King stood next to Amanda and Caden next to Dani, his hand placed itself into her own.

The King gave the briefest glance at Amanda before speaking to Caden and Dani again.

“My apologies. You two must be starving. I have learned what humans eat over the past two days. It’s certainly been interesting to say the least. I’ve had to bribe the cook quite a bit the last couple of days. However, you seem to take quite nicely to our way of cooking, don’t you Amanda?” he said, casting his eyes over towards Amanda who returned his gaze.

“You’re right, I have. But I must admit some of the concontions that you make in your Kitchen amaze me. They are so painstaking to make and use thousands of ingredients.” She said in response to the King as she looked at Dani and Caden, which all caused them to break out into laughter, as Amanda looked back at the Elf Prince.

The King huffed a little, but Dani could see a hint of a smile on his face as he replied to Amanda.

“Maybe painstaking and expensive, but they taste pretty incredible if I do say so myself.” He said slyly.

“Speaking of food, do you think we could get a little of that?” Dani asked, her stomach making its want known to the room in the form of a tidal wave of rumbles.

To Dani’s surprise, everyone in the room laughed, the King included. This is defineitley not what Dani had been expecting from Caden’s tales of the Prince and the Kingdom. She could tell that Caden was a little confused, looking at Dani with a puzzled expression.

Dani gave a shrug to her shoulders, moving her hair out of the way and then moved closer to Caden.

“I thought you said the King was not welcoming to any guests?” she made her thought and then released it into Caden’s mind.

He listened quickly and then shot out his own reply.

“It’s confusing to me as well. He’s changed. The last time I was here he was the exact opposite of this. I really don’t understand it at all.” Dani skimmed over Caden’s thought and then tugged on his elbow and gestured with her head towards Amanda and the Elf King who had somehow managed to move across the room in the time that Caden and Dani had been conversing.

“Do you think…” she mouthed at him, trailing off her sentence suggestively; moving her eyes towards Amanda and the King.

They were talking about something important, but Dani couldn’t quite pick out all of the conversation. The King was quite tall and towered over Amanda, but Dani couldn’t help but notice that Amanda was not bothered by this in the slightest.

“I would never had imagined the Elf Prince falling for anyone, especially not a human. He doesn’t exactly hold them high regard. Truth be told, he doesn’t really like anyone who isn’t an Elf. But I think somehow Amanda has managed to change his mind. How, is beyond me.” Caden said quietly to Dani, slight amusement outlining his tone.

Dani and Caden observed them for a moment and Dani watched Amanda’s reaction to the Elf King as he talked with her. She seemed a little flushed, however that may have just been from the candlelight that still permeated around the room.

The King and Amanda seemed to sense that Caden and Dani were watching and in an instant The Prince and Amanda were directly in front of them.

“Eru, we should show them the Hall.” Amanda said, placing a hand on his arm and he turned to her, a little excitement on his face.

“Oh, yes, indeed of course. We seem to get distracted easily don’t we?” he asked mostly to Amanda, giving Amanda what seemed to be a smug smile. She responded confidently to his display by looking him directly into his eyes and crossing her arms.

“Apparently so, from what I can see.” She said he regarded her coolly, looking her straight in the eyes, giving her unknown promises to Amanda that Dani could not see.

Caden gave a little cough and looked up to see him hiding a look of wide amusement at Eru and Amanda behind his hand. He seemed almost gleeful and Dani couldn’t help but give out a little laugh of her own.

This caught the attention of Amanda and she shook her head a little; rolled her eyes in mock exasperation and then let out a smile of her own.

It was definitely a new smile that Dani had never seen on her friends face and she gave Amanda a knowing look, flickering her gaze towards Eru and then moving her gaze to stare pointedly at Amanda with a smile on her face.

“Well, then let’s not waste any more time. The rest of the Elves will be waiting. And you two shall meet my sister.” He said firmly and then now bold, took Amanda’s hand.

“Well, then.” Caden let out a breath, and gestured down at Eru and Amanda entwined fingers.

“That’s confirmed.” He said, then mirrored Eru’s actions and pressed his palm into Dani’s hand.

Dani saw the mist reappear again before them and it covered them again, this time it seemed more comforting and protecting than unfamiliar and cold the time before when they had entered the palace.

Dani wondered what the mist was for as they disappeared once again into the black abyss.

Maybe she would find out soon.

The mist swirled around them for a few moments and she could hear Caden breathing next to her and the smooth movements of Eru and Amanda just in front of them. They were murmuring quietly to each other, and Dani could just make out their two faint frames in the rolling mist.

In that moment, the mist pulled back and they were in another massive room, somehow this seemed to be extravagant than the last, and there were many elves around them that Dani could see. The room was not bright, as Dani had expected, and instead of candles, thousands of blue glowing lights moved soundlessly and gracefully though the air around the pale hair of the elves who were clothed in dark, gothic looking clothing. The elf women were a little less extreme in their clothing choices and wore dresses similar to Amanda, but more simpler and less extravagant in taste. Simple robes, yet still beautiful, the material was fine and looked silky and was tied around them in intricate knots.

The Elves let out hesitant smiles when they saw Caden and Dani, but when they saw Amanda their smiles broadened and they exclaimed out in their native tongue, which then Eru murmured something into her ear and she returned something to him and then he spoke back to the elves.

A few of the male Elves moved toward Dani and Caden, Caden stepped forward to greet them, uncertain however, as she was not sure if he would be able to communicate given the language barrier.

“I know a little Elvish, not much though. Let’s see how I do.” He whispered in Dani’s ear as she moved forward with him, looking at Caden with surprise and then glancing back at the elves that were in front of them now.

She was curious to hear Caden speak in a foreign tongue.

A young Elf stepped forward with a wine goblet, encrusted with red gems goblet in hand and gestured to Dani. His hair reflected in the light that the glowing blue creatures floating quietly around the room and cast his eyes a peculiar shade of grey.

“Nuilemyrs, ve tor?” The Elf spoke, the words flowed beautifully, he made the language sound like a melody.

Caden nodded and smiled.

“Nel erin delfare yelta,” he replied effortlessly, and the way Caden spoke the words made the Elf sound like he had been scraping nails across chains. If the Elves voice had been a melody, Caden’s voice was a symphony. The words slipped elegantly off his tongue and moved through the air as if they had a life of their own.

The Elf nodded in satisfaction and then cast his gaze quickly over to Dani, scrutinizing her slightly, and his pale hair fell a little in front of his.

Dani chose to return his intense gaze with a look of her own and he seemed a little taken back by her confidence.

“The girl is yours then? She’s a feisty one, I can tell.” The Elf said, chuckling slightly and then gave Caden a friendly punch on the arm.

Caden nudged him back and they laughed a bit before Caden turned back to Dani and whispered in her ear.

“She’s more than just feisty. She’s perfect.” He said to him and the Elf looked at the two with a broad grin on his face.

Caden gestured to Dani to join the circle and she took his hand and found comfort in the warmth of his fingers.

“They say you’re feisty. Look what I got myself into.” He said, whispering slyly into her ear and tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.

“You can handle me though.” She replied just as slyly.

“I think I can lay claim to that fact.” He said, backing away from her now as the elves were beginning to stare and a few of them covered snickers with their gem encrusted wine goblets.

“Caden, you should ask them what’s going on with Eru and Amanda.” She said to him and she could see the Elves listening to her even though they could not understand what she was saying.

Caden’s eyes lit up and he looked at her with a glint in his inky blue eyes.

“Smart girl. They probably have some idea of what is happening. I have never seen the Elf King like this. And he never throws parties like this. From what I’ve heard at least.” He said, addressing Dani, brushing his hand lightly over Dani’s back and moved her next to him.

“Do you have any idea what has made the King drop his guard? What did Amanda do?”

The Elves lost their playfulness and shook their heads in confusion. They took on a serious gaze and cast their gaze over to Eru and Amanda.

“Honestly, we’re in shock. We are so used to the King being so…distant. Cold. Even though we know he is good, he just is very withdrawn usually. But when Amanda arrived at the Kingdom, he completely caught the King off guard.

Of course, we were scared that he was going to cast her back out into the forest after demanding what she was doing in his realm. But the complete opposite happened. I think the King was a little scared at first of what was happening. But you how emotions are here. Very intense. And they work quickly.” One of the other Elves said to Dani and Caden, who had introduced himself earlier in the conversation to Caden as Terlin.

“I’m sure you have come to that realization, Dani.” Terlin addressed Dani directly and Dani turned to Caden for translation.

“Terlin said that he knows that you must have realised how intense and quickly emotions work here.” He said quietly, staring past the careful clockwork of her eyes and into the fragmented pieces of her soul.

Dani leaned into Caden and allowed his wings to drape over her shoulders and she responded to the Elf in her English tongue and this time Terlin looked to Caden for a meaning.

“She said that she very quickly noticed that fact the second she met me.” Caden omitted the fact that Dani knew his name. Dani was surprised that they had not asked for it. She had a feeling they would ask for his name soon.

“Why have you come to our world, Dani?” Laurel, another youngish elf asked, his hair more golden and his dress a little more intense, with more black than gold.

Caden again quickly translated into Dani’s English that she understood and then Dani replied, carefully. She didn’t want to reveal too much information. She knew that the elves were not evil, but there was something…she wanted to be safe.

Caden could sense this cautiousness of her and did not question her. He would save it for later.

“Tell him that it wasn’t safe. The world was dangerous. Caden, don’t tell all.” She intreated, but knowing that Caden would have her back under any circumstance, just like Dani would do for Caden.

Caden nodded solemnly, understanding. His blue eyes flashed golden momentarily and then flickered back to blue as he turned to answer Laurel.

“Her world was not safe. Danger was widespread. I came to Earth on a…mission and found her. I asked if she would come with me and…she did.” He said calmly to Laurel, who nodded thoughtfully, his hair cast over one shoulder and Dani could see her reflection in the gold buckles and chains.

Maybe it was her imagination, but she could have sworn she saw her reflection shake its head at her.

Dani stepped back in hesitation away from her double that seemed coldly reflected back at her.

Caden was speaking to the elves fluently, and didn’t see this moment of hesitation. However, Laurel did. He looked back at her with a curious glint in his grey eyes and Dani looked away, unnerved. It was unsettling to be looked at that by someone who was not Caden. It made her feel very uncomfortable.

She turned away to avoid his avid gaze and looked around the room again. She could see other Elves mingling around the hall and they moved gracefully, elegantly. The dresses of the Elves moved soundlessly across the floor and the boots of the elves moved in synchronisation with the music that was playing, seemingly out of nowhere.

The blue lights that were gliding through the air moved purposefully through the air and it seemed that the room had become dim. It gave the room a certain air. An air of mystery, intriguing all who occupied the expansive room that was exquisitely and tastefully decorated.

The blue light glinted off the chandeliers and cast off kaleidoscopes of radiant beams that flowed around the room and cascaded off the gold clockwork of the Elven men and glinted off the flowing chained jewellery that the Elvish women wore.

Dani felt a comforting, yet intense presence behind her and she felt a hand slip into hers and she felt a cool breath of air on her neck that electrified her and blew her hair slightly.

“Admiring the view, are we?” she said softly, a little alluring it seemed to Caden.

He looked at her suggestively out of the corner of his eye.

“Indeed I am.” He said, his voice a little lower than normal and he skimmed his eyes over before coming up to look her in the eyes with a heated gaze.

“Well then,” she turned to face him with a sly look in her crystal blue eyes.

“That makes two of us.” She said, moving towards him and closing the distance between them, drifting her fingertips lightly over his arms and then rested her arms around his neck and looked up at him from underneath her lashes.

When she looked up again at him, his gaze was burning, boring a hole into the depths of her and staying there without invitation.

“How was your exchange with the Elves? Anything of importance?” asked Dani, her expression lighter now.

“Not a lot, but there was one thing that struck me as a bit odd. A bit out of place.”

Dani looked at him, curiousness sparking in her face and she tilted her head to the side and traced her fingers along his collar.

“What was it?” she replied, gazing at him, taking all of him in again; his dark blonde hair, waving gently, his wings spanning out behind him, his firm but gentle gaze.

“Well, I said to one of the elves, I think it was Valkiere that it seemed that Prince was well and truly in love with Amanda. Then he replies, with a rather odd look in his eyes that I couldn’t quite place, “You are right. He would do anything for her. Even if he had to sacrifice himself.” Caden said, shaking his head, trying to unravel the mysterious dilemma of Valkiere’s comment in his mind.

Dani furrowed her brow and tried to untangle the meaning of the strange comment.

“That is strange. Almost like he was trying to tell us something. Attempting to communicate without using the necessary words. A warning almost.” He said quietly, still shaking his head in puzzlement.

“Did any of the other Elves catch on to that?” she said, a little worried for some reason she couldn’t figure out.

“I think Laurel heard, but there was no light that turned on in his eyes, so I don’t think that any of the other Elves thought much of it. Either that or they didn’t know what it meant. “ Caden replied, looking back at Dani, carefully evaluating her expression, down to the minutest detail of what way her eyes moved when she thinking.

“Let’s hope that was his way of being sentimental. Maybe he was just worried that the other Elves would mock his defence of the Prince.” She said, trying to keep her tone light and enfolding her hand once again in his. Her dark hair encompassed her, flowing behind her shoulders, flowing gently and Caden brushed his hair through it lightly as they walked across the room towards the Prince and Amanda.

The noise of the Celebration had dimmed considerably as several hours had passed since Dani and Caden had arrived in the expansive room and had been subject to the unknown festivities, however the Elves seemed very myseterious, as if they had hidden knowledge that Caden and Dani did not know. Hidden secrets.

Dani could only hope that whatever they were hiding was good.

Where hundreds of elves had been gathered in the great hall, now there was about 20. Quietly mingling among themselves, the elegant language creating twisted, soulful melodies and the sound captivated her still. But only one could cast a spell on her.

She glanced quickly at Caden who was looking towards the Prince, a thoughtful look on his face as his boots moved rhythmically across the marble floor of the palace room.

The Prince and Amanda noticed Dani and Caden advancing towards them and smiles lighted onto their faces.

The blue lighted creatures were gone now, and the palace was filled with an ethereal, heavenly glow as they King waved his hands up towards the chandeliers, energy poured from his hands and every candle in the room burst into flame, a rippling canon around them until every last one was lighted. There were hundreds of them lighted, but surprisingly only cast a very subdued light around the room.

“Your conversing proved enternaing, then?” the Elf Prince asked in amusement as Amanda shook her head next to him and placed her arm around his waist.

“It served definitely interesting to be sure, and yes, entertaining as well.” Caden smiling calmly at the Prince.

The Elf Prince saw Caden’s calmness and mild attitude as his norm and politely nodded.

“It was helpful that you knew our language to a degree, yes?” he said.

“Certainly. Dani was a little confused though. Couldn’t imagine why.” He teased, allowing his guard to slip for a moment in the presence of Dani. She helped him to be himself.

Dani rolled her eyes and gave Caden a withering look, but Caden saw the playfulness in her eyes and grinned back at her before brushing a strand of hair out of her eyes and turning back to the Prince, his boots clinked on the floor and matched the beat of Dani’s heart.

Amanda suddenly widened her eyes at Dani and then pulled at the two.

“Let me show you to your room. You must be drained from the celebration. We kept you on your feet for far longer than we should of.”

“It’s no bother, Amanda. I still enjoyed myself immensely.” Dani replied to Amanda before turning to look at Caden with purposefully raised brows.

He met her look with a mischievous grin.

The mist encompassed them again and it was still thick, but lighter, more a light grey than the menacing black in had been before. Dani could hear Amanda breathing steadily in front of her and the ground was once again soundless under their feet, but the walk was smooth and they glided effortlessly along the polished palace floors.

The mist disappeared again and when it cleared, they were standing in a circular hallway, numerous doors around them, each adorned in various gems and made out of beautiful stone that looked enchanting to Dani.

Amanda lead Caden and Dani to a door made out of a dark black stone that was polished to a sheen and enlaid with precious red gems and a milky white stone that Dani had never seen before, in this world or Earth. Perhaps it was an Elvish metal.

“There’s plenty of room for both of you.” She said, giving Dani a look.

She opened it wide and it was pitch black inside. The suddently the chandeliers lit up inside and the room was bathed in soft white light and Amanda ushered them inside.

Dani walked Amanda to the door and hugged her tightly.

“We have a lot of catching up to do, young lady.” Dani said teasingly and Amanda grinned back at her.

“For sure. You clearly,” she said, looking past her to wear Caden was busy lighting a few other small candles on the tables.

“have a little explaining of your own to do.” She said, a light in her sea green eyes.

“Well, then we’ll swap stories tomorrow.”

“And you have to try the Elvish substitute for coffee. It is phenomenal. Eru’s own recepie, actually.” She said smugly and crossed her arms.

Dani couldn’t help but let out a little snicker.

“I’m pretty sure you like the maker of the coffee more than the actual recipe he makes.”

“Oh, stop!” she said, shaking her head and giving off her own blush.

“I’ll let you get back to your Elvish coffee maker, in that case.” Dani replied, a grin on her face and then with a last final hug, Dani watched Amanda disappear into the mist and then clearing, Amanda now gone.

With a shake to her head, she turned to close the door and was shocked to see that Caden was gone.

It was eerily quiet and the candles flickered beautifully and it was at that moment that Dani noticed a window that had streams of coloured pouring through it. Purple, blue and silver hues that collided with each other and vied for attention, but then settling on making a rainbow together.

Dani quickly forgot the colours and looked around the room anxiously, scanning the room for Caden. She knew the room was large, but his presence was gone. Removed from the room and Dani started to nervously pace around the room, looking high and low for him. Perahps he had gotten lost in one of the smaller rooms in here? Dani hoped that she wouldn’t need a key to unlock anything, for she was devoid of any that might allow her passage.

Dani could see a stone door in front of her, dimly lighted by the candle light and the red velvet curtains flickered in the breeze.

Just as Dani thought that Caden had flown off into the night sky, he appeared next to the door, a worried, searching look on his face.

He looked around for a moment and then alighted his eyes on Dani.

Colour jumped into his eyes and he clasped her in his arms.

“Dani, where were you? I turned around to see you after the door had locked and you weren’t there!”

“What do you mean? I turned from locking the door and you weren’t there! I thought you’d lost your way in one of the rooms!”

“But I was right there and I couldn’t see you!” Caden said , placing a hand on her face and looking into it with worry.

Dani shook her head in confusion and then looked anxiously around the room. The red velvet curtains swayed in the breeze and Dani could see two large canopy beds in the centre of the room, with beautiful, detailed embroidery. She had to admit, they both looked very comfortable. Couldn’t be more comfortable than the cloud chambers though. Dani shook of the thought of the cloud chambers and drew her mind back to the present. Why had they not been able to see each other?

“There’s something odd about this room. We can’t have just gone blind all of a sudden. That doesn’t make any sense.” Caden shook his head in confusion and his wings began to quiver slightly, he gripped Dani’s hands tightly. Dani placed both arms around his waist and leaned her head against his chest.

“We’ll figure it out. It’ll be fine.” Dani said softly, nestling her head in the crook of Caden’s neck and Caden rested his head on top of her dark veil of hair.

They stood there in silence for a few moments, thinking quietly; the moonlight streaming through the window again. Dani finally lifted her head up again to look at Caden solemnly in the eyes.

“We should try something. I’ll go back to the door and you go back to where you were before.” She said, a little nervously. What if Caden disappeared again? She battled the thought off and cleared her head.

Caden reluctantly let go of her hand and looked at her.

“Be careful. And look at me till you get to the door.” He said, backing away towards where he had been before, near the candles, which were still softly lit, their flames falling and rising elegantly in their wicks.

Dani nodded her head, and backed carefully to the door, keeping her eyes on Caden as she did so. She blinked momentarily and then he was gone again.

“Caden!” she cried, rushing forward. All of a sudden, he appeared next to the bed.

“I couldn’t see you either.” Caden said anxiously and he stepped toward the window to think.

In that moment, he vanished.

Dani clutched at where he was standing and was surprised to feel a solid object beneath her hands. Ashe tugged at it and then Caden reappered again, next to the window, looking at Dani with obvious shock on his face.

Dani stared at the window for a moment, and then stepped into the moonlight. She saw Caden’s eyes widen again and she stepped back from the window, and he relaxed and then pulled her to him again.

“It’s the moonlight, Caden. Somehow it’s making us invisible…or something. It could be something else, but whenever the moonlight hit’s you, I can’t see you. You’re gone. “ she said softly and then laid her head on his chest.

“I’m just glad it was the moonlight doing it and not something else.” Caden said softly and stroked her hair gently and she relaxed in his arms, her heart banging out a now steady rhythm, a calm melody that soothed them.

Caden stood next to Dani and then reached his hand out into the light. His image seemed to falter and become transparent. He quickly pulled it back and put his arm around Dani’s shoulder. He didn’t want to alarm her anymore. They’d already both had a shock and it had exhausted them even more.

He turned back around to her and she was on the bed, exhaustion evident in her clear blue eyes and she beckoned him to come to with her eyes. He walked to Dani’s side and knelt down in front of her, his wings behind him; hanging low. He cupped her face with his hands and she relaxed into it, content and Caden could tell she was nearly about to fall asleep. He carefully mananuovered himself beside her and sunk into the soft bed next to Dani, his wing spanned over shoulder and came down to rest on the other side of her.

“Caden? He heard her gentle voice and he looked down at her with his clouded blue eyes.

“Yes?” he said, looking into her eyes, seeing past the exterior and unlocking the cage of her soul.

“I love you.” She said softly and then leant up to place a gentle kiss on his face. He weaved his hands through her air and then let her back for air.

“And I love you.” He replied, raw emotion evident on his face and love clear in his eyes.

He lay himself back down beside her and he felt Dani curl into his chest and bury her head of his neck. He placed the other wing over and shielded them both; and they both slept peacefully in the fragile light of the enchanted, silver moon.

Dani’s dreams were peaceful at first, and she saw Caden in many of them. But the tone of her dreams began to change, and the blackness began to creep in and taint the goodness in Dani’s dream; bringing in malevolence where it ought not be. Dark images flashed in Dani’s mind, blurring, tumbling though her head. Fighting vainly to break down the doors that were locked in her mind.

Dani curled further into Caden’s chest to escape the haunting, images in her mind and tried to block them out.

She heard Caden’s steady heartbeat in mind and it calmed. Her heartbeat matched with it and soon all she could hear was a relentless calming beat that echoed through her and gave her peace. The images faded from her mind and then became silent. But not before one final thought blared into her mind.

A dark Forest. A terrible forest. And within that forest, a deadly cave with red light spilling forth from it. Then it faded into nothingness and Dani fell once more into a deep slumber, safe with Caden’s wings heavy on her.

Dani was pulled out of her pleasant sleep with light that crept cautiously though her window and lightly caressed her face, trying to coax her out of the bed and out from underneath Caden’s wings. She groaned and buried her head back under his wings and tried to fall back into the sleep that she had been in when she heard a chuckle from Caden and he lifted his wing up to peek at her disgruntled face.

“Not accustomed to waking so early, mmm?” he teased, nuzzling his nose into her neck and she wrapped her hands around her neck and tried to pretend that she was still sleeping.

He chuckled again and continued the assault on her neck and she gave out a little whimper and clutched her hands tighter around his neck.

“Someone’s probably going to come in soon to pull us away from this pleasant situation.”

Dani groaned in frustration and buried her head back under Caden’s wing and curling up into his chest again, then tracing her fingers along his neck in attempt to lure him back to sleep.

Caden seemed to realise that, but it wasn’t exactly having the effect that Dani wanted.

Instead it seemed to wake him more and he gently sat up and pulled Dani into his arms.

She sat their silently for a moment, trying to wake herself up and traced her fingers again absent minded against his chest.

“Have to tell you, that doing something like that is not going to send me off to sleep.” He said into her ear.

“In fact,” he said, drifting down to her neck to let his breath float over her skin.

“It’s probably going to make me do something like this,” he whispered, nipping her ear and she let out a tiny whimper. Caden felt a little shockwave run through her body and enter his.

“Caden, not fair!” she whined, and turned to face him, sitting in his lap, the bed unbelievably comfortable underneath, although it was more like couch in structure, only larger.

“I can’t help myself. And it certainly wakes you up.” He said mischeiviously.

She, now fully awake, raised her brows at him and gave him a little smirk.

“It does more than wake me up, Caden. But I’ll leave the other effects for you to discover yourself. “

“Well, I will be looking forward to that.” He drawled sensuously and then pulled her up off the bed.

“The Prince and Amanda will be wondering if we’ve gotten ourselves lost in this massive room. You need a map in this place!” he said in mock exasperation and Dani let out a laugh and jabbed him playfully in the ribs.

“Hey, no fair missy!” He said jokingly and snaked his arm round to grab her.

Dani ducked to the side and evaded his grasp, laughing and then running to the other side of the room. Caden pursued her, a look of a hunter in his face, although more playful this time. He stalked her around the room and let her escape him a few times and then went in to grab her.

“Got you!” he said with delight and then picked her up in his arms.

“Hey, I tried! I should get points for that!” she said laughing and squirming in his arms in a fruitless attempt to get free. She soon realised that was useless but she didn’t really mind any way.

Dani heard voices outside the door and Caden let her slide down from his grasp to stand, somewhat respectably next to him.

Dani realised that she was uncomfortable and felt a little odd. She looked down and then she realised the problem. She’d been wearing the same clothes for three days now and they were not in the best of shape. It wasn’t exactly the most sturdy outfit or the most otherworldly and she realised that she probably looked very out of place at the party last night.

The door opened and Amanda stood before them, dressed in a beautiful emerald green dress. It was simpler in design and shorter, but was still elegant nonetheless.

“Amanda!” Dani exclaimed and went forth to embrace her friend, before quickly retreating as she remembered the sorry state of her clothes and went to stand back next to Caden.

Amanda shook her head and seized her friend in a hug and gave a smile to Caden.

Caden grinned back at her and shook his head at their affectionate display.

“Amanda, when are you going to learn that dirt spreads?” Dani exclaims, shaking her head at mock exasperation at Amanda.

“And when are you going to learn, that Elf clothes don’t get dirty?” she said humoressly and then laughing at Dani’s shocked expression.

“What? Since when?” said Dani and looked to Caden for verification and he nodded his head at her.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” she said, then it dawned on her.

“I think someone was more than a little distracted last night, weren’t they?” Dani said at Amanda knowingly and then glanced quickly back at Caden, who quirked his eyebrow at her in an impish manner.

Amanda looked a little embarrassed and tucked her braided hair, beautifully done, behind her ear.

“Don’t take it to heart. We both had our distractions.” She said, giving Caden a sly look and he looked at her darkly and his eyes flickered golden for a moment then transitioned back to a smokey blue gaze.

Amanda grinned at Dani and Caden and then her eyes widened in excitement.

“Guess what! You two are both getting presents this morning!” she exclaimed joyously and gave a little jump of glee and Dani couldn’t help but smile at her friends antics.

“Presents? Whatever for?” she asked, thinking that maybe Amanda was joking with them.

“Quite serious you two. Eru wants you to stay at the palace and you can’t spend that time adorned in that.” She said looking pointedly at Dani and Caden.

Dani looked down at her attire and realised that Amanda had a point. Their clothes while not to dirty, were quite ragged and the colour’s had faded out of them entirely. The craziness of Dani’s hair was not arranged in the nicest way. She looked over at Caden. His leather vest outlinined his figure and his heavy black boots gave him a powerful aura about him and the chainwork on his pants hung loosely about his legs. Dani thought he looked like perfection, but Amanda must have not seen that.

Amanda clapped her hands in excitement and skipped on the spot, her stunning emerald green dress glinted slightly in the subdued sunlight that had managed to worm it’s way through the heavy tree cover that shrouded the Kingdom.

“Come with me, I’ll take you to the Adorning Chamber.” Dani tilted her head and looked inquisitively at Amanda, but Caden’s eyes widened a little in amazed disbelief.

“Caden, what’s the matter? You look very startled.” Dani said in worry and then looked at Amanda who had a solemn look on her face.

“So Caden must know what the Adorning Chamber entails.” She said seriously, clasping her hands in front of her.

Caden nodded soberly and then took Dani’s hand and looked into her eyes.

“Only Elvish warriors wear the clothes in the adorning chamber. It is an incredible privilege. It further proves that the Elf Prince really had changed. Before when I came here, only a few select Elves and I knew that the adorning chamber existed. It had been hidden for centuries, by the Elf Prince.” Caden said, tracing his fingertips along Dani’s arm and then looking deep into her eyes.

“That’s incredible. Is there anything I else I should know about it?” she questioned, smiling at Caden and then turning back to Amanda, who had a keen grin on her face, but still with a solemnity behind the curtains in her eyes.

“That’s a surprise.” She said mysteriously, and then turned to face the door, which opened in front of them and Dani could again see the many ornate doors that lay before them.

“Oh,” she said suddenly, spinning around to face them, concern evident on her face.

“How was the room last night?” she said looking at carefully at Caden and Dani as though she was hiding something from them.

“Well,” Dani began slowly before giving Caden a sheepish look, and he responded with a mischeivious smile.

“We did have one issue with the room. Well not really the room, more of what was coming into the room.” Caden said, looking at Amanda, cautiously, not wanting to complain.

“Oh, no, don’t tell me the any Kingdom creatures accidently flew through the window?” Amanda said in alarm, but Dani could tell that was not what she was concerned about.

“Oh, no it was the moonlight. It has some…interesting properties to it.” Dani said, looking up at Caden and his wings were moving gently behind him in thought and Dani tugged gently on the tips of his fingers.

“Dani disappeared last night.” Caden admitted and looked at Dani with love in eyes, an unspoken promise to never lose her again.

“And Caden vanished as well. I was half scared to death that he’d gotten lost in one of the room’s in here.” Dani said, and added on silently, “Or something worse.” And inwardly shuddered to think that Caden could ever be in danger.

Caden squeezed her hand in reassurance and brushed her hair behind her shoulders. The candles had been extinguished during the night and the room was still dim, the Elf Prince’s aversion to the sunlight, though not moonlight still ruled. Dani wondered it was just sunlight that the Prince did not like. And why.

“Oh, I’m so sorry I didn’t warn you! You must have been half scared out of your minds. I only just realised once the mist had cleared. I was going to go back and then Eru came out and said that we would be fine and to explain it to you in the morning. “ Amanda said, shaking her head and then looking at the two anxiously.

“I hope that you weren’t too worried. At least you know what to expect tonight.” She said relieved at Caden and Dani’s forgiving expressions.

“We need to go now or they’ll be locked for the day. And you two can’t go on wearing what you are now.” Amanda said with a horrified expression and a little shudder. Caden let out a silent laugh and Dani let a little smile slip onto her face.

Amanda was out the door and Dani and Caden exchanged silent grins at each other before taking each other’s hands and leaving the room for the day, heading back out to the Palace.

They walked straight through the darkly polished door that held red and the milky white gems and they were once again engulfed in the mist that crept up behind them. Now seeming protective and friendly, they made their way through it silently, feet gliding on the floors, floating almost it seen, before they stepped out into the clearing. When the last of the mist cleared, Dani looked around her and saw towering doors in front of them and a blue wall seemed to shiver and quiver before them occasionally sending off random sparks of energy out towards them and Dani marvelled at the electric light before them.

Dani now noticed the two Elven guards at either sides of the towering blue walled doors. They held ornate silver swords next to them, they looked beautiful and intricate, but also deadly and threatening if they needed to be. Their hair was jet black, a stark contrast between the pale gold of the Prince and the pure white of the other Elves at the gathering last night. They were clothed in dark red and black, ornate chain work and links on their shoulders, and leather straps adorning the front of their vests.

They acknowledged the presence of the three, smiled pleasantly at Amanda and gave curious glances to Dani and Caden. Amanda approached the two men and spoke quietly to the men for a brief moment and then they stepped back with surprised looks on their faces, but nodded at Amanda. They gestured for her to step back and one of the Elves held up a hand in front of the door. Swirling white light emerged from his hand and met with the blue glow of the wall. They seemed to resist each other for a moment, but then merged together and engaged in a riot of blue and white light before melting away and the blue slowly fading until the doors were free to open.

The Elves pulled on the levers next to doors and placed their fingers on a few buttons that were next to the door. They glowed white momentarily before fading and then the door slowly began to creak and swing open before them.

A long hallway was before them and at the end, in the distance, Dani could see another door. Very much smaller in size compared to the entrance. The Prince sure took incredible precautions at protecting the Adorning Chambers. She knew there must be something of great value and vessel to a great amount of power behind the door that was ahead of them.

Amanda nodded once again to the Elves and they looked at her solemnly then began to shut the doors behind them and Dani saw the blue wall appear again in front of the towering doors.

They moved down the long narrow hallway, now dark aside from the torches guiding their way, flickering silently in the darkness of the hall, it was silent aside from the footsteps of their shoes on the floor.

Amanda reached into the pocket of her long dress and pulled out a large, ancient looking key – surprisingly not rusty, but polished to a sheen and it was ornately designed for something that was only meant to unlock a door.

Amanda put it into the lock in the door and there was dead silence for a moment. And then a sound

Click. Click, click click. Click.

The door key turned slowly and echoed out tapping sounds, signally their entrance and the door swung open eagerly.

Dani, Caden and Amanda finally stepped into the Chambers, through the door and into the room.

They gasped in awe and Dani looked around her in amazement, in true astonishment and in awe. Glass cases littered the room yet perfectly aligned along the wall. Dozens of outfits, yet simple and basic, but stunning in cut, design and material lay in the cases and they almost seemed to shiver with an unseen energy. A driving force that begged them to be let out of their glass cases and into the enchantment of the world.

Dani moved closer to the glass cases and she felt a sudden pull, urging her toward it. Dani turned slowly and let it lead her, the pull getting stronger and feeling an energy radiating toward her.

“She has a Beckon already!” Amanda cried out in glee and Caden looked on in alightment and wonder.

Dani concentrated hard on the energy that she could feel tumbling towards her and she stopped at one of the glass cases and looked into it with a curious eye.

She let out a breath of delight, and with an enchanted gaze she looked on in wonder and the glass melted away before her eyes. She hesitantly reached out to touch it and she felt a ripple of…something. A generation of energy, a spark that alighted onto her skin.

It was a deep red dress, draping low and in the back and sweeping up in the front a few inches above where her knees would be. There was gold swirls and detailing on the bodice and there was gold material piled up around the top of the dress and the sleeves had the same swirling details in it. The dress shimmered in the dim candlelight that was in the room and all of a sudden, the dress was on Dani and her clothes where in a pile on the ground next to her.

Dani was taken by surprise as the dress fitted to her figure but the surpise didn’t end there as the dress seemed to change once it was on Dani. It seemed to listen to her mind and change itself to fit Dani perfectly if it hadn’t already before. The gold on the bottom on the sleeves darkened to a red and then slowly faded up to her shoulders and finished in a gold colour once again. Beautiful chain links appeared on the shoulders in drooping interlaced patterns and the dress shortened itself in length slightly as so to not drag on the ground.

She turned to look at Amanda and Caden with a excited beam on her face and Caden stared back, equally pleased with what he saw. His gaze softened and his expression became tender.

He moved towards Dani and she mirrored his actions and looked at him closely searching for a sign of what he was feeling.

He placed his arms around her waist and lowered his head to murmur softly in her ear.

“Perfect. Absolutely stunning. The dress is nice too.” Caden breathed into her ear and she ducked her head shyly and then looked back up to face him.

“I think the dress makes me look better. Not the other way round, Fire boy.” she said as she named him on the spur on the moment.

“I would beg to disagree.” He replied and then a grin flashed on his face.

“Fire boy?” he said, a look of amusement and affection filled his face.

“You definitely have a fire to you.” She playfully teased, running his hands through his hair and he gave her a teasing smile.

“Oh really, now? I think you’ll find that you ignite it.” He said, softly now, then buried his head into her hair and wrapped his arms around her.

“It’s time to find your Beckon Caden. Apparently your clothes are in serious disarray.” Dani leaned in and whispered in his ear.

“Personally I think you’re wearing too much clothing, but we can always deal with that later, can’t we?” she whispered flirtatiously in his ear, ghosting her breath over his neck.

Caden’s eyes widened in shock at Dani’s boldness then grinned mischievously. He pulled back to look at her with a dark look in his eyes. They blackened almost immediately, inky blackness invading his pupils and then staring Dani directly in the eyes seductively.

Dani breathed in headily as she took in the look in Caden’s eyes; smokey, dark and intense.

A cough interrupted both of them and Dani reluctantly untangled herself from Caden’s grasp. Caden grudgingly released her from his iron grasp and they turned around to face Amanda, who was giving them a very pointed stare.

“Caden, before you get too carried away, you need to listen to your Beckon. Then you can get back to…whatever it was that you were doing.” She replied, crossing her arms and giving the pair a smirk and then disappearing in amongst the many glass cases in the room to find her own Beckon.

Caden grumbled and slipped away from Dani and she blushed slightly as while Amanda was gone from their view she could most likely hear everything in the room. Dani really didn’t want to take that risk.

Caden took Dani’s hand and moved to the middle of the room, still grumbling under his breath and the interruption. Dani let out a soft laugh under her hand and moved herself next to Caden and then took the time to fully examine the room.

Glass cases lined the expansive walls of the chambers. The walls were lined in red velvet with thousands of white and gold tassels hanging down from the top of the ceiling, dripping down and adorning the velvet walls.

In the glass cases held clothes. Clothes that defied description in the way that they were made. They were made out of beautiful fabrics that Dani had never seen and fashioned in unthinkable ways. They seemed to radiate their own energy and sway slightly with the intensity of the strength of their power. It was clear that magic had been bestowed upon them, though Dani did not know to what extent of an enchantment they possessed.

Suddenly, Dani felt Caden grip her hand more tightly and Dani felt a slight magnetic force but it was not captivating to Dani. However, she knew that she could sense Caden’s Beckoning. He began to walk quickly, following the intense pull that he must be feeling on the strings of his soul. He walked for a while longer, before Dani realised they were at the back of the room, in the darkest corner of the chambers. Dani couldn’t see anything for a brief moment but then she could see a slight pale white glowing coming from one of the corners of the room. Her and Caden moved silently towards it and as they did a glass case came into view and Dani was completely awestruck. It was more than perfect for Caden, she could see it just from looking at it. It was armour like in make but less intense than full war armour.

It was layered dark brown and polished to an almost golden like texture and when Dani moved towards it, it seemed to reflect a hint of dark fern green under its golden surface. It had a dark gold chain mail vest than had black leather straps interlaced over it and silver chains looping across the straps, each chain fastened with a black onyx stone. From what Dani could see, there was even armour for his wings. It covered the sides only however but it looked incredibly strong. The wing armour was black, polished like the armour and it contrasted with his wings, making them stand out amidst the black, a beacon of beauty under the armour. The wing armour was engraved with many intricate metal work designs and in had small chain work detailing interlocking each plate of the armour together.

All of a sudden the glass case glowed a fiery gold and the case shattered into a thousand glass pieces, lying around the two and Dani jumped back in surprise. She could feel energy radiating out from her pocket and curiously she reached into her pants pocket. She drew out the Cloud glass that had been given to her and gasped in astonishment. It was glowing like the shattered glass case and the instant Dani’s hand touched it, it began to quiver and glow even more in her hand. She hastily removed her hand and the glass faded in its energy and stilled in her hand.

Caden looked at Dani in astonishment before he was encased in brilliant golden light that encased and shielded him from Dani’s view. The light was so intense that Dani almost had to cover her eyes to withstand its might, but it quickly faded just in time and when Dani’s eyes had adjusted, Caden was clothed in his Adornment.

No longer was the tattered black vest and pants on him, they were laying in a discarded pile on the floor. She looked back at him and even he was completely in shock. Not only were his wings encased in intricately designed winged armour, his arms were covered in golden arm cuffs, again not as intense as the war armour but still breathtaking none the less. Dani saw that there were little black metal studs lining his arm cuffs and they glinted in the dimming light of the Glass case that had just exploded.

Caden ran his hands over his arm cuffs and then looked at Dani in disbelief, shock casting glints into his eyes and they matched the ones in Dani’s wide eyes.

Dani couldn’t think past the images in her mind, the glass case shattering around her, the light surrounding him, his fatally indescribable armour and how it was so perfect that it made Dani’s heart want to jump out of its and surrender itself to the hurricane whirling around her at this moment.

“Dani, I don’t think I shattered that case. I think you did that.” Caden said, still stunned, looking at the glass shards scattered aimlessly, reflecting in Caden’s armour and casting more glints into Dani’s eyes.

She moved towards him and put a finger gently over his lips, quieting him and then just continued to stare at him, taking in his transformation.

“I just can’t believe it. I thought you looked incredible before, but now…” Dani whispered, looking at him.

“Hey.” He said gently, tipping her head up to look at him in the eyes.

“It matches your dress. Both gold.” He murmured, gazing down at the dress that was on her.

Dani fluttered her eyes up again to look at his face, clouded with awe and amazement at the wonder before them.

Dani’s intricate gold sleeving perfectly complemted Caden’s gold arm cuffs, blending and melding together, the metal studs creating sharp points of contrast that still suited them both flawlessly.

The red in Dani’s dress seemed to set the gold in Caden’s armour alight and all of a sudden Dani could feel energy pouring out of them and rushing towards each other.

It was silent around them but somehow there was a defeaning noise in both their heads, but not unpleasant and the energy became visible to them and moved furiously around them and Dani couldn’t help but look up around them in pure astonishment at the enchanting display before them. Dani loved how only magic could explain this and even through it all, not even the magic could be understood, only observed and marvelled at in utter wonder. That is what made it so incredible.

All of a sudden, Amanda burst onto the scene, arrayed in a stunning silver dress, exquisitely made, hints of lilac shimmered in the material. Amanda eyes opened in stunned surprise when she beheld the wonderous spectacle before her.

Dani and Caden stood in silence as the energy continued to swirl relentlessly around them and then after a moment, dimmed and faded around them, until they had absorbed the light into themselves and with Caden and Dani stepped down with awestruck wonder on their faces, came to stand before Amanda.

Amanda gazed at them, intense fervency in her eyes and she darted her eyes back and forth between before shaking her head in wonder.

“The Elf Prince was not expecting this. He told me of this very thing, but he – and I – never thought it would ever happen. It hasn’t for centuries. Only once before.” Amanda murmured the last few words under her breath and Dani only just managed to hear them.

Dani put a hand on Amanda’s arm.

“Amanda, what has happened only once before? You need to tell us.” She urged her fervently and Caden took Dani’s other hand and soothingly brushed his fingers over it, calming her and bringing her back down from her intense exertion.

“Dani, I don’t think even Amanda understands what just happened. You have to remember she hasn’t been here very long. And the Elf Prince has only heard seen it happen once in his lifetime.” He said gently to her, relaxing her and drawing her back into a state of calmness.

Dani gripped Caden’s hand back and seemed to shake her head as to relieve herself from the spell of excitement. She looked at Amanda, who was looking back at her with understanding in her face, eyes still clouded with astonishment and bewilderment.

“ I’m still a little overcome by what just happened. I’m sorry.” Dani said, shamefully, looking back at Caden with sorrow in displayed on her face but he just looked at her with love in his eyes and he drew her towards him into his wings where Dani breathed for a moment before speaking again.

“Do you have any idea what happened, Amanda? Has the Elf Prince seen this happen before?” Dani said, composing herself and keeping her tone calm by listening to Caden’s steady heartbeat drumming a calming rhythm in her mind.

Amanda looked down at her dress for a moment, the energy pulsating from it helped to give her strength and she looked back at Dani and Caden with determination in her eyes.

“I can’t remember what the name of it was, “ she said, looking around her at the shattered glass and then back at Dani clothed in dark red and gold, with Caden’s dark golden polished armour harmonising with the hues in Dani’s Adorning.

“All I can recall is that the Eru said that it was possible for certain outfits in the Chambers to contain the same magical fingerprint – but yet still look different – and when two wearers donned the outfits they would be drawn to one another, this caused the Adorning of the two to work in harmony with each other.” Amanda described animatedly, her hands moving as she explained this to them; Dani and Caden’s mouths fell open in wonder and awe yet again.

Amanda came down from her exitcement and looked at them, a little wildness showing in her eyes and she ran to them.

“We have to tell Eru quickly! He won’t believe it until he sees it. He’ll be able to tell that your Adorning have shared energy and have shared their magical fingerprint with each other.” Amanda shook her head, laughing and this caused Dani and Caden to let out their own excited, hugging each other in excitement and then making their way with lightning speed over to the entrance of the Chambers, where they flung open the doors.

They fled down the dark hall in exhilaration, there feet pounding on the floor, echoing in the halls, reminding Dani of chiming clockwork.

They reached the end of the hallway, the flaming red torches casting grey shadows wherever they ran, however Dani didn’t know if they were the same of the Shadows that possessed power. She’d have to ask Caden about that later.

Amanda hurriedly rang the bell that hung from the ceiling, she pulled it and it began to gradually move and then begin to peal out seemingly frantically chimes, shaking the very hall that they stood in and it the waves of sound moved rapidly through the corners of Dani’s head, alerting all her sense to attention. The chimes were a sound of their victory and they continued to ring out to alert the Elf guards to open the doors of the Chambers.

All of a sudden a loud creaking sound began to ring out and Dani looked up to see that they giant stone doors were moving faster this time, swinging swiftly open and the guards on the other side clattered through the doorway, swords in hands, their dark hair over their shoulders; their faces painted in shock.

“I thought we only used that bell if…” one of the guards yelled, lifting his sword and looking briefly at the other Elf before advancing towards Amanda with a look of menace on his face.

“It has happened! We need to speak to the Prince quickly! Drop your sword, Urain!

She gestured frantically at the other Elf, who had his sword raised, dark eyes looking upon them all.

“Yuarel, run and alert Eru! He must know of this at once.” She urged him with fervour, he stared at them for a moment, glanced once at Dani and Caden and then grudgingly nodding, before sheathing his sword and running across the hall at a break neck pace, and then raising a hand to open the door. It swung open violently and the mist appeared again and swallowed Yaurel up in a casing of dark grey haze.

Urain looked at them hesitantly, sword still slightly raised and then stepped back, his feet shifted backwards and then he looked at them in genuine surprise; his dark green Elven eyes shrouded in disbelief.

“The Bonding happened?” he asked, nearly dropping his blade as he quickly advanced forward to look at Dani and Caden closer, who were standing in the corner of the hall trying to remain calm in the commotion that was surrounding them.

“Yes.” Amanda said, disbelief and amazement weaving its way through her voice still and she turned to look back at Dani and Caden.

Urain shakily sheathed his sword and stood in awe for a moment, simply trying to take in this unthinkable news.

Dani finally spoke from where she was standing wrapped protectively in Caden’s arms and she looked at Amanda, then worriedly at Urain.

“Shouldn’t we get back to the Palace?” Dani asked anxiously and gripped Caden’s arm for support and he in turn clasped her back, giving her strength that she needed.

Amanda shook her head firmly and Urain fervently agreed with Amanda as he looked back at the door that lead back to the palace, to see if the mist was appearing again to warn them that the Prince was arriving.

They stood in the midst of the wondrous hall, thoughts being tossed to and fro before them, many spun around them like a hurricane and they stood amongst them all, reigning in the wind of the thoughts in themselves.

Then suddenly the room was shrouded in a dark grey haze and they stood silently as they heard the pounding of many footsteps and the Prince calling through the mist to them. They could just make out his figure in the haze and could see the other Elf soldiers surrounding him like a shield.

Then the haze vanished and they stood amongst at least thirty elves and the Prince, Eru, who darted his gaze back and forth between Amanda and Dani and Caden. His eyes came to rest on Dani and Caden who stood there in each other’s arms, surprisingly calm. They drew strength from each other and the beating of their hearts together helped to calm them both. Dani could hear Caden’s heavy, but slow breaths and saw his chest rise and fall slowly under his chain mail vest. She let her breathing match his and she wound her fingers in the leather straps that covered his vest.

She saw Eru’s pupils dilate and then shrink at the speed of light as utter amazement spread across his face. He began to walk slowly towards them, still looking at them intently with awe and wonder, as if he couldn’t believe his eyes.

“You two had a Bonding?” he whispered, marvelling at the thought of it. Never in centuries had he imagined it would happen again. The last time it did, something incredible that their world had never seen had happened.

Eru didn’t fully understand what happened when two experienced a Bonding, but he knew that the two would become a powerful weapon, with their souls working together in harmony, perfectly synchronised like bespoke clockwork.

He looked at the two and his heart wrenched in his chest.

“Would him and Amanda ever be…?” he asked himself trailing off in his head and observed Dani and Caden again.

Dani’s dark hair splayed across her red dress and the gold in Caden’s armour worked perfectly with the gold in Dani’s dress, and it reflected in Dani’s hair, giving it a golden, shimmering effect, like gold and black waves.

He was brought back to the present by Amanda’s gentle hand brushing against his own and he looked down into her delicate face, her perfect green eyes looking deeply back into his own.

“We should get them back to the Palace. They need to start their training. Like you said.” She said softly, looking back at the two, who seemed to be communicating with each other without speaking, Dani looking meaningfully into Caden’s eyes and he returned the look with his own steady gaze.

He nodded his head and took Amanda’s hand in his own and looked back into her wise eyes that were looking trustingly back at him.

“You’re right. It’s time they began. We’ll take them to the High Priestess. The Shadow Caster will want to see them as well. He knows of many things, but he can only show a Bonded.”

He gestured towards Dani and Caden with a small smile on his face and they looked at each other, excitement evident on their faces, caution however still lay behind the light in their eyes.

“Our training must begin then?” said Caden quietly, but excitement straining in his tone.

“Training? In what?” she questioned Caden out loud and then threw a thought out to him.

“Are we going to learn how to use magic properly?” Caden read Dani’s thought, smiled back at her and nodded his head enthusiastically.

“Magic training, Dani,” said Eru in response to Dani’s question, as evidently he did not now that Dani and Caden had unusual communication skills.

Dani responded promptly by beaming and then it faded as she looked to Caden with concern and seriousness on her face.

“It’s not going to be easy. Or all fun, is it?” she whispered to him as they began to walk to the door in the hall that would take them back to the centre of the Elf Palace.

He replied back to her, his voice soft in her ear.

“Learning true Magic is never easy, Dani.” He pulled away from her and pulled her into his side and folded a wing clad in armour around her as the mist again surrounded them, shielding them from view and encasing them in a haze.

They arrived back at the Palace, where absolute commotion was taking place. Elves were spilling over in loud excited voices about the event in their melodic native tongue and Dani couldn’t help but thinking that it sounded like an incredible orchestrated symphony.

Young Elf children were running around, joyfully in glee as older Elves hurried after them, trying to catch them as they skipped around the palace halls, their pale braided hair glinted in the soft candle light that brightened the room.

Eru, Amanda, Dani and Caden moved through the Elves and they parted before them, murmuring amongst themselves and staring at Dani and Caden in bewilderment and astonishment. The Palace Halls began to quiet and the older Elves took the younger by the hands, and they looked upon the Elders with wide looks of wonderment, some still quietly giggling amongst themselves, before being gently chided by the Elder Elves.

Elves of varying ages clustered together, an Elder with at least one or two Elf children clutching their arm, wide eyes looking up at Dani and Caden in wonder and their little eyes sparkled.

Dani couldn’t help but smile at this, and Dani felt Caden’s own joy at beholding the young ones before them.

There was finally a reverent silence that took over the Palace, as the Elves looked at Eru solemnly, waiting for him to speak. There was still caution in them, for Eru had only just recently begun to change from his cold and unwelcoming demeanor into something that the Elves had become to cherish from their Prince. They knew that it was because of Amanda and they looked upon her with grateful eyes.

“It is true what has been passed among the halls of the Elf Palace. There has indeed been a great event.” He said, his voice thundering authoratively in the encompassing size of the room, candles in the crystal glass chandeliers flickering gracefully above them.

“There has been a Beckoning.” He said, the statement cut through the room like a mighty blade and gasps were heard from every corner of the room and they began to whisper between themselves, looking back at Dani and Caden every few whispers.

The Prince raised his hand and the noise dimmed back to the reverent and now awed silence.

Most of the Elves had their mouths open in shock and they leant forward in anticipation, waiting with bated breath for the Princes next statement.

“Dani and Caden shall commence their training in the ways of our Magic at Dawn. We will teach them what we can, and then they must travel to where they are called. The Shadow Beings will guide them, among many others.” Eru continued, his voice echoing through the halls and each Elf heard the jaw dropping statement.

A Phoenix and a Human to be trained in the ways of their Magic?

It was unheard of.

The Elves themselves were not even aware themselves of all their Magic.

And now these two were to be taught?

And they were Bonded?

Such a thing had never been heard of in the Elf Palace.

This stunned the Elves and they broke out in commotion, loud Elvish rang out amoung the people, but again Eru called for their respect and silence. They simmered down, the melody of the Elves dimmed and faded to the silence that Eru wished for.

“They will need to be taught well. I know who my most powerful Elvish sorcerers are here. Dani and Caden will need your help. So, my Elven Sorcerers – Varuy, Luiel, Neriu and Hurol. Band together and teach Dani and Caden in our ways of the Ancient Elvish Magic. Step forth and show them the power of the Morla Orin!” He shouted his pealing voice resonated fiercely through the Great Hall and urged on the Elves and they shouted back their approval, lifting their hands high in the air and shouting in their native tongue.

Their cries of encouragement echoed through the Great Hall and they all cheered, urging on Caden and Dani and compelling the Elven Sorcerers to step forth.

Out of the midst of the commotion of many, four Elves stepped forth out of the crowd of cheering people and made their way through celebrating assembly of Elves and walked, their footsteps thundering through the Hall as they reached Eru and moved to stand beside him.

It was Caden and Dani’s turn to now show wonder and respect. The Sorcerers were arrayed in white robes, all of them with darkly braided hair that was adorned in gold ringlet with emerald stones set in them. Dani and Caden bowed their heads to them, as a sign of respect and the Elves looked at them solemnly and bowed their own heads back to them as a sign of awe for the Beckoning that had so wondrously occurred.

“And now the Ceremony must begin.” Eru looked at them with reassurance on his Elven face, and nodded at them to step forward to join the Elven Sorcerers. Dani was stunned that the Prince was bestowing upon them an honour and a privilege that was far too great for her to behold and she looked at Caden for guidance as she wasn’t quite sure that this was meant for her. For Caden, yes; he was worthy, he had shown it over and over again, but as for Dani?

She really didn’t know.

How had she proved herself worthy?

Was she really chosen for this?

She had doubts and they whirled unceasingly around in the chambers of her head, tormenting her ruthlessly as she stood in unseeingly in the Grand Hall of the Palace, the chants of the Elves echoing silently around her.

A moment later, she felt Caden’s firm hand grip her arm and urge her forward to stand within the magic and power of the Elven Sorcerers. She felt strength and peace emanating from his soul and it burst into her, strengthening her and banishing back the doubt back to the repulsive chasm from which it had crawled.

She felt a vigorous energy cascade through her heart and she could feel the tainting shackles of fear release her from its imminent hold, she broke out of them furiously and Dani gripped Caden’s hand in determination.

Whatever she must learn, if she was not worthy, then she would prove herself.

She would delve on a reckless and abandoned journey to conquer Darkness.

Caden and Dani moved stand in the middle of the Elvish Magic Wielders, Caden’s wings soared above him and towered over the Elves. The chants and shouts of the Elven crowd grew louder, to a deafening thunder of intensely excited voices. Dani, Caden and the Elves stood in a line before the King, encircling him, ready to be anointed into the Journey of Magic that lay before them.

The Prince raised is forged Elven sword high in the air as a sign to show the Elves the greatness that was to become. His mighty blade ripped through the air, creating currents of thunder and lightning that blasted through the halls, extinguishing the candles in the crystal chandeliers and the Hall was cast into the dark. The magnificent blue light radiated around the room and rippling of the walls of the Palace, the jewels in the wall flashing in brillance. The room began to shudder with power and then all of a sudden the lightning began to come towards them.

It was going to brand them with the very mark of Magic, searing into their souls their mystery and unknown power.

Dani looked at Caden with intensity and fervour in her eyes and he nodded back at her, reassuring her of their decision.

Dani saw the bright blinding light and then they were encased in its brillance, it struck them not as electricity would, but thundered and echoed around each of them. The Prince moved towards them and moved his sword over each of their head. An unseen finger began to brand them with the rune of Magic, each of theirs glowing brightly as it engrained themselves on their foreheads and then slowly fading away.

They all rose slowly, in reverence and awe and then looked at the Prince with determination etched on their faces, carved into the very core of their being.

That night, when Dani and Caden finally retreated to their room, Dani gave out a sigh of contentment. It had been a long day, one full of mysteries and surprises; given them new heights to reach and Dani and Caden had been with the Sorcerors all day, being educated in the Scrolls of Magic and Spells.

All Dani wanted was to pour out her heart to Caden about everything on her mind, as she had bottled it up all day and wanted nothing more than to hear Caden’s voice.

Dani waved her hand as they entered the room and the candles burst into flames. Since she already had the power of the elements within her, it was not necessary for her to learn this skill. It definitely came in handy as Caden and her had walked around in darkness last night for a while before finally discovering a tinderbox so that they could light the candles and the fireplace in the massive room.

Dani flopped down on the massive canopy bed and Caden relaxed next to her, his wings spanningout and she rested comfortably on them, curling up into his chest and staring at the ceiling. She captured his hand with hers and traced aimlessly on it, and she felt Caden enter her mind.

“What are you thinking about?” he asked, curiousity evident even in silence.

She smiled briefly and folded her hands over his hand.

“You know. You can read my mind after all.” She threw the thought out to him and he captured it and drew it in.

He glanced over to her and then let his own smiled break over his features, hair cascading over his face and she brushed it away and left her hand around his shoulder.

“I like hearing your voice, the animation in your tone when you speak.” He said softly, and he drew her further into his side.

“I was thinking…” she paused and trailed off, staring down at their entwined fingers and then looking back up to the ceiling. She wasn’t sure if Caden would want to hear this. She opened her mouth hesitantly and then spoke.

“You are still an enigma to me, Caden. I want to know your past, I want to know all there is to you.” She dropped her head shyly and continued to trace her fingers over his palm in meaningless patterns.

“I understand if you don’t want to tell me.” She continued quietly, looking up into his perfect eyes that held deep wells of blue and emotion worked its way through the maze in in his dark irises and Caden gazed into her eyes, still marvelling that this woman wanted to know him. And yet he was scared.

Nervous.

But, this time it wasn’t hidden. He couldn’t. Dani saw through it all.

Caden looked outside and saw that darkness had begun to weave its way through the kingdom, the golden stars beginning to appear outside the window of the Palace. It was only just nightfall now and they had several hours before they had to retire for the night.

Caden looked back at Dani, and she urged him to speak with her eyes, and a brief touch of pain shone through his eyes before it vanished.

“My past is something that I tend to supress. There are parts of it that cause me horror and parts where I don’t even understand my own past, the events that occurred and what they meant.” Caden confessed with a slight tremor in his voice, with he quickly strengthened with walls of might.

“I’d like to hear.” She said simply, and moved to sit up and then rested her head on his shoulder, running her fingertips over the edges of his wings, and his armour glinted in the candlelight, flickering with a life of its own.

She traced a careful finger down the side of his face and looked into his eyes with concern and love for him.

“Please trust me.” She whispered; almost pleadingly, looking up at him continuing to stare into his eyes that entranced and captivated her.

“You don’t have to ask.” He replied back softly, reflecting Dani’s movement and brushing a single strand of her dark hair behind her shoulders, and pulling Dani to sit under the canopy of his wings.

He breathed in deeply and Dani leaned into his chest and looked up at him, with encouragement in her features and this gave Caden strength and caused him to trust even more in Dani, the love that Caden felt for her sky rocketed within the confines of the cage where his heart had once been. It was no longer there for it rested with Dani. Dani was not the one for unequal trading and gave him hers in return.

“It’s hard to remember my parents. I remember moments of my childhood, especially one…” he trailed off, pain permeating through his voice and Dani remained silent and helped to dull his pain by nestling further into his chest.

“Are you sure you want to know? If you run away from me in disgust and confusion, I will understand.” He said, his eyes now fully taken over again by the sharp pricks of pain that jabbed him in his soul and he flinched against them, until Dani wrapped her hand around his neck and looked at him in the eyes with solid determination and the emotion that lay in Dani’s heart overflowed into his eyes and drowned the pain that clawed at the waves, struggling for breath.

“I was born in a region where Phoenix kind reigned supreme and Magic ran rampant through our city, only good and pure at the time.” Caden spoke, gently let his wings float up above them both and idly tracing the patterns on the sleeves of Dani’s dress before continuing on his enigmatic tale.

“My parents were trained in the ways of the Great Phoenix Sorcerers and Spell Casters and they wielded their magic for the purest of intentions. It was a beautiful mystery the way magic and spells existed, but it could not be understood, for the beings that harnessed original magic were not the true source of its power. It came directly from centuries ago, originating in The Shadows.” Caden went on, drawing out his memories from the forests and the caves in his mind, reaching into find them and bringing them out into the light and placing them before Dani.

“I was young but my parents trained me and strengthened the magic power that I already had within myself. My parents were amongst the wisest in our great city and they knew that a terrible Evil existed and sought to take over not only our world, but also all the Universes and Dimensions and to bring Darkness to every corner of the Shadow Realms. They knew one day that they would be required to fight and they knew that day would come for me also.” Caden looked at Dani cautiously as he spoke, watching her eyes change each time he spoke. He wondered what her heart was saying.

He could hear it know, it drumming out an intoxicating rhythm that Caden had never heard before and it seemed to be constantly reworking out a new beat every time he listened.

He was silent for a moment and Dani breathed out, and looked out the window at the moonbeams that were working their way shyly through the glass in the window, and casting enchanting light where they laid themselves.

Dani returned her attention to Caden, who was looking intently down at Dani’s small hands, he curled his fingers protectively over her delicate palms and set them in his lap before speaking again.

He had to think. He would never lie, but he could not cause her fear. But then again, Dani had an uncanny knack for overcoming the fear when it knocked obscenely at the door of her mind. He thought this wryly and then looked up again at Dani.

“Though I was taught – along with many other young Phoenix children – by the Great Phoenix Sorcerer, there was one in the city, who lived in the Deep Forest, who was much more powerful that any of these Sorcerers combined. People rarely saw him and they dared not walk too far into the Forest for fear of trespassing and angering the Great One.

My parents never even dared go into the Forest to approach him and perhaps they were right to be. Even though we all had powerful magic, every one feared the being in the Deep Forest.

I however, was not fearful. Call it childish stupidity, or sheer curiousity; but I was the only on in the city that held any amount of inquisitiveness for this being the haunted the corners of the Forest.

Of course I told no one of my inate curiousity, not even my parents. Even they would have thought me senseless in my thinking.

I let this feeling simmer for years in my chest, my lungs burning every time I walked by the Forest with my friends, wanting more than anything to venture into the Forest and discover the secrets lying there.

It had been a few years before I finally worked up the courage to go into the Forest. Evidenlty I could let no one discover of my adventure. They must not ever learn of it for fear of them removing me and casting me out of the city in fright and fear for they did not understand what lay in the Forest.

It was dark one winters night as I slunk soundlessly through the my house and snuck out of the house, my heart in my throat, nearly choking me with fear and doubt at my choice.

But I ventured out further into the darkness of the city and I was determined that I would not fail in my course of action. I began to run, my wings trailing out behind me in torrents of wind and they nearly picked me up into the air in my frightful haste to make it to the confines of the Forest, to avoid being found and hauled back to my home where my parents would be sure to give me a severe talking to.

I gritted my teeth in the steel cold night air, the stained purple sky above me, glinting with the golden stars that were my beacons of hope and before I knew it, I was standing to the entrance of the Dark Forest. It was not an evil forest, mind you. It was called the Dark Forest because the magic and secrets that lay there were unknown, hidden to the eyes of the citizens in my town.

My heart beat hammered in my chest as I stared up at the towering trees with resolve in my step. The Forest was eerie and painfully silent and the pressure in the air dropped around me as I took my first resounding step into the Forest.

With that step, I was surrounded by hundreds of numerous trees, winding vines and plants I had never seen before. From outside looking into the Forest, it looked ominous and caused fear in the heart of the outsider, but I was inside and saw that it held more beauty than I had ever seen in my short years on the planet.

Some plants glowed different colours, casting light over the trees and lighting my dim path that was set before me, before fading of into the darkness, ahead points of light shot through the leaves in the trees and signalled to me a path that I should follow.

The night air was teeming with mystery and magic around me and I begin to venture further into the winding trees before me. The light of the enchanted plants glowed beautifully before me, gleaming through the murky depth of the forest.

I knelt down to peer into the radiant glow of the mysterious flowers, petals draping in many layers, shaped like slanted diamonds and they seemed to emit a strange humming tone of a beautiful sound that was unfathomable to my ears. It dipped eerily haunting tune that wound its way into my soul and seemed to bind itself to me. At the moment that I touched it, my hand glowed with the light that spilled into me.

The flower pulled itself out of the ground and moved towards my hand, the humming sound growing louder as I stood up in wonder and awe, staring at it, entranced by the movement and the melody coming from within not just that flower, but all of the ones around it. They all rose up from the ground around me and I turned around them, taking in the vision before me and they moved in towards me, the notes of their melody twisting beautifully around me and I simply stared in wonder.

I began to walk towards the floating lights that I could see in the distance and the flower melody followed behind me, some in front of me, casting light before me and a few drifted down by hands, brushing across my palm every once in a while.

I moved stealthily down the mysterious, shrouded Forest guided by the shimmering flowers, I could see many of them up ahead, their melody winding round through the trees, electrifying through the air and reaching my ears that were still listening intently to the haunting music.

I walked on into the deep of the Forest, entranced by their beauty as they led me through the winding vines and the trees in the forest, through canopies of beautiful flowers and I could see small creatures regarding me with silent curiousity from under the leaves of some of the flowers and trees. I drifted my gaze over to them and dipped my head in respect for the creatures of the forest. They nodded reverently back at me and then ducked their head shyly at me, then coming up to zip quickly through the Forest, disappearing into the trees and fading into the night sky.

Where they had gone I did not know, but I continued with absolute tenacity and eventually came to a clearing. It was silent now and a shimmering blue stream, perfectly sphere like in shape lay before me and I approached it with hesitation, my feet moving cautiously through the forest floor and I looked into the stream and saw my surroundings reflected back at me. The glowing melodic flowers, the dark trees, the mysterious plants; it was all there. Except for one thing.

Me.

In the stream, my reflection fled from me and simply ceased to exist. My shadow also ran from the scene, fleeing after my reflection and escaping into the night.

I stepped back in astonishment and looked around me into the frosty night air, my hair began to whip around my face and in that moment, I could feel something coming.

Evil, no.

Frightening?

Yes.

For it was unknown, unseen to the rest of our world.

I could feel it silently watching me through the darkness, observing me and watching me; I could feel the blood run like icicles through my veins but I was determined not back down and I stared back unseeingly into the shadows in the Forest, waiting for whatever was watching me to appear.

My wings blew urgently in the wind that was rushing past me, but I did not feel its bitterness against my skin and I took a step forward towards the presence that I could so strongly feel and then the glow of the flowers shone more brightly, showing the colours of the surrounding canopy of the Forest.

It was then that the creature finally decided to show its enigmatic presence, a figure emerging from amongst the ferns, moonlight casting strange images onto its face and it flickered entrancingly on the beings face.

“So, we finally have an outsider here. A stranger in the Dark Forest. I am surprised by your boldness. For you are the first to venture into these unknown woods. The rest of your city has feared what lay beyond on the darkness.” The creature spoke solemnly, continuing to advance towards me, its footsteps vibrating on the ground and the sound was like glass as he walked towards me and I finally saw the creature.

It was not human.

At least, not fully human; as I was not fully human either. But while I was a human that possessed wings, he possessed half a human host and half what looked like to be a deer, polished horns curving gracefully out of its head that was veiled in literally glowing white hair.

Although I was shocked to say the least, I was more entranced by the creature and its enchanting voice that resounded within me. The wind had stilled around me and the flowers had begun to dim and fade, floating slowly back down to the ground and reattaching their roots into the dark forest floor.

The moonlight tumbled through the trees and cast light on both of us, he could clearly see that I was a Phoenix and I could see his own features clearly, evidently I could not name him, for his being was a mystery to me.

“I take it you have never seen one of my kind, no?” he continued calmly and his horns began to shimmer and glint in the moonlight as he took a step toward me.

“We did not know anything like you exist. Why have you hidden yourselves?” I asked, sheer curiousity twisting through my voice that to my surprise, was bold and confident when I spoke out into the clear night air, my breath creating an alluring mist that faded into the night.

“Much exists that you know nothing of. And we have our reasons for remaining concealed. You are the first to learn of us. And of why we have hidden ourselves.” He spoke steadily, his horns catching the light of the gold stars that spilled down its life like a sacrifice to our world.

He turned away and then gestured for me to follow him into the deep of the woods, looking back at me, urging me to come and discover the unknown, the enigmatic beings that were concealed to my mind.

I hesitated only for a moment before I moved myself forward into the secretive vaults of the forests, that held stolen and long forgotten things that I was sure to learn.

And that was where Caden ended his entrancing tale, his echoing voice disappeared into the air around us and Dani had forgotten that she was laying on a massive canopy bed in the Elf Kingdom. Caden had transported her to his Phoenix Village and through into the Dark Forest where she saw the creature that Caden had spoken of in his enchanting story.

Caden looked deeply into her eyes and then spoke, running his fingers through Dani’s hair and letting his hand rest on her shoulder.

“Caden, that was incredible! We’re going to need hours to talk,” she said joyously, then nuzzling her head into her chest and then she realised that he was still clad in his metal chain vest and she grumbled, reluctantly pushing away from his chest and folding her arms into her chest. She griped in displeasure and then she thought, a smile over taking her features and she turned back to him, a sneaky smile, and Caden’s face alighted in response.

They both stood to their feet slowly and Dani saw that Caden’s eyes had transformed in colour once again, his eyes clouding over in darkness and he stealthily towards her, menacing almost as he looked upon her with a carnal haze in his irises.

Love and something flew through both their faces as Dani mirrored his movement and moved unwaveringly into his mesmerizing gaze and in a split second, Dani was looking into his hypnotic stare.

Caden leaned into Dani’s ear and his breath whispered faintly against her skin and she trembled longingly under his seductive touch.

“I believe you have a promise to keep, Dani. You made it very clear that I was wearing far too much for your liking. Perhaps you could fix the problem for me.” He whispered shamelessly and let his hand briefly touch the small of her back before dropping to his side and Dani whimpered at the lack of his touch.

She struggled to remain in control and lifted a trembling hand to his metal covered chest and masked her wanton longing with what she hoped was an enticing tone.

She didn’t know exactly what her magic could do, but she knew she could manipulate the elements, so maybe she could…? Dani questioned in her mind, hesitantly and then pushed her power out of her body and it pulsated around Caden.

In a bright flash of light, his chain mail had disappeared off his body and she was left with a hand that was placed on his firm, now bare chest. His lean muscles rippled under her fingers and Dani thought she felt Caden let out an involuntary shiver at her touch and she looked up at him, pleased with her handiwork.

She couldn’t help but let her draw drop a little in astonishment. He definitely was not overly buff, yet he was still solidly built, strength clearly evident in his arms.

“Not bad for a first try. That’s definitely going to prove very…useful in the future.” He purred suggestively into her ear, his dark blonde hair brushing softly over her face and his bare arms encircled her in a possessive hold.

Caden whispered lowly in her ear, his breath ghosting sensuously over her neck and she let out a shockwave ran down her arms and spine.

“Well, you can’t sleep in that dress…” he trailed off suggestively and Dani let out a little mischevious snicker under her breath and she thought to herself for a moment; and then she remembered something that Amanda had said about their Beckon.

The memory of Amanda’s voice echoed in her mind and she listened intently.

“Your Beckon will change to suit your needs and your environment.” She heard Amanda say and she grinned to herself and then looked quickly up at Caden.

She felt the dress began to change on her and then in a brilliant flash of light, it changed into a long silk red nightgown that had white lace on the sleeves and then stared smugly at Caden, who was bare chested and regarded her with an intense gaze which changed quickly to a look of surprise as he saw Dani’s change in appearance.

His mouth fell open and he his eyes became even darker, and he moved swiftly towards her; his face the epitome of annoyance.

“I think this will do quite nicely,” Dani and she walked over to the bed and sat down on the edge of it, smirking at Caden with a satisfied look on her face.

Caden suddenly appeared in front of her, and he still look annoyed. It all of a sudden vanished and was replaced by a self satisfied grin and he moved closer to him.

Dani had a rather bad feeling about this as she stared back at Caden who seemed to be relishing in an unknown secret.

“Amanda also said that the Beckoning meant that the two people;s adorning would work in harmony with each other according to each other’s feelings…or wants.” He faced away from her for a brief moment and then he stared back at her, flames overtaking his eyes again and he seemed to be concentrating on something.

Dani felt colder all of a sudden and she looked down in shock. Her red night gown had shortened considerably as it was half way up her thigh and there was a lot more lace on the dress that had been there previously.

Dani opened her mouth in shock and she felt her face flush deep red in embarrassment and she could hardly bring herself to look Caden in the face.

He looked at her with seductive satisfaction and raked his eyes slowly over her altered…attire.

“I think this is much better,” Caden chuckled and he looked her in the eye and her face still flushed in hot embarrassment and clambered into the bed in an attempt to mask her body but Caden did not seem too keen on that as he took the sheets gently from her tightly clenched palms and took her face in his hands.

“You can trust me. Please?” he looked into her eyes, asking for the trust that she was hesitant to give him and she at last nodded her head, reluctantly taking the sheets away from her legs and she nestled comfortably in his side under his wings and he grazed his arm gently over the sides of her waist and she was lulled into a peaceful state as she wound her hands through his wings and rested her head in his bare chest with a contented sigh.

She awoke the next day in Caden’s arms, his wings thrown over her along with one of his legs that was tucked securely over hers and he pulled her closer into his embrace and buried his head in his neck and mumbled something.

“You still hate waking up? I thought maybe Phoenix’s liked the morning sun!” she chuckled to him and she wrapped her arms contentedly around him and he grumbled into her chest.

“It’s not the morning I have a disdain for. I have to unravel myself from your very tempting self and face the bitter, nasty cold air that is very untempting.” He complained indignantly, but continued to idly stroke his hand across Dani’s back and then he unwillingly pulled himself upright and protested in the sharp sunlight.

Then he looked over to the window in shock and then leapt out of bed, the warmth forgotten and he pulled Dani along with him. Dani was too startled to resist and let herself be led to the window.

“Caden what is…” she trailed off and then looked out of the window, cascading light beaming through the window and she was amazed.

“The Prince has let the light in!” she proclaimed excitedly and then turned to face Caden, who was riveted in place in amazement and he looked over at with astonishment alight in his widnened eyes and he grabbed Dani’s hands in elation and he nearly took off from the ground he was so excited.

“I can’t wait to see the look on the other Elves faces. They’ve been waiting for him to do this for centuries, but no one has ever dared say anything for the fear of his wrath.” Caden exclaimed and he whizzed around the room and Dani laughed at his antics and leapt into the air to pursue after him.

Caden quickly flew down to the ground and turned round to see Dani bounding through the air towards him and he flung the door open and zipped out of the room, down the halls; his laughter bouncing of the walls of the halls.

Dani chased after him, flying out of the room and zooming through the now bright halls spilling over with sunlight and she could see him just ahead. She almost could touch the tips of his wings when Elf guards came out from nowhere out of the doors below them. They did not notice them and they all gathered in a large group, exclaiming at each other loudly and making animated hand gestures at each other before speeding off down the halls and disappearing into one of the rooms down the endless halls.

Caden and Dani looked at each other in puzzlement, before Caden read the look in her eyes and they flew quietly down the hall and they drifted silently through the air before hovering outside of the door that they had seen the other Elves go into. Dani lifted her hand to the door and pushed, but fell back in surprise when she felt a sharp sting go through her hand. She jerked back in surprise and looked down at her hand in curiousity. It had felt like the jab of a knife but there was no blood shed. Dani looked suspiciously at the door, while Caden looked down at her hand and examined it closely.

He looked up at the door and shook his head, puzzled, his eyes narrowing infestimately as he hovered down low to the ground and let himself drop soundlessly to the floor and Dani followed his lead.

“Something is blocking us. Why on Earth would the Elves prevent us from following them?” Caden whispered, looking at Dani with unhidden curiousity in his tone and he leaned his ear closer to the door and Dani reached for him, scared the he would be inflicted with the same biting pain that she had experienced.

Caden motioned to her and she leaned hesitantly towards the door and when she felt no stab of pain, she listened through the door and tried to make out sounds before shaking her head in annoyance, remembering that she didn’t know a single word of Elvish. Huffing, she sank onto the floor and looked up at Caden, who had his eyes staring in concentreation and listening intently to the foreign – at least to Dani’s ears – sounds on the other side of the barrier.

Emotions made their stops in his face and they bounced off the walls of his eyes and Dani tried to unravel them. It didn’t sound like he was hearing anything dangerous or controversial. He just looked confused, yet had the face of someone who was analysing something that didn’t make sense. After listening for a few minutes, Caden drew his ear back from the door and shook in head confusion, and he helped Dani to her feet.

Dani stared deeply into Caden’s eyes as he lost himself in his own thoughts, before carefully divulging them to Dani as they began to walk back the way they came, towards the door that would lead them back to the centre of the Elf Palace.

Caden was still silent as they walked, but Dani didn’t urge him to speak. She knew that he had to gather his thoughts and would speak when he understood the situation.

She waited longingly with baited breath, ready to hear his theories and thoughts. Finally, he opened his mouth to speak.

“It’s very cryptic. Hardly any of what they were saying made sense. It made sense gramaticallly evidently, but it terms of what they were actually talking about and constantly making reference to, it had no ryhyme or rhythm to it.” Caden ran his air through his hair in frustration and his boots sounded heavy underneath him, his wings moving involunataryly beside him and he tucked a hand into his pocket for a brief moment before removing his, reaching for Dani’s hand and tucked inside his own and pulling her towards him.

Dani ran her fingers gently, soothingly over his palm to calm his wild thoughts and then replied.

“What did they actually say?” she asked, and she instantly wondered if she really wanted to know.

Caden’s brow folded over, making creases as he filed through his thoughts, trying to think of how to phrase the Elves strange words and they reached the intended door and opened it, the mist again enveloping them in its enigmatic haze and it swallowed them whole, but it was a comfort instead of an unwelcome hindrance.

The mist somehow helped Caden to understand his thoughts and the phrases of the Elves and they walked invisible through the grey fog, it slowly started to clear as they entered the main hall of the Palace before making their way through the doors to the Great Hall to find their Sorceror instructors that were waiting for them.

Luckily for them, punctuality did not to be the Sorcerors strength and they remained alone for a while, the Great Hall’s walls were vast and beautiful and they expanisve design of the Hall meant that their voices echoed off the walls of the Halls. For fear of anyone hearing them and disvoering, them, they had to constantly remind themselves that they must lower their voices for fear of intruders.

Caden struggled to describe the exact exchange in the room that was once near them and then all of a sudden the words came spilling out in a torrent so fast that Dani could barely catch his words.

“They were saying that someone’s choice about something was a terrible thing and that they would regret it. But that’s what strikes me as odd as who would be regretting what?” Caden spoke slowly and looked over to Dani, seeking answers in her wide eyes.

Dani began to get a strange feeling in her stomach, and then she a quiet whisper in her head.

“They are in danger.” The ghost like voices murmured in her head and then drifted back into the cage of her mind.

Shock eclipsed her face and she raised her head to look Caden.

“The Shadow Voices…” she trailed off and she stared him in the eyes. Caden grasped her hand fervently and carefully took the key to Dani’s mind, bursting through the door in to see the secrets hidden in the mineshafts of her soul.

She let him see what was hidden inside of her and spoke as she did.

“Someone’s in danger. I don’t know who though…but we can’t attack yet. Or we may risk the innocent.” She whispered fearfully to him, darkness overtaking her face as the fear tried to seize her, making her a helpless prisoner.

Caden pulled Dani closer to him and she nestled her head in his chest, finding comfort and strength there. After a moment, Dani looked up at Caden with fear less evident in her eyes, trying to lock the door on fear.

“Caden, should we tell Amanda? Eru?” she asked, as they rose into the air, going slower now; thinking solemnly as they drifted through the air.

Caden shook his head and threaded his hands through Dani’s hand as his wings spanned out across the vast hallway.

“We should wait. We may put the King’s life in danger if he knows anything for the Elves may found out. And he may decide to approach them. It’s best until we wait, listen more, pay more attention and then once we know exactly what is going on, we formulate a plan.” Caden replied firmly, moving swiftly; yet gracefully through the air and Dani followed at his side.

They finally reached the exit of the hall and the mist once again engulfed them with waves of comfort but seemed to have a slightly sinister feel to them as they flew through the grey misty haze.

The mist cleared around them after a few moment and Dani couldn’t help but breathe in a sigh of relief and she looked over at Caden, who was staring intently into the distance, sunlight ahead of them, shining through the windows of the Elf Palace and hitting Dani and Caden with bright flashes of rays.

All of a sudden, Dani snapped her head up as she realised that they were late for their Magic training. Panicking, she grabbed Caden by the arm who looked up in surprise as she looked him in the eyes, anxious and pulling him in the direction of the towering doors ahead of them that lead to the Centre of Magic and Enchantment training.

“Caden, we’re going to be so late! I can’t believe we forgot already. We have to hurry. The Sorcerors are sure to be very annoyed at us.” She said in panic as they began to take flight again, hurtling towards the door at a breakneck speed and then coming to an abrupt halt outside the doors, pulling the chain in frantic hurry at attempts to open the door.

The door of the centre began to creak open painstakingly slow and Dani could see the Sorcerors on the other side of the door, facing them. Their almost glowing white hoods covered half their faces and their expressions were somber, hiding any frustration that they may have been feeling. They finally burst through the days, Dani nearly tripping over her feet in her haste to get through the door.

“I’m so sorry, we got lost in the Great Halls and we –“ Dani began to stammer out, and she gestured in panic as she tried to convince the Elves where they had been.

The Elf, who seemed to be the Chief of the others, raised a pale hand up in a signal for her to silence, his face still half covered by the hood and she only saw his eyes for a brief moment before the hood covered his eyes again.

“We know where you were. And the trouble that you face. We too agree that we should not approach the Prince. There is too much to risk.”

Caden and Dani took an involuntary step back in surprise and looked at each other with amazed expressions.

“Did you follow us? We didn’t hear anything, you must have been ver –“ Dani was yet again cut of by the Elf who cleared his throat in admonishment, then lifted the cloak of his face and the others followed suit.

The Elf, who Dani remembered as Luriel, opened his mouth to speak and his voice seemed to eminate a very strong power as his words flooded the room,

“We did not follow, we only sensed. You came in before to wait for us, and we watched you even then. But then you left and we did not follow, only delved into the chasms of your vision and saw through your eyes. “ his voice faded back into his himself and he lifted his head higher to look them both seriously in the eyes, almost as if he was trying to convey some hidden meaning to them; but something prohibited him from speaking it out to them.

Dani’s jaw fell wide open in amazement and she shook her head slowly in disbelief, looking at all the Elves with glinting eyes; and even Caden looked sufficiently mystified at the Elves magic.

Luriel glanced to the other Elves and gave a firm, authoritative nod to them and they began to walk forward, closing in on Dani and Caden. They stopped a few feet in front of them and then gestured to them to approach them further.

Dani cast a quick, furtive glance, her eyes flashing with a hint of apprehension as she tried to sense Caden’s feelings. He gave a smile of encouragement, taking her hand decisively and then advancing purposefully towards Luiel and the other Elves, shrouded in white and mystery.

They finally stood in the midst together and Dani couldn’t help but notice that they were all bracing themselves for a sudden impact. Dani looked at the Elves, an odd sense of intrigue welling in her eyes and she watched them closely as they all closed their eyes, steeled concentration lining their high foreheads.

They seemed to have been transported to another place in their minds as they hardly seemed to notice Dani and Caden when they spoke to each other.

Dani knew something was about to happen, evidently something important, and she leaned in to speak quietly to Caden.

“Caden, what are they doing? Are they using magic? What are they doing wi – “ Caden interjected with a voice of awe and he looked at the Elves with respect and reverence; then looking back at Dani with a joyous grin on his face.

“I haven’t seen it in many years. They’re casting a spell, an enchantment if you will. I haven’t seen it done for a very long time; they take years of arduous practise to master. And those are the basic, juvenile spells.” Caden looked back at the Elves, who had gathered in a circle and had their eyes open, staring at an unseen image moving before them.

“Are spells and enchantments a different kind of magic to the form I know?” she asked, staring in wonder at the light now swirling before them in their hands, the energy from their hands moving hypnotically before Dani’s eyes.

Caden’s brow furrowed and he ran his hand through his air in thought and then put his hand in his pocket as he spoke somewhat fervently.

“They’re like a sub species of magic. It definitely wasn’t the first form of magic that existed from the very beginning, but there was much potential for the magic to morph into many things, many possibilities of power.” He mused, and Dani marvelled at this new information, taking it all in, excitement filled her mind and she focused her attention back to the Elves.

Her soul became a whirlwind of utter entrancement as Dani looked at the scene of what was before her. The Elves, captured in a hurricane of light and wonder, the current whipped around them furiously and Dani and Caden stepped towards it entranced. The Elves beckoned towards them, urgent looks on their faces and Dani and Caden rushed towards them, somehow knowing that this was extremely important.

They had no idea of the capability of the energy that the Elves had created, they did not know the purpose for which had been created but they knew it was important.

They hit the light source with a running leap and the glowing hurricane shook with impact as Dani and Caden collided with the barrier and then felt through it, nearly crashing into the Elves. They side stepped, cloaks whipping out of Dani and Caden’s way and then stumbled on their feet for a moment before quickly regaining their balance and staring astounded at the Elves for a brief moment. Caden had to retract his wings down to a smaller size quickly to stop the hurricane of light colliding with them.

Caden encircled his arms around Dani protectively and they both conveyed their disbelief with clockwork in their eyes spinning eternally, showing their awe and wonder to the scene that lay before them.

Surprisingly, instead of wind causing a commotion around their faces, it was silent; the sound had been sucked out of the air by an unseen force leaving the hurricane devastatingly quiet, but still hurtling with power and ancient magic that Dani did not yet fully understand.

The faced the Elves in the deadly silence, and Dani opened her mouth to convey astonishment and questions wanted to tumble out of her unseasinlgy, almost to fast to process, but Dani held back and managed to form a coherent sentence.

“What is this?” the words hurtled out of her and she dropped her jaw looking around her in amazement still, the whirling, enigmatic energy pulsating around them.

“We’re going to an incredible place of magic, but it is so powerful that it could tear you to pieces if you do not have protection from it until you are ready to reach yourself beyond and feel the magic.” The Elves, veiled in their white hoods turned to face them, grave expressions on their faces.

Eternity seemed to pass as they stood in the insanity of power that was the force of light, and Dani realised that it seemed to have slowed down a little bit, and she tried to make out the shapes beyond the still spinning cyclone of light, squinting her eyes to improve her vision and see what was obstructing her vision.

Dani stepped hesitantly towards the slowing wall of light, but Caden and one of the Elves grasped her shoulder firmly and gently drew her away from the wall, Caden signalled with his eyes that the Elves would explain in a moment. Dani nodded her head, a little embarrassed at her brashness and stepped back towards Caden, under the shield of his wings.

After what seemed like centuries, the force of the light halted abruptly from its incessant motions. Now Dani could clearly make out the foggy images in front of her. Her brain struggled to process the sights that lay before and she felt a irresistible pull at the chains fastened to her heart, and the links of the chains seemed to break in half and she was just about to step out into the misty haze when she saw that Caden was moving towards it, almost as entranced she was, he stared out into the distance and then looked back at her, trying to see into her eyes.

Dani threw out a thought and Caden deftly caught it, hearing it in his own mind.

“Do you feel that?” she whispered, her breath unexsistant in his mind. Caden was a little disappointed at that, he knew that, even through the pull of whatever was drawing them out.

“I thought I was the only one.” He made the thought and it drifted back to Dani.

“Wait!” she spoke suddenly, her voice nearly breaking under the strain of her sudden intense worry and they looked behind them and they saw in utter surprise that the Elf Sorcerors had vanished into oblivion.

Dani and Caden stared in unobtrusive shock, Dani looked around wildy for them and she peered back out through the thick fog to what lay beyond them.

There were what looked to be vines coming out of the sky, swaying in the nonexistant breeze. The fog covered the tops of the vines and from what she could see, she couldn’t tell if that was the sky or if it was mist. She could see the glint of what looked like to be round, rippling bubbles, enormous in size, at least twice the size of Caden in width and length.

Dani lifted her hand to her eyes to look up and then she realised that she didn’t need to. There was no sun. Or if there was, it was masked by what Dani thought were either heavy clouds or fog, she couldn’t quite tell.

Caden was behind her, marvelling at what he saw also, and also looking off into the distance beyond him on the ground. She could see his eyes zoning in on something off in the distance and then shaking his head. She’d have to ask him about that later.

“Caden, maybe there’s something beyond up in those vines?” she asked, and then realised when she looked back at him that he also had vanished and she saw that he was drifting away from her, disappearing into the mist, just about to step outside the wall of still glowing light. Dani was by his side in an instant and grabbed his arm in desperation, and he turned around, unseeing for a minute and then he seemed to snap out of a daze.

He looked down at her and then something strong seemed to well up in his eyes and he pulled her to him.

“Caden, you can’t leave without me. Please?” she asked pleadingly and Caden finally shook off the haze that surrounded him and looked at Dani, and he couldn’t help the tears that began to well in his eyes and he crushed him to her chest.

“What happened?” she asked again, softer, looking up at him with understanding, knowing that he would not leave her without good reason…or something else just as strong.

Caden’s eyes cleared a little and he looked into her forgiving eyes and found hope there, the strength to speak.

“I have no idea. All of a sudden I couldn’t hear you. I couldn’t see anything outside of what was in front of me and there was almost this force,” he crushed his fist into his palm in agony, anguish ripping his features and Dani gently touched his face and he placed a hand over hers, before taking a deep breath and grasping it more firmly; gaining control over himself once again.

He took another deep breath and continued “This force that was pulling at me. But then, I could hear your voice, only faintly at first, calling frantically at me and then I saw your hand grasp my arm from out of the corner of my eye and I realised what was happening. That was when the strings loosened and I was free once again.”

Dani, still embraced in Caden’s strong arms, looked around, almost angry Caden noticed and then rushed up to the glowing wall, her eyes glinting in fury and then to Caden’s shock, stuck her hand through the wall of light.

He fully expected her to shatter into a thousand pieces under the brute force of the magic, as he would slowly fade into nothingness. But that was not the outcome.

Dani’s hand was unscathed, untouched by the magic energy that could now be seen pulsating around her hand. It seemed to want to nip and lunge at her, to harm her, but every time they got near, it was thrust back by something that seemed to be shielding Dani’s hand.

Caden walked slowly towards her, entranced by the impossibility of the scene and then hesistnatly stuck his own hand through, closing his eyes as he expected to meet his imminent destruction.

Caden felt something rip through his arm and stunned the rest of his body, but it was bearable and while he could see that the energy was around him, it was not harming him either, thrust back by the same undetectable barrier protecting Dani.

He looked over to Dani and her hair blew around her face like an embodiment of the night sky, a determined and steeled look spread across her features, and Caden could see the slight fear hidden away in the dungeon of her heart, hissing in protest at the shackles binding it to it’s prison; rattling at the chains in a pitiful attempt to break free.

Caden projected a thought, it tumbled through the thick, enchanted air and swirled around and into Dani’s head.

“We have to try. If our hands are safe…the Elves are gone and we can’t stay here forever. We have to leave.” Caden’s voice burst in her head and she nodded in agreement; looking at him with a grim expression on her face before grabbing his hand. They took one last look at each other, Caden’s soulful eyes looking into her own and her own intense with trust; and they bound themselves to one another before plunging through the wall of light, then they vanished into the swirling mist before them.

They tumbled endlessly through the wall of light, it was a lot thicker than they had thought, it seemed to be almost like a tunnel. They were being tossed to and fro by an unseen energy force as they struggled to avoid crashing into each other.

Finally, they fell with a thud outside the glowing wall of light and looked up in astonishment. The colours were so vibrant, so pigmented; heavily contrasted and detail could be seen everywhere. Dani looked up to where the swinging vines were, raising her head to see the enormous water bubbles that were suspended in mid – air, defying gravity.

Caden carefully got up off the ground, and then held out his hand to Dani and she gratefully took it and he pulled her to her feet, and she righted herself, regaining her balance. Caden motioned for Dani to follow him towards the vines and they reached them, staring up at the great fog that quivered and moved up above them.

“I think there might be something on the other side of the fog. Those…vines have to be attached to something.” Dani spoke urgently but still calmly to him and he spanned out his wings and Dani prepared to lift herself off the ground to hurtle through the vines to reach the fog.

They hadn’t gotten more than a foot off the ground, when something violently jerked them back down to Earth and Dani barely managed to keep her balance and she landed painfully on her feet. She let out a slight grimace before gritting her teeth in determination.

“We can’t fly again…my wings won’t work.” Caden spoke and Dani nodded her head grimly and then she grasped one of the vines thoughtfully for a moment, then an idea sprang into her head and she placed another hand on the vine.

Caden saw her about to pull herself up the vine and he looked at her with worry clear in his brow and he reached for her.

“Dani…” he warned, before shaking his head in mock exasperation before clinging to another vine and hoisting himself up it. He felt no resistance and no pull, so he continued to pull himself painstakingly slow up the vine and glanced at Dani, who was digging her feet into the tiny ridges of the vine and then inching herself slowly up it, gritting her teeth a little with the exertion.

Dani was able to concentrate enough to be able to send a quick thought out to Caden, it shot like an arrow through the air and entered into Caden’s mind.

“What are we going to do once we reach the other side? And where are the Elves? They can’t have just abandoned us.” Dani’s voice spoke in his head, a clear sense of urgency obvious in her strained tone and Caden gave her his reply.

“I have a feeling about this whole thing…I’ll tell you once we reach the top and then you can tell me that I’m crazy.” His voice teased in her head, although the seriousness was disguised under the playfulness.

“Caden, you’re not crazy.” She thought out her reply and Caden smiled slightly as he listened and then let out the smallest sigh of relief and then gripped the vine tighter. The mist was getting unbelievably thick around them and it began to shroud them in grey, it was getting harder and harder by the second to see each other. Dani felt a little bit of panic rise up in her heart, but she clamped it down and focused on reaching the top her vine.

The mist was intensely thick once they reached the end of the vine. Dani could see nothing but the massive bubbles made of clear, crystal water and she unthinkingly reached for it.

It shot towards her and then engulfed her and then Dani spluttered, her breathing being cut off but then the water bubble completely encompassed again and her lungs were briefly cut off for a moment before air began to filter in through her mouth. Surprised, she raised her hands through the water and saw that there was a large air bubble around her face where the water was not covering her.

Caden finally clambered up through the mist and reached the end of his vine. Dani reached her hand out towards him and then all of a sudden, a water bubble came out of nowhere and captured him. Dani paniced for a moment and threw out tendrils of magic from her fingertips and they made contact with the water. She could see Caden’s wings moving gracefully through the water, his hair drifting through the clear element and then the water retreated back from his face as her magic hit the water.

She could hear Caden intake air gratefully and take shuddering breaths in order to bring oxygen back into his starving lungs.

The looked at each other in amazement and then the water bubbles began to drift through the mist, tugged by an invisible force willingly through the haze and Dani braced herself against her water wall. To her surprise, her hand did not penetrate the element, instead it rippled under her hand and gravitated towards her hand. She moved her hands back through the water and little bubbles seemed to materialize out of nowhere and they followed her hand and then completely swarming them and she looked at fascination at their strange behaviour.

Caden gazed through his water case at her and marvelled too at the fascination that the water seemed to have for Dani. How it gravitated willingly towards her and surround her almost protectively.

They all of a sudden began to accelerate through the fog and they seemed to be hurtling now into the grey shroud that surrounded them.

It had been like that for what seemed like a very long time, but finally the misty haze began to thin, the clear and in the distance, Dani could make out very blurry shapes that moved eerily in front of them, some staying still and some moving.

“What’s your theory, Caden?” Dani carefully made the thought and it made its way to Caden, slowly through the water.

“I have a peculiar feeling like this is some kind of test from the Elf Sorcorers. I could be wrong, but I just have this nagging feeling…” his voice trailed off in her mind and she mused thoughtfully for a moment.

“You could be right. This might be just the sort of thing that the Elves would do. Although I am surprised that they would throw us right in without any warning. That seems rather odd.” Dani let the thought float over to Caden’s mind and he quickly responded.

“The Elves are known for their oddities, Dani.” He replied intensely, looking at Dani. She realised that he was staring again through the fog as the figures where more easily seen. They seemed to be advancing slowly through the fog, treading over an invisible path in the air.

Dani wondered if perhaps their abilities would have come back after they had climbed the vines. Dani frowned suspiciously and she moved her hand towards the edge of her water bubble, her fingers brushing the wall of water and causing slight ripples as she did so.

Confident now, she pushed her hand through the bubble of liquid and her hand made contact with the air outside.

All of a sudden, Dani was hit with a searing pain and her hand seemed to convulse outside the bubble and then she saw Caden’s face as he pounded on his water bubble and she could see it start to crack under the impact.

She frantically pulled her hand inside the bubble and took a look at her hand. It was deathly pale and Dani could see energy pulsing through her veins as it attended to the damage on her hand.

She suddenly had an idea and she raised her hand up to the wall of water that surrounded her and moved her fingers forward slightly, willing it to move towards Caden. The water begin to ripple and wave in the air and then suddenly shuttled towards Caden’s bubble of water and they collided into each other, combining until Dani’s and Caden’s combined and became a massive barrier of water against whatever was in the air outside.

Caden wrenched Dani into his arms and crushed her to his chest, then looking frantically into her eyes; that were scared yet held a fierce determination that swam through her heart and rose up courageously to the surface.

“Dani, what were you thinking!?” he tilted her face up to look into her eyes, his voice full of strained harshness, fearing for her life. Then his voice immediately softened and he pulled her into him again.

“Promise me you’ll never do something like that again. At least tell me first. I had no idea what you were doing. I can’t lose you. I won’t lose you, Dani.” He murmured, his voice rough with emotion and he wound his hands through Dani’s hair, arms wrapped around her desperately.

They were still encased in the bubble of water, which had stopped still for some reason, no longer moving. They’d be stuck there for who knows how long and it was at that moment that Dani had an idea.

Her elemental gift…so maybe…she didn’t exactly understand what the external environment was made of but she could at least give it a try. She had a feeling that Caden was not going to be at all receptive to her idea. She had already broke the barrier once and had done who knows what to her hand, but they couldn’t just sit encased in a prison of water forever.

The Elves stared at Caden and Dani intently, their strong, brawny arms folded in front of them as they observed the two talking hurriedly. Although they could not hear what they were saying, Luriel could tell that they were formulating a plan. Varuy stood silently next to him and his aloofness radiated out from him as he observed the two. He leaned into speak to Luriel, slight fascination sneaking into his mind as he continued to watch the pair.

“Do you think they will figure it out, Luriel?” he spoke deeply, not letting his fascination be known to the other Elves and Luriel gave him a sideways glance and then gave a deep breath; further crossing his arms.

“We will see in all due time.” He responded quietly, hope rising up a little in his soul from the ashes, but he quickly clamped it down. He would not allow himself to anticipate success of the two any time soon. They would be there for a while, he decided and he turned his attention once again to them; the golden piercing eyes of the Elves stared back at Dani and Caden and they looked back at the Elves, unseeingly.

Dani peered out once more into the deep fog before them and she saw the blurry figures standing there, blending almost into the fog, so that she could not tell where the figures began and where the fog ended.

“I have an idea.” Dani spoke urgently to Caden, with a hesistancy winding through her voice as she knew that Caden would immediately disagree with it the second he heard it fall from her lips.

Caden looked at Dani, still trusting her, but more worried this time. Caden knew that Dani would not hesistate to put herself in danger for the sake of discovering something unknown. He could not allow her to put herself in peril, although he knew that she was willing to give her own life for him. A sacrifice he refused to let her make and he paled a little at the thought of it, his hands involuntary curling into a fist. He felt warmth on his palms and looked up to see Dani looking at him with love and worry in her eyes.

“I’m sorry.” She whispered, placing a hand on his face as she did and he rested against it for a moment, regaining strength to listen to Dani’s…idea. He only hoped it wasn’t something dangerous.

“I can combine the elements to make new ones, right? So what if I combined the water and the – “ Caden knew where this was going and his answer was no from the very start.

“Dani, I know what you’re thinking. After what happened before, you can’t possibly think that I would let you put yourself through that again.” He clutched her hand and stared down at the place on her hand where the unknown deathly entitiy had seeped into her.

Dani looked up into his eyes and placed both hands on his shoulders, and Caden reciprocated, putting his two hands on her waist, waiting silently for her answer. She would argue, he knew that.

“Caden, it would only be for a moment. Less than a moment. It wouldn’t hurt much, I promise.” She pleaded, trying to convince him to let her. She could not let them be stuck here forever. She had to get them out unscathed.

His face turned to stone and he pressed his lips together unwillingly, clutching her closer and looking into her eyes.

“I don’t like this, Dani. I need to be able to protect you.” Caden spoke out forcefully and Dani could tell that he was beginning to panic a little.

Just then a light beamed in his eyes, shining out to Dani’s in relieved excitement and he nearly lifted Dani into the air in his unconstricted enthusiasm.

“My shield! We need to see if it works in here. I didn’t even think that it would work, since my wings don’t. They moved up to scrape against the top of the water shell, the water rippling elegantly, but they refused to lift him into the air and they drooped back down in annoyance.

Dani grasped his hand and he gave her a determined nod before closing his eyes, concentrating intently inside of the blackness of his mind, creating his shield and willing it to materialize.

The shield suddently burst into being around them and the water moved away from the electrifying purple light as it quivered forcefully around them and then collapsed back into himself.

Caden groaned in exasperation and put his head in his hands before looking at Dani.

“Something’s stopping it from working properly.” He grunted, infuriated at his shields faulty behaviour.

“Come on,” she encouraged and she stretched out her hand to him, giving him another burst of hope and he began to imagine the shield again, his eyes were closed and he was abruptly interrupted as Dani gripped his arm.

“You’ll exhaust yourself Caden. You’re going to only have enough energy to get out a few tries and we don’t know how strong your shield will be in here.”

Caden gritted his teeth and placed his hand on the bridge of his nose, trying to calm himself and then running a frenzied hand through his hair before looking up once more at Dani, entreating him to let her do this for them.

“One try.” Caden let out and Dani knew that she would have to convince him otherwise, but for now that was going to have to be enough.

Caden looked at Dani once more, a fierce protectiveness in his eyes and he closed them, concentrating, gripping Dani’s hand as he did and Dani could feel the energy pulsating as he did and she began to reach her hand out of the globe of water.

“Caden, now!” she let out the words forcefully and then plunged her hand outside the barrier of water. She felt a slight sting as she did and she saw the radiating light from Caden’s shield quiver around her hand as he fought to keep it around her. She reached quickly out of his shield and let the forceful energy dance in her palm and she let it slip out into the shield, teeth gritting as she did for the energy still brought pain to her. She dragged back her hand with the shield into the shell of water that encased the rest of them and the shield collided back into Caden’s body. She held the magic energy in her hand, her face a little pained. She tried not to let it show, for the fear that he would panic once again.

“Dani, let me hold it while you take some of the bubble apart.” He spoke firmly to her and she very reluctantly placed it in his hand and as quickly as she could, raised her hands to the almost glass like barrier in front of them, and it slowly began to ripple, and a small, sphere of water began to emerge inside of the bubble and move through the water towards them and then it burst into Dani’s bubble of air, floating gently in front of her. Dani frantically took the magical energy out of Caden’s hand and cast it into the shell of the water that floated hypnotically in front of her.

Nothing had happened and as the energy lethargically hung suspended in the centre of the water, Dani’s heart sank.

She sighed with despondency and then looked back at Caden, failure in her eyes, but she was confused as his eyes were widened and he pointed back at the shell of water that was in Dani’s hand.

The sphere of water was shaking and quivering in Dani’s hand, and she could see shock waves of magic rippling out her hands and around the energy in the ball of water. Her magic twisted and pulled the energy inside the sphere and appeared almost solid now, malleable but tough.

But it wasn’t over yet. The energy had transformed into a liquid substance, shimmering dark grey and it began to flow all over the water until it was compeltey immersed and the water was now a solid sphere of the shimmering grey substance. It finally stilled in her hands and Dani stared at it in fascination.

She then shook her head in confusion and looked back at Caden in puzzlement, still holding the curious object in her hands.

“What am I supposed to do with this? What have I made? I don’t even know what it is!” she replied, frustrated at her indecipherable actions.

Caden laughed at Dani and shook his head in besusment.

“Oh, Dani, that can’t be all there is. How about you see if there is anything inside it?” he suggested to her, still laughing at her animated frustrated comments.

Dani looked at Caden with a snide expression on her face and then shook her head in resignation as she brushed her fingers up against the grey sphere.

“I’ll see what I can do.” She replied, with mock exasperation in her voice and then touched the grey sphere once again, hesitantly she pushed at the firm object and was surprised when her hand plunged right through the sphere. She reached further inside and was even more surprised when she felt her fingertips brush something smooth, rectangular shaped. She wrapped her hands around it and she felt a radiant magic pulsing through her fingertips and up her arm. She pulled gently on it and slid her hand out of the sphere of grey and then looking at the smooth, transperant object with a curious gaze.

Caden came over to look, his hair brushing at her neck and he reached over her shoulder to graze his fingers carefully over it. Dani, transfixed, turned the object around in her hands, peering at the smooth, glass surface. It was a rectangle shape, crystal clear like ice and smooth like polished marble; Dani noticed that it seemed to glimmer softly in her hands whenever she moved it.

She turned it around in her hands once more and then realised that it had become flattened in shape slightly, and she looked seruptisiously at it and then cast a quick look at Caden.

“That’s odd. It’s changed shape, gotten flatter. I wonder why?” she mused and Caden tilted his head to the side in interest and then took it from her, running his fingers over it and then holding it up, gazing into the glass like object.

Now it was a glass like disc, it had flattened considerably since they had been touching it, even though it was completely intact to the touch, it didn’t feel flecxible or malleable to Dani at all.

Caden continued to handle the glass disc and it became even flat, now it looked more like a crystal pane of paper and Dani stared at it in amazement.

“Caden, do that again.” She urged him and he began to smooth out the crystal looking object even more and it increased in size and became so thin that it reminded Dani of the finest of silk.

Caden looked at Dani with a gleam in his eyes and she looked transfixed at what was taking place. He contined to roll the object, it was much larger in size and was almost like cloth in consistency, clear, transparent to look through, the object gleaming with tiny studs of light every time Caden touched it.

That was when Dani knew what it was for.

“Caden!” Dani jumped excitedly and then grabbed the edge of the transparent material.

“I know what we need to do. Can I have it for a moment?” Dani asked, delight evident in her tone and she eagerly took it from his hands as she ran the fabric like material through her hands and then began to position it strategically around Caden, draping it over his wings, and crafting a hood out of it and then covered his hands with it has well.

“Dani, what are you doing? I look – and feel – ridiculous!” he said, looking at her with bewilderment in her eyes and Dani couldn’t help but let out a small chuckle.

His wings were covered with transparent material and it covered his head, hands and then draped to the ground, covering his legs. It was like a cloak, with gloves built in.

She could see him through it, him looking at her with mock annoyance.

“Dani…please do the curtesy of taking this off me, please?” Caden asked, giving her a look of wry amusement at her seeming playfulness.

Dani sighed and shook her head in resignation, then looking back at Caden with a little secret in her eyes.

“I don’t think you understand what it’s meant for.” She said pointedly, then crossed her arms and gestured that he should step out of their protective barrier of water and go into the outside.

“You’re serious? Good thing I trust you.” Caden said, a little bemused and cautisouly slid his hand outside of their water barrier. To Caden’s shock, he felt nothing, no sting and the magic energy from the outside swirled angrily around the transparent material around Caden’s hand, angry that it had been outsmarted. Caden looked at Dani with amazement and then grinned at her, shaking his head knowingly at her.

“So that’s what you meant! There isn’t enough material for a separate one for you so we’ll have to…” he reached his hand back inside the bubble and floated his way through the water towards Dani and tucked her under the material that covered him, so now they were both shrouded in the material of glass like appearance.

“We’ve got to move slowly, or else the material may slip off.” He cautioned, looking down at her dark head of hair with concern.

They moved slowly towards the sphere of water and drifted through the barrier that protected them from whatever was around them.

As soon as they were completely out of the bubble, Dani heard a loud sound behind them, like a tial wave and she felt a slight splash on her through the material and looked back in astonishment to see that the bubble had vanished and the bubble had now shrunk to floating diamond shaped droplets of clear water and were moving slowly through the air and drifted aimlessly around Dani and Caden. Dani could now see the furiousness of the magic that surrounded their shield and rushed at it, hurtling towards them before the shield deflected it and it jolted back, careering away from them and the magic almost seemed to be infuriated at this and moved even more quickly towards them now, with the speed of light and crashed into the shield. Dani winced expecting the material to shatter under the force of the magic, but the material glowed an ethereal silver and retracted the forces back from Dani and Caden.

The magic realised that it had lost the battle and slid sulkily around them, winding around their shield in irritation, but not attacking them. At least for now.

The Elves, Luriel especially looked at Caden and Dani’s actions, overcome with shock and Hurol shook the arm of Varuy in thrilled elation.

“I don’t believe it. They’ve done it. And it’s only been an hour since they started. This is inconceivable!” he threw back his hood while he ran his hand through his dark hair and looked at Luriel with astonished shock. The head Elf was slowly shaking his head in disbelief.

“I don’t understand. Everyone else that has gone through testing has been stuck their for days and most of them need to rescued from it without their own doing. I don’t understand how they did it. Even weakened, they were able to overcome it.”

The Elves continued to stare through the now thinning fog at Dani and Caden, who had begun to cast their glance that way.

Dani could see that the mist was getting thinner and the figures that Dani had noticed before where getting clearer and she managed to make out that there were four figures standing there, quietly looking at them through the fog. While she couldn’t see their faces, she had a distinct feeling that they were the vanished Elves.

She continued to stare into the thinning fog and gave a slight tug to Caden’ s arm, her fingers gently grasping his and he turned his attention to where she was looking. She could hear his sharp intake of breath and she looked up at him to examine his expression.

He was clearly stunned to see them there, silently gazing at them; but yet half expecting it for he had the feeling from the very beginning that this was all orchestrated by the Elves.

As they looked on at the Elves, Dani noticed that they made no move to acknowledge their presence and Dani wondered if they knew that they could see them.

In that very moment, the fog jerked back as if it had been stunned, rolling back away from them and Dani could see a hazy circle of…something in front of them.

As they moved closer and closer, she recognised it and she gave out a low gasp.

“Caden, is that…?” she let out, stunned and began to reach out towards it.

He nodded his head in realisation, and then looked around them observing from inside their transparent protection.

Another Shadow Portal.

Caden’s jaw dropped in shock as he realised that their surroundings had completely transformed and he tugged on Dani’s arm urgently and she looked back at Caden and she realised also what had happened.

They were walking over a rocky, grass covered bridge and underneath them was pitch blackness, Dani looked down into the abyss and could see something moving there. She gasped a little, clutching at the material and Caden’s arm and then looked upwards again. Above them was a canopy of unusual looking trees, they almost seemed to be growing as Dani watched them, they weaved among themselves and it was as if they were alive.

The Shadow Portal was closer now and Dani could see the Four Elves dimly on the other side and Dani couldn’t help but let her panic surface once again, it rose slyly up to the surface of her heart and beckoned for her to drown silently in its depths but she refused.

They hit the Shadow Portals and the material disintegrated from their bodies, the glass like material shrinking in Dani’s hand and before she knew it, it was a smooth crystal rectangle shape in her hands again. Dani looked around them and they were moving slowly through the Portal, the Shadows moving around them in ways that Dani could not describe and the voices inside her head were louder now, rattling in the cage in her mind, and she could hear distorted whispers and shouts in her head, but she couldn’t make out anything that they were saying.

Dani shook her head in frustration and Caden understood the turbulence in her mind and squeezed her hand comfortingly.

Dani looked up at him with a wistful smile on her face and looked out from the Shadow Portal in determination, as now they were close to the end, about to step out into the unknown abyss of what lay on the other side of the Portal.

Dani could now see the Elves staring at them, almost expressionless, but with a gleam of something in their eyes that Dani could not quite put her finger on.

At that instant, the whispers and unceasing shouts vanished from her mind and she stepped out of the Portal with Caden by her side and Dani breathed out a silent sigh of relief and then looked at the Elves for a reason to this event that had occurred and Caden had his questions as well that spun around in his mind, demanding explanations.

The Elves decided that this was the time to unshroud themselves from their hoods and so they uncovered their veiled faces and revealed themselves to Dani and Caden.

“You all disappeared. Why did you leave?” Dani asked, curiousness lacing itself through her voice and Caden stood silently but boldly next to her.

“I think you already know already, don’t you?” the Varuy replied, slight amusement in his tone and they couldn’t help but let out a small chuckle at their utter confusion.

“A test of sorts, we’re guessing.” Caden replied, his voice echoing out into the air and the Elves looked at him, not expecting to speak but still feeling the authority that radiated from his stature and they nodded at him, raised eyebrows at his assertiveness.

“Quite right you are about that. A test it was. You passed it as expected.” Luriel said calmly, he knew he was telling a lie, but he could not tell them that what they had done was completely shocking and abnormal. So he crossed his arms, assuming a slightly bored position and gestured to the two that they should follow them into the fog.

Dani saw Caden looking at her from out of the corner of his eyes and she returned his glance, trying to read his gaze.

She saw him mouth something at her and wondered why he didn’t just give her his thought. Then she realised. Perhaps they were not the only one who could hear the thoughts around them.

Dani had to wonder why that would concern Caden. She’d have to find out later.

She read his lips and was not surprised at what she saw him say.

“They’re lying.” He mouthed at her, apprehension on his face and Dani nodded in realization.

The Elves were not being honest with them.

She only hoped they had good reason for doing so.

Dani and Caden hurried to catch up with the four Elves that were moving slowly through the fog, their long white cloaks trailing elegantly behind them.

“We were in another dimension, weren’t we?” Dani said to Luriel with conviction and looked at him side on.

He returned her comment with a glance out the corner of his dark eyes and gave a simple nod.

“We will explain when we reach the palace again. For now you must wait.” Luriel said and then fell silent and Dani could see a dark shape up ahead. She squinted her eyes to make out what was waiting for them beyond the haze but she still couldn’t make it out.

After a few moments of silent walking, they reached the dark shape that had been in the distance and the grey haze lifted to reveal a large stone door, laid with dark purple like crystals that shimmered when Dani looked at them from different angles.

The Elves approached the large door and Luriel reached his hand forth to grip the door handle and pull firmly on it, slowly making the door open and lead into the unknown darkness. Dani could see absolutely nothing, but the Elves walked in with determination with one last beckon for them to follow. Dani looked back to see Caden only to realise that he was right by his side and was putting a wing protectively around her shoulder before looking determinatedly at each other and stepping through the door, it shut loudly behind them and then they were surrounded by darkness. It swallowed them up in the depth and then they were swathed in the possessive dark.

Dani could feel her heart start to speed up slightly and she clutched Caden’s hand closer to her and she could feel his dark eyes looking at her through the blackness.

In that moment, Dani noticed a dim light in front of her and she began to see the vague outline of the Elves in front of her and they seemed to be moving faster now, eager to reach the door and step into the light. They must feel drawn to the Palace since that is the only place they had ever called home.

The light was blinding all of a sudden and Dani had to close her eyes in order to step through the shattering beams, Caden at her side and then the light was dim again. Dani hesitantly opened her eyes and was relieved to see that they were back in the somewhat familiar walls of the Palace. Dani felt the familiar squeeze of Caden’s hand on her fingers and she smiled to herself before turning to face Caden.

Her face filled with shock and then sheer panic filled her senses as she turned around in the great hall, the shimmering gems reflecting her utter terror.

Caden was gone.

She was alone.

The Elves had vanished.

The silence was utterly deafening.

The Palace walls mocked her in disdain, whispering acusations at her, they thundered in her head, crushing her into the ground, the marble ground cold under her knees and her hair fell over her face.

What had she done?

She had failed.

No.

She would not do this. She would not wallow in pity and disgrace and give up.

She would find Caden.

She would break every door down in the Palace with her bare hands in order to find him.

Then she heard a slight rush of breath inside her head.

The Shadow Voices.

They were awakening once again and she could hear them began to arm themselves with weaponry, bound for battle, determined to lead her.

The Palace remained silent and it began to feel very cold and unfamiliar towards Dani and it began to quiver in certain places. It began to look distorted almost and Dani walked towards the door of the entrance and pulled it open and it flung open, nearly knocking her into the floor.

What saw in front of her rocked her to her core.

Every Elf that she had seen in the Palace was standing in the Hall. Carrying on their daily activities but not. They were still, as if time had frozen them in place and they stood there, faces glazed, eyes unseeing and they were unaware.

It was unsettling beyond belief and she was scared more than anything, the fear, the doubt, it all came crashing upon her, burying her and she was beginning to be dragged under when she broke the chains.

She was strong.

She had ancient Magic running through her veins and she would not let this evil take her down.

Now she could feel fear beginning to turn on itself, and it screamed in anger and was choked down by the light in her soul.

She rushed toward the Elves in the hallway and weaved past them, running for the first door that she could see on her left and she careered right to it and frantically yanked the door handle.

More Elves.

Soundless.

Frozen.

Gone.

Unmoving.

She moved between them all, and even though there eyes were glazed over with an enchantment, she felt they were staring right back at her, watching her.

She didn’t know what to do. She needed to find out.

To listen to the magic boiling up inside of her, it simmered up inside of her.

She could feel a combination of ancient courage, strength and magic well up inside of her and the energy flickered off her body.

Dani watched it in fascination and she felt her soul take possession of the magic that lay deep within side her. The fear inside of her recoiled in horror at her new found power and ran in the other direction and taking the heavy weight of it with her.

She had no idea what to do with the magic inside of her, no way of knowing how to cast it, or what she was meant to do.

It was suddenly in that moment that everything seemed to get even more silent and she heard a whisper in her mind, a hesitant murmur reaching in the fragments of her shattered soul.

“Heal them.”

She heard the soft breath of a million ghosts in her mind and then they faded back into nothingness. The silence returned to the room and Dani had a feeling in her heart. Just a small, quiet nudge but she didn’t know what to do.

She looked more closely at the Elves and she realised something as she continued to stare upon their pale, ethereal faces.

Even though they were arrayed in many different outfits, they all had one commonality between them. It was not something that she expected to notice, because it was very normal. But yet not normal.

Men, women and children, faces of beauty, adorned in many outfits, colours and textures were all wearing something the same.

A black cloak.

Simple enough, slightly shimmering, reflective material with a heavy hood that was back from their faces.

Although it seemed very normal, it had a slightly odd look to it.

As if it was chaining them.

Restricting them.

As if it was a prison cell, with unseen bars of steel holding them down.

Her eyes narrowed as she evaluated the scene and as she examined the robes more closely and looked hard at the material, it seemed to be alive. Not with literal human breath but it seemed to possess…something that was more than just a piece of cloth.

She could see that the blackness of the cloth disguised the darkness of the magic swirling around her.

She didn’t know what the Elf Sorcerors were playing at, but it was far more intense than she could have imagined.

The magic that she was dealing for was not what she had imagined the testing to be like, the training to be like. Dani was beginning to wonder if it was more than just training.

She could see the darkness swirling around the black cloth and she simply stared at, transfixed, almost horrified.

She ran out of the room, her boots pounding relentlessly on the rock solid marble floor and fled once more down the corridors of the Hall, silent unmoving statues of Elvish men and women around her and she weaved in between them frantically as she ran.

She could now see the darkness that veiled over the men and women as she continued to hurtle down the hall way. It seemed to be growing stronger over them, threatening to swallow them alive and Dani gritted her teeth with determination as she flung another door open.

Why fly now? She didn’t have a reason to soar.

This room was empty

Nothing but blank walls.

No nothing, no Elves, no colour, no life.

Dani turned away in disgust and annoyance but she saw something glimmer out of the corner of her eyes.

Only slightly though.

She turned, her curiosity piqued and she stepped towards the blank wall. She could feel a slight tug on her hand but the walls and the room was still empty. She stepped further towards the pull, and reached out a hand to the pale wall that lay in front of her.

She was shocked to feel something cold brush under her fingertips. Her heart leapt in her chest and she tugged on the icy object, but it refused to move.

Frustrated, Dani put forward anther hand and pulled firmly on the object and it moved slightly towards her and she felt a sharp edge under her fingers, grazing her hand slightly.

She took her hands away, only for a moment, even though she couldn’t see what she was grabbing, she had a fairly good idea of what it was and that helped guide her hands.

She moved her hands slightly downwards and she felt something more sturdy under her fingers, rod shaped and she pulled it and it jerked suddenly towards her and then came into her vision.

The most beautiful and intricately made sword her eyes had ever seen.

She grabbed it from where it had clattered onto the ground and examined it with a fateful breath, running her fingers over the smooth edges, the finely carved runes that were inlaid in the crystal thin blade.

She saw the clear stone set in the hilt of the sword and brushed her fingers over it reverently and it seemed to vibrate slightly under touch, ever so slightly that Dani thought that she simply might have imagined it.

All of a sudden she felt an odd sensation at her hip and looked down in astonishment at the sheath that had appeared on the left side of her dress.

She remembered what Amanda had said about the Beckon changing to suit the needs of the wearer and with a smile on her face, she slipped the sword into its rightful place.

With a quick glance behind her at the still blank wall, she ran out of the room, the sword there with her.

She reached a clearing in the Hallway and realised there were no Elves and so she took the time to examine the Elvish runes on the blade, pulling it carefully out of the sheath and holding it reverently before her eyes.

She realised that she had absolutely no idea what the runes said or even what they hinted at. Disappointed, she began to place the sword back into the sheath but not before she saw something flash onto the sword in English. She snatched it up and held it up to her closer, examining it carefully, looking at the perfectly forged edge of the blade and then back at the runes.

Nothing.

Maybe she had imagined it?

She shook her head and then brushed her fingers longingly over the blade, wishing to know its secrets. And that’s when she saw it. The words engraved into the blade for her eyes only.

Perfect light cuts the weave of Darkness.”

Then the words that she had understand flashed a brilliant white and then dimmed back into the Elvish runes. Her brow furrowed in blossoming curiosity and she painstakingly put the sword back into its shield and let herself close her eyes, thinking on the phrase.

Perfect light cuts the weave of Darkness?”

What did that even mean? Evidently light will cast out Darkness, but where does the darkness lie?

She began to walk down the empty halls and her boots were the only sound in the room, pounding out a distorted beat that echoed inside her chest and made her heart wrench.

“the weave of darkness?” What was that meant to be? Evidently something important.

“What is a weave? Hair? Lace?” she thought frantically and she walked faster down the corridors, thinking in a panic and she slid down the marble walls and put her head in her hands, her dark hair wafting over her shoulders and shrouding her face.

She knew she was being ridiculous. I mean, lace? Come on, Dani, lace is a fabric for heavens sake!” she thought at herself harshly and then got her feet and angrily slashed her sword in front of her, carving sparks into the open air and then she sheathed it once more, still enraged at herself.

Then it hit her like a bolt.

Lace is a fabric.

“How is lace made?” she thought deliberately, staring at the hilt of the sword, her eyes practically boring holes into the blade as she thought.

“It’s weaved.” The sudden realisation nearly knocked her over and she whirled back down into the main hall, back to the frozen enchanted Elves. She plundered through the main doors and came to a skidding halt as she drew her sword swiftly out of the sheath and held in before her eyes, staring with intensity at its power that she knew it held.

She walked confidently, yet slowly; somewhat cautiously over to the first Elf that she laid her eyes on.

A beautiful young girl.

She looked to be about 12 and her pale braided hair glinted dully in the sly light that entered through unknown places in the Halls.

Her dress was beautiful, but the colours were draining out of them, the life slowly being sucked out of them, drop by drop.

Dani she must act quickly or they would be lost, forever incarcerated in the Dark ice bonds for eternity.

She could feel something fizzling inside her, a symphony of an uncomposed sonnet that could not be played by an instrument, an energy that soared throughout her body and begged to be let free.

She glanced down at the clear crystal that was inlaid within the hilt of the sword and she tentatively brushed her hand over it and then she felt the static surging under her fingertips, and the crystal and her seemed to almost become one in that moment.

She quickly withdraw her fingers from the stunning crystal and it immediately faded of the light, and the static vanished into the air.

She reached for it again, more determined this time, willing her power and her magic to infuse into the crystal, commanding it to surface out of the very depth of her soul and that was when she gasped as the waves surged over, echoing thunder throughout her mind and the magic charged up her arm, ripping through her hand and collided with the crystal and the static consumed her.

The crystal glowed a blinding white and it travelled up the blade of the sword until the whole sword was bathed in the wondrous light.

A fierce power overtook her and she knew what she had to do.

“Perfect light cuts the weave of Darkness.”

She must cut the Dark Cloak that enslaved all the Elves.

Only then would they be freed from their bonds of the enchantment that enchained the Elves in a frozen world.

With a raging ferocity inside her at what lay before her, she grabbed the cloak of the young girl and watched as the Darkness crept up her arm, swirling evilly around her and rendering her senseless. She could feel herself becoming numb and she gritted her teeth against it. She commanded her magic to move so that she could lift the sword. Her strength waged war against the Evil with a intense determination and with a burst of final energy, she lifted the almighty blade high in the air, the beaming light blinding her and she sliced through the cloak.

Instantly, the cloak dissolved into nothingness and the girl collapsed to the ground.

Dani dropped to her side, terrified at what she had done, but then gave a deep sigh of relief as she could hear the girl breathing slowly and surely, the colour creeping back into her body and her clothes, the red soaked her dress, her cheeks, her lips. Blue painted her eyes once again and the grey palour from her skin began to retreat and disappear.

She got to her feet again relieved and held the still glowing sword by her side and she set off to unslave the rest of the Elves before they were trapped forever.

An eternity later, Dani sank to her knees in exhaustion and then looked up again. It seemed that there were many more than she expected. She still had at least 50 to go and she was utterly spent. What was she to do?

The Dark magic was claiming more and more of them by the minute and she looked at the sword in desperation.

It seemed to have a life of its own now and it emitted peace out into her soul. Dani breathed in deeply and she grasped the hilt to the sword and it seemed to warm under her grasp, infusing her with strength that she did not possess herself.

She began to walk down the Halls again and she finally reached the main room in the Palace. Still at least 50 there, frozen solid in a dark icy imprisonment of the soul, wanting to be set free and she began to work her magic.

At every slash of the cloaks, Elves fell all around her and began to claim back their life, to claim back their souls.

When the last Elf fell to the ground, the dropped to her knees in weak relief. The Elves all breathed steadily around her and she rested heavily on her sword, utterly spent.

Suddenly,Dani heard of breathing that was not of the Elves and she looked up in shock and she frantically leapt to her feet.

Caden.

He was standing there, his arms limp at his sides, tears welling up in his eyes and they rushed towards each other uncontrollably and Caden swept her up in his arms and encased her in a vice like embrace.

She buried her head in his chest and she let her own tears seep out, running down his chain mail vest and she hastily wiped them off, for fear of ruining it.

Caden took her face into her hand and she rested into his touch, relieved that her stars had once again aligned. Her gravity was restored.

Then she began to frantically question him.

“What happened? Where did you go?” she cried into his chest and he embraced her tighter into his arms and calmed her by running his fingers gently over her hair and she gripped him tightly.

“I thought I’d lost you.” She whispered into his chest and she clutched him to herself and her breathing had steadied considerably.

“I’m so sorry, Dani.” Caden whispered into her hair and continued to run his hand comfortingly over her hair and ran down her back as well before coming back up to her hair again.

“One minute I could feel your hand in mine and then in the next moment, you were torn from my arms and I was in blackness. Then it cleared and I could see and I ran over to you, relieved, but then I collided into something that was blocking me from getting to you.

“I could see the panic and the fear in your eyes as you looked around the Palace. I tried to call out to you in your head, but I could feel that the thought didn’t reach you. I approached the barrier and tried to smash it but I only seemed to make it stronger.”

I was frantic with panic and then I realised that there was nothing I could do. You couldn’t hear me and there was no way for me to reach you. And the Elves were nowhere to be seen. I haven’t seen them since we crossed out of the Shadow Portals.”

“I only can hope that they have good intentions in doing what they’ve done. It was absolute torture for those hours you were gone from me.” Dani said, bordering on tears again.

Caden wiped them tenderly away from her face and pulled her into an embrace. They were so utterly exhausted from the events of the day that they stood in each other’s arms silently and did not feel the heavy presence behind them.

Surprisingly, it was Varuy that spoke to them first, instead of Luriel, the leader.

“Dani, I must say, I’m very impressed. We were not expecting that result. You are one of the first to destroy that evil.” He said solemly and then he folded his arms and gazed heavily at Caden and Dani, who were still standing in each other’s arm, Caden’s wings protectively around Dani.

“I don’t think the Elf Prince told you the whole story about our training, did he?” he said seriously and they advanced towards them purposefully.

“No one passes the tests. Therefore on one gets trained.” Luriel spoke with a sober tone and decided to lift the hood of him that concealed his face.

His dark eyes penetrated into the carved out features of the two and they looked back at him, confusion reigning in their expressions.

“Are you saying that we haven’t actually begun the training yet?” Dani said slowly, moving towards Luriel, with Caden’s wings still behind her.

“We designed the tests that they were near impossible to pass. The magic training is so intense and powerful that we needed to have an absolute certainty that we were choosing the right ones to be trained.”

“The Prince of course, knew this but it was hidden from you. It is possible to pass these tests evidently, but the other Elves had always to have outside help to pass the tests and that disqualifies them from participating in the magic training.” Hurol spoke and he too, removed his snow white hood from his head, the dark head of hair creating a sharp contrast and his eyes were almost as dark has his hair, giving him an intense look that made Dani turn her attention to him, as well as Caden’s.

“If the tests were like that, intense and as difficult as they were, what are we to expect from this training?” Caden spoke up, his dominant presence always prominent in the room, but he rarely spoke more than a few sentences around people that weren’t Dani.

The Elves shook their heads indulgently and looked at each other, a slight hint of humour on their faces and then they turned their attention back to Caden and Dani.

“You are exhausted. You’ve spent your energy and discovered a lot of your strength. You need to rest.”

With that final statement, they blinked and they were in their room.

Dani looked around in astonishment and then looked at Caden who gave a shrug and gave a little smile.

“It’s to be expected. And I did not want to walk all that way. And the last thing I wanted to do was flying. I can hardly remember the last time I was so tired.” Caden replied, wrapping his arms around her and Dani let her head rest on his shoulder.

The starbeams and moonlight once again began to shine through their windows, cascading their entrancing light next to them and Dani let out a little quiver at the sight.

Caden began to walk to their massive canopy and Dani clutched his arm. Caden looked back at Dani comfortingly and took her hand.

“Don’t step into the moonlight, Caden. I don’t want to see you disappear again.” Dani whispered, holding his arm closer to her. Understanding cascaded through his eyes and Caden nodded knowingly as he lead her around the moonlit rays. It seemed to reach for them pleadingly and cast it’s light further out to them, but Dani and Caden ignored its whimsical charms and they collapsed on the bed in exhaustion.

They lay there in silence and then Caden spoke, fatigue obvious in in heavy voice and he slipped his arm around Dani and she faced him, waiting for him to speak.

“Dani, I’d continue my story from last night, but I’m so exhausted that I’d probably fall asleep.” He let out with a sigh and then looked at her with question in his eyes.

“What was she thinking?” he wondered silently in his heart and then he saw Dani looking at him with emotion shown strongly in her clear blue eyes and she moved closer to him.

“I love you.” She whispered, tenderness weaving through her tone and she placed a gentle kiss on his lips before curling up next to him.

Caden’s face alighted with a soft smile and then closed his eyes, as Dani did also and they let sleep take them captive in its reassuring arms for the night.

Dani and Caden awoke the next morning when it was still dark, but Dani found that she could melodic voices of the Elves floating through walls of the Palace and clattering of shoes on the marble floors. Dani groggily stretched out her arm and then sat up to see Caden sitting on the end of the bed, looking intensely down at her. Dani couldn’t help but let out a small blush, and she could see Caden smile at her response.

Then again she heard the beautiful voices of the Elvish tongue make their way to her ear and she listened, marvelling and wishing she could understand the symphony of their voices.

She turned to Caden again with curiosity in her eyes.

“Why are the Elves up at this hour? Shouldn’t they be sleeping?” Dani asked, and then throwing over the covers and making her way over to Caden, her bare feet pattering over the carpet and she draped her arms over Caden and rested her head on his shoulder.

He turned around to face her and snickered a little as he placed his hands around her waist and lifted her gently onto the ground, her feet then placed again on the floor and led her over to the door.

The melody of the Elves voices increased and Dani opened the door, almost expecting them to be standing on the other side.

The door slowly swung open and she was surprised to see that they were not standing in the hallway, but they were in the middle of the Palace courtyard, the moonlight shining between the stone columns and sneaking in between the vines hanging from the trees.

Dani looked around in astonishment and then looked behind her to their room, but was surprised to see that their room had disappeared and they were left standing in the middle of a stone courtyard. There were dozens of stone columns and Dani realised after further examination that there were a series of unusually engraved smooth stones inlaid in the ground.

Dani tugged at Caden’s hand and she gestured to the stones on the ground. Caden knelt down to the ground to examine them further and Dani leant down next to him to study the strange engravings on the smooth stones. She brushed her fingers over the strange stones and they fizzle with a strange electricity under them and she snatched her hands back, expecting to see a mark. Surprisingly there was nothing, her pale skin unharmed by the sting of electric energy that seemed to be encased within the granite stones.

Caden and Dani got to their feet and looked around at their surroundings once again and then looked at each other relief evident on Dani’s face.

Caden took Dani’s hands and she put her hands around his neck.

“You look relieved.” Dani said, looking into his face and he traced his finger in the small of her back.

“You’re here. I don’t think I could I handle it if I lost you again.” He replied seriously and pulled her into his chest and just as the moonlight was about to hit Dani, Caden quickly moved her out of the way so that she didn’t disappear under the beams of the light.

They stood, subtly shrouded now in the haze of the stone columns that surrounded them.

Then Dani heard the slightest of obscurest sound in the deep forest that lay around them, the smallest of rustles in the leaves of the woods.

She turned her head toward the sound and it became a little louder. Again her senses became heightened. She heard the distinct rustle of each leaf on the trees, the flutter of the fireflies wings through the darkened forest, the water drops as they slid down the bark of the vines hanging from the canopy of the tangled branches.

And then she heard the clash of a sword being removed ever so quietly from its sheath. Not just any sword. A sword bound with an enchantment of Ancient Magic.

And then she heard the whisper.

Fight with what lays beneath you.”

Dani gripped Caden’s arm and he put his wing around her and looked into her face.

“Caden, there’s something coming.” She whispered, her eyes turning into black pits of fear and she shook herself out of her haze.

“The voices said…to fight with what lays beneath us.”

Caden let his wings splay out, hoping to get them to safety before the Enemy came. Not that he was a coward, but they needed time to think.

As his wings failed to work again, Caden realised that wasn’t going to be an option and he pulled her to her the middle of the stones.

He ran his hands through his hair and knelt down on the ground, staring down at the stones, trying to make sense of the them.

“We don’t even know what they do.” He sighed exasperated and he stood on one of the stones, still thinking, eyes closed and Dani stood next to him shutting her eyes in thought.

All of a sudden, they were not alone.

In front of them, a strange being suddenly appeared and Dani jumped back in astonishment, staring at the creature, who tilted it’s head to the side and looked curiously at the two.

Dani pulled at Caden’s arm as he was still staring down at the stones in thought. He looked up and grabbed Dani’s arm protectively.

It was human in structure but had some startling differences, with an oddly sloped head, ears that were like foxes and protruded out of it’s head horizontally, with blue, almost white glowing skin, unususaully long arms with what looked like twigs on the end of it’s hand.

It was peculiar looking, to be sure, but it certainly was not ugly. The ears gave it a certain charm and the swimming golden eyes gave it emotion that displayed curiosity at the situation.

Then Dani heard their Enemy once again, thundering through the trees, shaking the earth under its heavy feet and it sprang suddenly out of the forest and looked menacingly at Dani, and swung the sword threatingly in front of its face, and she saw that its hands let of an ominous blue glow that tainted black blade, it was a reflective material as though it had been dipped in ink and then had never dried. Chains and shackles draped over it as to capture unsuspecting creatures and to steal away their souls. Dani shivered as she had a feeling that the shackles were meant for Caden and her.

Its torn black cloak covered its face and Dani could see now as it advanced toward them that it floated above the ground, possessing no legs or feet, rather only the torso.

It shocked Dani utterly and she took a step back. Then the white creature that they had summoned suddenly reacted. It moved with lighting speed to stand in front of Dani and Caden. She saw its eyes turn a pitch black and a white misty haze sprung from its branch fingers and moved through the air, careering towards the black menace that was before them.

The white mist reached the cloaked figure and it wrapped threatingly around it, winding around them and consuming it.

But the figure was not so easily outsmarted and slashed viciously through the white; it turned to ash under the blade’s edge and fell the ground in desolation.

The glowing white creature paced in front of Dani and Caden and curled his branch like fingers menacingly and the figure moved swiftly towards them, sword slashing through the air.

The creature reached out its hand to bring forth the white haze again, but all of a sudden it vanished in a bright explosion of light and then Dani and Caden were left staring into the blackness of the figure and Dani knew it possessed no soul.

Caden faced Dani frantically and she stepped onto another stone, and she urged Caden to do the same.

“Quick, get on another stone. We have to get it back! We can’t fight this on our own.”

The figure moved menacingly towards them and Dani panicked and crossed the courtyard and jumped on a stone, Caden hurtled through the air and landed on another one.

Still nothing.

The figure moved closer towards them and gripped its chains in its glowing blue hands and swung the sword through the air.

It nearly cut through Dani’s cloak and she could see her reflection in the inky blackness of the blade, but her face seemed darkly distorted and she flung herself onto another stone as Caden stared at the scene, horror evident in his pale features, but he did not move for they must summon the being to fight for them before it was too late.

Dani just avoided the figures sword and he angrily cut through the air in anger and hurtled towards them once again. Dani’s foot hit the stone, her eyes shutting, preparing for impact and then it happened.

A blazing creature appeared before the dark shrouded figure and sent out flying sparks, fire spraying onto its black blade and singing the edge of the black figures cloak and he gripped his arm, letting out a horrific sound of pain, rasping death echoing out of its hood and it fell back, fuming, clutching the sword like a lifeline and the blazing fire creature moved swiftly towards him and shot out flames toward the figure with his hands.

The fire engulfed the black figure and it frantically slashed its sword through the air and cut through the flames. They jerked back as if wounded and Dani could almost feel its smug satisfaction as the creature hunched over in pain. Dani was about to rush over to it, but it suddenly vanished in thousands of flames, leaving sparks in the air as it went and they felt to the ground and disappeared into the stone, letting off one last gleam of light before fading away completely.

Dani looked up again in horror but was relieved to see that the figure had retreated to the other side of the courtyard hunched over the sword in pain and oddly, Dani felt strangely sorry for it.

She walked tentatively over to the creature and she saw that it was shaking.

Caden pulled Dani’s arm and looked at her in alarm.

She sent out a thought quickly to him, to tell him. She hoped that he would see as well.

“I think we’ve misjudged him.” The thought implanted into Caden’s head and he looked at her shocked.

“Are you sure Dani? It could be a trick.”

She shook her head knowingly and Caden hesitantly approached the figure who was still hunched over the sword, shaking in pain.

And something else.

Dani was further urged on when she stepped toward the dark figure and it didn’t attack, still Caden stood in front of her protectively and she still stepped closer.

She expected the figure to be ice cold, but she found that he was warm. He was still tinged with cold, as though he was thawing and Dani pulled back it’s hood and Caden placed a hand in her other, prepared to pull her back at any moment.

She was shocked to have the hood pulled back and reveal the face of a child. A small boy, not more than 8 years old. His face turned towards her and his eyes were tinged with blackness, but were slowly being overtaken with blue and he looked into her and said something that made Dani’s blood run cold.

“Your attack released me.” The boy in the cloak stood up, his hands glowing and threw down his inky blade, pulled the chains off himself and held them out to Dani and Caden, bowing his head to them.

Dani was too stunned to respond and she looked at Caden, so many questions swirling in her eyes and she turned to face the child again.

“The real Master sent me to defeat you. I was under his power as long as you did not attack. No one has ever attacked before, at least not the way they were meant to.”

He was still holding out the chains and he held them out towards her.

“Now that you have released me from the Evil, it is your duty to take the chains from you, as they resemble my slavery to the Darkness.” He said fervently, holding out the heavy metal links to her and she took them hesitantly.

They crumbled in her hands, turned to ashes the very second she touched them and she heard an unearthly shriek that caused her to flinch slightly and Caden squeezed her hand in reassurance.

“He will be here soon. You must still summon your creatures, but now I can fight with you.” He said with a vigour and he threw off his cloak and picked up the sword that was next to him. The inkiness of the blade had disappeared and instead it was a reflective white that shone out through the night.

He looked at them with determination and then held out the sword toward them, his reflective blade piercing the cold night air. He kneeled before them and Dani looked on in confusion.

He looked up at them, a warrior spirit in his eyes.

“You must dub me a Servant of the Light in order for me to be able to fight the Darkness.”

Dani knew deep inside her that she was not the one for the job. She took the sword from the boy carefully, handed it to Caden and nodded meaningfully at him.

Caden looked at her hesitantly, his wings spanning out slowly and she urged him with conviction in her eyes. He took a deep breath, gathering courage, taking in power and he moved toward the young boy with the sword and raised it above the young boy’s head.

“You have been released from the bonds of Evil, and now I, a half blood Phoenix, dub you Servant of Light and Warrior of Magic.” The words burst forth out of Caden’s mouth and he slammed to sword down into the stones, splitting them in half. Stone shards flew everywhere and the sound thundered into the night sky, energy surged from within the sword and entered the young boy.

He jolted, clutching at his chest and embraced suddenly in a piercing white light that shone up into the night and cast the trees with ethereal beams.

Dani couldn’t bear to hide herself from the pure light and so she stared into it, the light flashed into her eyes and penetrated to the very depths down to her fragmented soul.

Caden still stood with the sword in his hand with a fierce look in his eyes and his wings unfurled into the night sky around Dani.

The light finally began to fade and Dani could see the faint outline of the boy kneeling on the ground. The tattered cloak had disappeared off his frame and was replaced by a white cloak that seemed to glint with the light of the blade.

Dani could feel something terrible rising up in the forest and felt it crawling evilly through the forest, slithering in the dark shadows and Dani gripped her own sword, and the child moved in front of them, going to face the creature.

He turned back to them, his sword in his pale hand, gripping it fervently and looked at them with a defiant look in his face.

“We will conquer this Darkness. It has become more real than just a test.” He nodded meaningfully at them and then moved towards the dark forest, his feet crackling the leaves ominously, moving swiftly through the grass and kneeling down into a lethal position, ready to attack at any moment.

Dani and Caden gazed at each other with determination in their eyes and they moved at the same time to different stones, moving as if they were dancing, a synchronised motion as they whirled over the ground.

They tried many stones, hurtling over the ground, in haste and they became more frantic as no creatures were summoned. Each time Dani and Caden stepped on a stone, they looked into each other’s eyes, waiting and then nothing. Dani could feel the rising, surfacing panic as the Evil thundered relentlessly through the Forest and came closer and closer to the courtyard where the True Battle would take place.

Dani was in despair. The Evil One was drawing near and still nothing. They were exhausted and Dani fell to her knees, drained of all energy.

Of all hope.

How could they hope to do this?

Then she heard the quiet breath of a voice in her head.

A single ghost of a Shadow.

Move together. Obstruct your view. That is the only way.”

The voice vanished, echoing off the halls in her mind.

She lifted her head and lifted her knees up again, raising herself up and she saw a hand in front of her face. A strong hand, still nervous for the future and for the battle, but he reached for courage that lay in his and brought it forth.

Dani looked up into his face and gripped his hand, and he pulled her up towards him, and she rose up for a moment, then collapsed on the ground. Tiredness overcame them and they fell into the centre of the stones, eyes shut in exhaustion.

And then suddenly it made sense.

Obstruct your vision.

She and Caden were both blind in this exact instance, their view dark; their eyes shut in exhaustion.

In that instant, raging thunderbolts enveloped them and the y looked up into the sky in shock, disbelieving at their final success.

A strange being appeared before them. It creature was powerful, almighty and fierce; but there was something about it that made Dani’s toes curl in her shoes and lean back from it. Something about it just seemed…off.

Not that it was evil or a dark being, but something about it seemed very…lethal. It exuded no emotion and it seemed to have only one thought on its mind.

Destroy.

The odd aura of the creature fit the physical appearance of it as well.

It looked innocent, but yet somehow pure destruction for evil radiated off it and gave it a fierce appearance, but yet still somehow looking pure.

He moved towards the young child and nodded at it, forming an allegiance together and walking together toward the Evil One that had come hurtling out of the forest and roared in anger.

It stormed out of the trees and loomed over them, menacingly, but Dani would not be overcome and she gripped the sword and stood firm, Caden at her side and he drew out his wings, spanning them out completely to their full length and the boy and the creature stood together with them.

The Evil One moved toward the stone court yard and stood threatingly in front the humans and the creature and the trained killer now turned knight.

The Evil one rampaged towards them and leaned down intimidatingly over them.

“How could you break the enchantment? I don’t know where you got your magic from, but it will be mine in the end!” he bellowed, darkness spewing forth from his throat and he held up vicious weaponry that did not match the graceful look of the boy’s blade.

The instrument of destruction flung through the air, with vicious looking spikes protruding out from the sphere that swung on the heavy link chain, flinging through air and the boys blade cut at the link chain, the Evil one fell off balance and staggered over the stones, giving the other creature enough time to attack with forceful, electrifying magic, destroying its Evil and casting it back to where it belonged.

The energy poured from the creature’s fingers and the boy swung the sword the air with incredible speed, the blade slashing the air, making a battle cry against the darkness and the magic hurtled through the air toward the beast, winding around him, seeping into his black soul and twisting his very being.

The Evil One lunged towards the boy and the creature, intending to finish them, the sphere of spikes careening through the air towards them and Dani retched in horror.

All of a sudden, the boy ran forth with astonishing speed, darting with lighting feet over the stone and leapt on the Evil One’s back and swung his sword at him. The Evil One lurched back, trying unsuccessfully to find his attacker, and he swung his weapon blindly through the air, it moving so fast that it blurred in front of her eyes.

Dani was desperate. She wished that she could do something, anything; but her magic was useless it. She slumped over in despair and felt as though there was no way out.

“Dani!” she heard a loud shout and she looked up startled, her dark hair flung aimlessly around her face and she looked around her. The creature that was fighting alongside the boy was beginning to fade, it began to become transulucent and Dani watched in despair as it took on the likeness of a ghost.

Her hope nearly died nearly within her and she looked around desperately around for Caden, knowing that she must protect him before anything else. Courage and strength suddenly flooded as she thought of this and she could feel the slight spark of electricity under her skin, the sudden flow of magic that erupted within and she stood to her feet.

The creature in front of her began to take back a 3D form and become more solid, the transparency reversed and it became fully real again.

Dani stood, confused and then whirled around looking for Caden, she saw him then suddenly standing behind the boy, almost as if to be there to protect him.

Dani wanted to smile, but she feared for all their lives. Caden’s especially.

She didn’t understand why the creature had begun to fade and then had suddenly came back again. She wish she knew.

But she did know one thing. Even if she couldn’t use her magic directly, perhaps she could use it indirectly.

Her head snapped up instantly in realisation.

That was it!

Her magic was what made the creature, what made the creature strong.

She must make her magic stronger in order to give the creature strength to go on and defeat the Evil One.

She must tell Caden. He needed to know too.

She moved quickly across the courtyard, a lull in the battle, as the boy’s blade had given the evil one a wound and the magic of the strange creature had taken him off guard.

“Caden!” she yelled in her mind, she didn’t want to attract attention to the scene for the fear that the Evil one would rise up again.

Caden snapped his head toward her and responded just as quickly.

“Dani. What are we going to do? They will soon tire and we…can do nothing.”

Caden still had determination in his voice though. They would not lose. Not while he was still breathing.

“Caden.” She responded in her mind.

“Our own magic strengthens them. They cannot fight if our magic is weak within us.” Dani urged him in her mind, and she finally stood next to him, gripping her Elven blade and the boy moved back toward them, holding his own sword, ready to attack once again.

The Evil One had finally managed to recover, and despite the creatures constant magic attacks, the Evil One remained undefeated.

He roared again and the ground shook in the thunder of his voice, but Dani steeled herself with grit and shoved down the fear that began to choke her, she allowed her pure magic to flow freely though her veins without restriction and it began to slowly over take her.

Caden could feel the magic permeating off Dani and it began to infuse into his own veins, awakening his own magic from his frightened retreat and it began to bubble to the surface and flow once more.

They could feel it flowing through them, it began to seep out into the night air; the creature and the boy turned to them and they smiled a slow smile at them and the Evil One began to move with thundering steps toward them.

They were not fearful this time.

They moved to stand together, Dani moved towards Caden and his spanned out wings, the boy next to Dani and the creature looked menacingly at the Evil One, standing to the left of Caden. It sneered at the Evil One, its lip curling in utter disgust as it reached out its hands towards it, preparing to strike.

The Evil One towered over them and then leant in intimidatingly towards Dani’s face. She could feel its foul, sickening breath on her face and it made her eyes water, and clench her face up in disgust, but she forced herself to face the monster before them.

She stared the beast right in its dark, pure black eyes and kept a straight face as she felt Caden’s hand tighten around her own.

He didn’t like this anymore than she did, and Dani could practically feel fumes igniting off him.

He leant towards her and sneered in her and then spoke in his evil, rasping voice.

“Do you really think you can defeat me?”

Dani raised her head with fire in her eyes and looked at the Evil with venom in her eyes.

“Try me.” She raised her head defiantly and remained calm as she noticed the creature and the boy had crept up behind him preparing to strike and she gave the most fleeting glance that she could at Caden, his eyes met hers for an instant and he gave her the smallest of nods.

Now was the time that they must make their magic stronger than ever.

In that instant, the boy leapt up with incredible might and thrust the blade into the back of the Evil one, and the creature seized his chance, his energy; his strength fuelled by the power of Dani and Caden’s magic and the creatures hand reached forth to the Evil one, his magic winding round the Evil One’s arms and legs and then forming chains, holding in in place.

With one last final attempt, the Evil One flung his sphere of spikes over his head, whirling it blindly in the air, and just as the boy jumped down away from the magic of the creature that was hurtling towards the One and binding him; the spikes from the sphere made contact with the back of head.

Dani watched in horror as the boys eyes widened and then lurched forward in pain, his innocent face crumpling in agony and she rushed over to him, Caden at her heels, and the boy fell forward, his body crashing into the stone ground and laying deathly still.

The creature had subdued the Evil One and he was writing his fury against the magical chains that bound him. Every time that he yelled, the chains seared him with a burning hot pain, glowing red and the One howled in pure pain.

Dani’s face hardened and she flashed across the courtyard, coming face to face to the beast that had cursed the innocent boy to the ground and she fumed, and she could feel her magic boiling up in her veins, threatening to overflow her soul and she could feel it rushing out of her and around her.

The creature that bound the Evil One was encouraged by this and it looked at Dani eagerly, asking for permission. She gave it one last final glare before nodding at the creature.

“Finish him.” She said venomously, and her hand shook as she gripped the hilt of her blade and she felt Caden next to her. She turned to him, trembling slightly as she dropped her sword and wrapped her arms around him, burying her head in his chest as she sought comfort with him.

Surprisingly, she heard nothing of the destruction of the Evil One, the creature made it lethal, but silent and when she turned around the Evil One was gone.

The creature faced back towards them, nodded solemly, before taking retreating into the middle of the stone courtyard. The creature looked up into the night sky and seemed to smile. In that instant, rays of moonlight hit it and with one last look at Dani and Caden, it disappeared into the night.

Dani wondered if they would see it again.

Dani heard a low moan of pain coming from the side of the courtyard and she ran towards the boy. Horrified, she saw that the back of his head was covered in blood and she immediately began to tear at her dress only to realised that it was made out of some kind of soft cotton, and she remembered the Adorning.

“Of course,” she murmured to herself and she tore at the hem of her dress and a clean, straight strip of material ripped clean off and then she fell to her knees in order to save the boy, and he began to cough, and he winced and clutched at his chest. Caden sat behind him and the boy leant back, exhausted onto Caden’s wings and his eyes began to droop closed.

Dani panicked, her heart racing and Caden looked at her with determination in his eyes.

“You can do this.” He mentally whispered to her and she tried to calm her shaking hands and think.

“How could she heal him? She only had elemental powers and she still know the full capacity of them. If she could summon some water to at least clean his wound, that would be something. She hadn’t created elements out of thin air and she was a little nervous. But she would save him.

She couldn’t just let him die.

She stroked her hair through the boys hair comfortingly and he whimpered sofltly and curled more into Caden’s wings, and she hoped he found comfort in them.

She let her magic take hold of her again and let it slowly come to the surface. To harness her elemental magic…she must think!

She concentrated on her hands and she saw the magic bubbling up underneath her skin and it paused to listen to the desire of the soul. Could she do it? All of a sudden she felt something wet on her fingertips. It seemed to be coming from above her and she looked up confused, and Caden mirrored her actions, and they stared up in shock.

Water above them.

Not just manifested from inside her, but from the very outside as well. Dani had no idea that how she had done it, but that was not important right now. She must clean his wound before it was too late. It was falling thick and fast and it collected profusely in her hands. Cupping the water in her palms, she gestured to Caden that he should move the boys wavy brown hair so that she could get to the wound on his head.

She let the water trickle over his head and she took the cotton and pressed lightly to his head and she felt him give out a little wince. She grimaced herself as she saw the open gash over his head and she began to tie the bandage over his head, slowly, so as not to hurt the boy.

He whimpered a little more and clutched at Caden’s wing, his brown, soft hair falling over his fair face and Dani could hardly believe that this little one had been the one to wield a sword of such power, to take on the Evil One.

She carefully knotted the bandage but she couldn’t do anything more. How she wished more than anything that she had powers of healing than of elements.

She paused all of a sudden and looked up at Caden, who was stroking the boys hair and he had relaxed into a slumber, curling himself up to Dani and they were left in amongst the stone columns of the court yard, alone in the shadows of the moonlight.

“Caden. Will he go when we leave this place? This only for our training after all.” She whispered almost tearfully and her hair covered her face as she leaned over the boy, stroking his tender, pale face and hoping against hope that he would recover.

She was shocked to hear a dim murmer from the mouth of the boy and she leaned in further to listen, Caden intent on his voice as well.

“This is more than just a test.” He whispered, before his eyes shut completely and deep breaths made their way throughout his body.

Dani looked up at Caden, confused and she moved next to Caden to watch over the boy.

“What do you think he means, Caden?” she asked softly, one hand on Caden’s, glad to feel his touch again after the exhausting battle, and one hand on the boys head.

Dani realised that she didn’t even know his name and she leaned her chest into Caden’s, sighing a breath of relief as the night was now quiet and the sky sung to them of their victory.

“I think we’ll find out eventually.” He said back, just as quietly, and he leaned his head on Dani and they watched over the sleeping boy laying before them and Dani could feel her eyes slowly drooping shut.

Now it was black.

Light dug under Dani’s eyelids and she covered them with her hand and then stilled for a moment as she felt something soft under fingers.

She snapped her eyes open and sighed in relief, but also widened her eyes in astonishment.

They were back in their room and she looked over in astonished relief.

Had they dreamt the whole thing?

Surely not.

Suddenly she drew in her breath sharply and flung herself out of bed.

Was the boy gone too?

Then she saw him.

Sleeping peacefully on the chair across the room, the bandage still tied around his head; his face, pure and innocent, sunlight caressing his face gently and Dani smiled in relief.

She turned around to find Caden sitting up in the bed, looking at her with a smile on his face and she couldn’t help but return the gesture and then making his way over to him, and then nestling next to him as they watched the boy sleep in the chair, he occasionally moved and his hair fell gently across his face, his brown waves glinted in the sutble morning light.

“I don’t think that was a dream.” Dani said, looking up at Caden and his own hair fell across his face. He put an arm around her and then looked down at her again

“I don’t think it was either.” He replied and mussed her hair lightly and she gave a slight giggle. He gestured to the boy lying on the couch.

“There’s the proof.” He said softly, and he placed a gentle kiss on her forehead. A slow smile spread across her face and she returned the gesture to his lips.

Then they heard somebody in front of them and Dani quickly turned to face them, hoping it wasn’t one of the Elves.

She heard Caden’s husky voice in her head.

“So what if the Elves see? Let them watch.” His breath was over her ears and even though she couldn’t hear his voice externally, she could definitely hear it internally.

She blushed profusely and then responded.

“Caden!” she said, shocked at his audacity, but secretly a little pleased at his public display. She kind of liked it.

The boy with the wavy brown hair stood in front of them, a little groggy and rubbed his eyes. Dani smiled affectionately and then gestured for him to come over to them.

“Let me see your bandage. I want to see your wound.” She said, reaching for him but he shook his head and sat down in the middle of the comfortable bed.

“You don’t need to worry about it. Trust me.” He yawned once again and then looked around at the beautiful room that Dani and Caden occupied.

Dani did not agree. She crawled over to him and he ducked out of the way, giggling. Dani was not amused.

“Let me see!” she demanded, as he bounced off the bed and into the centre of the room. Dani wasn’t really mad, it was more adorable than anything, but she was determined to make sure his head was alright.

She bounded across the room, and Caden flopped across the bed, laughing and his wings spanned out over the bed and she turned to playfully glare at him.

“You should be assisting me, not laughing in hysterics!” she teased and then went back to chasing the boy, and he darted among the doors in the room, giggling at Dani’s futile attempts to catch him.

Finally she seized him around the waist and he sqealed, pulling at her hands.

“Fine! I’ll show you! But there’s nothing to see.” He said, gradually stopping his struggling and turning round in Dani’s arms to face her.

She lead him back to the bed and he sat down and the edge of the bed, rolling his eyes and smiling a little.

“You might be a bit surprised.” He said, folding his arm and then sitting silently while Dani carefully unwrapped his bandage.

She looked at him with an unconvinced look on her face.

“I’m sure I will be. I think you might be making too light of it.” She said, continuing to undo his bandage and then discarding it on the bed.

Then she looked at his head in shock. Where there had been a gashing wound the night before, and blood everywhere, now there was only the faintest of a pink line where it had been.

Dani tried to conceal her shock, but the boy could see her initial shock and he snickered a little behind his hand. Caden by this point was intrigued and he came over to examine the boys head.

He did a better job of concealing his shock from the boy and he just managed to mask the look of astonishment from his face. Dani took a step back in amazement and then sat next to the boy.

“I don’t understand. How did you do that?” she nearly stammered out.

The boy scratched his head and then lay back on the end of the bed and stared at the ceiling.

Then he quickly righted himself and stared back at Dani and then shook himself out of the haze.

“I don’t rightly know myself.” He replied thoughtfully and scratched his head, his brown hair going everywhere.

“I don’t mean to do it. It sort of just…happens. Since I was younger, I’d notice that my scratches were healing faster and my – “he cut off abruptly and then stood up.

“What is this place?” he started again, pretending like he hadn’t cut off his sentence. Dani wondered what he was hiding.

“You don’t know?” Dani asked curiously walking toward him with Caden.

He shook his head.

“I’ve never been outside the Forest and the Courtyard.” He said honestly and then gave a little shiver, remembering something dark.

Dani could tell was a sensitive subject for him and she didn’t want to pry, but she was curious. She shook her head and determined to focus of whatever it was that was going to come their way next.

“I know more than you think. The Elves will be looking for you, I think. They want to see you.” The boy said and made his way to the door and Dani ran toward the handle.

“Careful.” She warned him gently and he nodded at her.

She stepped back with Caden, standing slightly behind the boy as they looked out with him to pull him back if anything should seize him.

“I think that we’re safe. It looks as it should.” He turned around and gestured to Dani and Caden that they should come through the door.

Dani hesitantly stepped outside the door and sighed with relief. No more evil.

Only the mysterious beautiful walls of the palace awaited them and Dani shut the door carefully behind her as Caden stood with the boy.

“We must go to the Main Hall. They’re most likely waiting for us there. At least I hope. The Elves have a tendancy to be somewhat unprediacatble. Last night was evidence for that.” He said and they all travelled down the hall.

They finally arrived to the doors of the Main Hall and Dani moved to open them. The boy gripped Dani’s arm tightly and she looked at him reassuringly. He looked very frightened, and Dani couldn’t imagine why.

“What bothering you? You don’t need to be scared.” Caden leant in to comfort the boy and the boy looked at them with fear in his face.

“I don’t think I was meant to come out.” He said whispering, but then reluctantly stood back next to them and Caden put a wing around the boy. They pushed open the heavy doors to the entrance and four robed figures stood in the centrue of the marble lined floors, watching them intently.

Their hoods were off and Dani could see their calm swimming eyes from within their faces. Dani took a deep breath as they approached the Elves.

She could only hope the boy was being paranoid.

“Dani. Caden.” They nodded at them and then they looked to the boy. Luckily, she noticed that they seemed slightly pleased, a little amused almost.

“Reel.”

They bowed there head to the boy and quivering a little, the boy bowed his own head respectfully to them and then quickly retreated back into the comforting presence of Dani and Caden.

“You have done well. You passed two tests successfully within a space of a day. For that we congrautle you. For completling your pre-training.”

Dani stiffened a little slightly and Dani could see that Caden’s eyes widened slightly as he heard the Elves speak.

“Pre – training?” Dani stammered in her mind, in awe.

“He means that we haven’t even started the real training?”

Dani said this in her mind, but of course Caden heard her thoughts.

“That must be it.” Caden sounded shocked, even in her head and she began to calm the fear and the worry that rose up inside her.

She managed to keep a straight face as the Elves spoke slowly and carefully to them and they began to venture to a part of the castle that Dani had never been before.

Caden moved closer to Dani as he put a comforting wing around Reel. He seemed to quiver silently at everything around him, as though he was expecting something that Dani and Caden couldn’t see. Dani could see the dark fear that choked up in his eyes all of a sudden as Dani looked right at him. He quickly looked away from Dani and hoped that she had not seen what lay beneath his eyes. What he truly feared.

Dani knew that was something wrong the second that she looked into Reel’s eyes and she looked back at him, hoping that she could find out what she knew that he was not telling him.

She looked back at Caden, who of course had noticed the whole thing and she saw many emotions in eyes as she looked into them.

Worry. And something else.

Suspicion.

Caden knew that Reel was not telling them something.

Dani knew it too and while she knew that there was no true evil in Reel, she could feel that there was something more to him. Something that it seemed Reel was almost protecting them from.

She shook her head slightly at Caden and he tilted his head at her, waiting for an answer.

She gave him a thought out of her frantic mind.

“Of course he will not tell us. He does not trust us enough. Fear is all he has known. Lies are all he sees. Betrayal is all he has ever felt. He will tell us when he is ready.”

Caden’s eyes closed and he nodded.

“I hadn’t though that far through it, Dani. But of course you did.” He smiled slightly and looked up at her and she couldn’t help but love Caden even more. She squeezed his hand and then put an arm around Reel. He rested into Dani and looked up at her, grateful and out of his trance, back to the real world.

Dani only hoped they could keep him there.

Dani snapped out of their tight little bubble and noticed that they were down in what seemed to be dimly lit, closed in stone corridors, much like the ones on the ones to the Adorning Chambers, only much, much smaller. Instead of the familiar orange flicker of the fire, the flames of the torches in the stone tunnel flickered silver, sending off small sparks from the hypnotising flames as they walked. They could see the Elves up ahead, and she could hear them murmuring to themselves. Dani strained to hear what was being said, but it seemed the harder she tried to distinguish their voices, the more muffled they became. Of course, they had been speaking in their Elven tongue, but Dani could have sworn that she heard a word from the English language.

Dani felt a sudden draft of cold air in front of them, and clutched Reel’s hand comfortingly, and Dani saw that Caden felt the chill of the breeze too, and he looked over at her with concern in his eyes, moving closer to Dani.

It vanished as quickly as it had coming, the fire bringing back it’s warmth into the dimly lit tunnel and Dani couldn’t help but wonder about it.

She decided to put it out of her mind.

For now at least.

She felt a sudden tug at her hand and she looked down at Reel and she saw his face fill with anxiety.

Almost like he was expecting something.

He knew what was to come, but Dani knew that they must face their first training test with a fierce boldness that could not be contained. After all, if they could not handle simple training, there was not a chance that they could face whatever they may come up against in the future. She shuddered slightly at the thought, blackness settling in at the outskirts of her vision, but she quickly brushed it away.

They had reached the end of the tunnel and Dani was surprised to see…plants before their eyes?

She didn’t know quite what to make of it.

She knelt down in front of Reel and he looked up at Caden anxiously, then back to Dani, before hiding his fear in a constrained mask of his own making.

Even though his face was now calm, she knew he was hiding more fear than any boy should have to. She looked at him firmly, but yet with tenderness.

She felt somehow that he was a part of her. And Caden.

They had rescued him, after all. But this was something different.

Dani shook her head. She musn’t let her thoughts carry her away.

“Reel. You know what we must do, don’t you?” she said quietly, then placing her hands on his shoulders.

He looked at her briefly for a moment, then folded his lips into a line and nodded, and Dani noticed that she clutched Caden’s hand until it was almost white.

She glanced up at Caden momentarily, and saw that his face held a softness to it as he looked down at Reel and then back to Dani. She could see the concern in his eyes for Reel and also a bright fierceness in his eyes that encouraged her to continue on.

She looked back at Reel and took his other hand and lifted it to her face, pressing it against her cheek. Tears pooled in Reel’s eyes, and then just as quickly they disappeared.

“Reel, promise me that – “ she started but then Reel squeezed Dani’s hand and placed it in Caden’s. Dani felt the strength in his hand immediately and Caden rubbed his fingers gently over her palm, and a small smile came to her face.

“I’ll stay here. And don’t be scared. I know Caden will protect you. And you’ll protect him.” He said solemnly and then in an unexpected movement, seized both Dani and Caden in a fierce embrace. His face was slightly red when he pulled away, and Dani felt a little wrench in her heart.

Caden felt it too, and he drew Dani into his chest.

He felt very weak all of a sudden, and Dani noticed the sudden lapse in energy and quickly put her hand to his chest, hoping to strengthen him.

He felt Dani’s hand on his chest and immediately felt better, calmer and he looked down at Reel.

“Don’t forget Reel – we’re coming back.” He looked the him in his swimming brown eyes and Reel smiled slightly despite the fear.

“I know you will.” And with that, the tunnel turned black and Reel vanished, along with the Elves.

Dani took Caden’s hand and gave him one final look before opening the door and being swallowed in a whirlwind of darkness.

All of a sudden they were tumbling and she no longer felt Caden’s hand in hers. She panicked, looking blindly around and then feeling a tangible presence next her.

He was here. She felt the comfort of his presence immediately.

She tried to think, to send him a thought, to let him know that she was here too.

She cast her thought out to him, but she could feel something blocking Caden’s response. Not blocking actually, more like holding the thought back from her. She could feel the energy trying to break through her mind to her, but she couldn’t quite understand the words.

Then she felt a sudden jolt. Lightning split through her body and thunder shuddered through her veins and then all of a sudden she was emerging out into a forest.

It looked somewhat familiar.

Where they in the Elf Forest?

No, that wasn’t right.

But yet, it seemed as if she had seen it before.

She felt a hand on her shoulder, and she slid her fingers into Caden’s palm as she recognised his scent, floating seductively through the air into her very being and she breathed a sigh of relief as she pulled him close, his wings curling around her and she was lost in him.

She didn’t know what she would do if he was taken from her again.

She shivered inwardly and clutched him further into her, as if by holding him tight she could bind herself to him.

Then she felt his hand under chin and he lifted it gently upwards to stare down into her intense eyes and he could feel her promising to never let go.

She gazed into his eyes and she was helplessly trapped in his gaze, enslaved to his heart wrenchingly beautiful eyes.

Dani couldn’t break free.

“I’m not going anywhere. I won’t let them take me this time.” He spoke with quiet fierceness in his breath and then drew her close once more.

After a moment, Caden reluctantly released her from his embrace and looked around them.

She saw a hint of confused recognition in his eyes and he looked back and was about to speak, but Dani beat him to it.

“You recognise it too?” she asked, taking in the expansive landscape before them, the towering plant, the flowers that seemed to have hidden cities in them, the logs that seemed intricately wound amongst each like chain links.

He took her hand and looked around in marvel and Dani could see more recognition on his face.

He looked down at ground that had flowers clustered around their feet, petals clustered around each other in a spiral shape and grass like strands reached upwards and swayed with a will of their own.

“I know I’ve seen this place, but it’s more than that.” He turned to her, eyes changing colour before her. They couldn’t seem to decide a colour to pick and so Dani was entrance in a storm of colour in his eyes before she answered him.

She brushed his hair and traced a finger across his cheek before answering.

“Tell me.” She replied, focused, intensed.

He looked up at the towering plants and then quickly back down at the spiralling plants at their feet.

“I feel like I’ve been here before.” He said to the open air and then looking fervently into her eyes.

Of course she believed him.

He was wise beyond belief.

She could see the confusion in his eyes and he looked down at his hands silently. He knew he’d been rejected this time. He turned to leave Dani before she ran herself but she tilted his chin towards her this time.

“I don’t recall saying you could leave. Did you think I wouldn’t believe you?” she gazed at him, her dark hair falling forward over her shoulders.

He let out a small smile before returning her gaze.

“It’s not every-day someone tells you they’ve been to places that don’t exist.” He shook his head and Dani placed her hands on his shoulders and gazed steely into his eyes.

“Of course not. That wouldn’t make sense to them. But what do you mean, this place doesn’t exist? It definitely looks like it exists.” She knelt down and brushed her fingers lightly over the spiralling flowers underneath her and it sent a rush of warmth down her spine.

“I could be wrong though.” Dani spoke softly and then looked back at him.

“Tell me what you’re thinking.” She said as she stood back up.

He ran his fingers through his hair and then did the same with Dani’s hair and then encircled his arm around her waist.

“See, the thing is, when Elves engage in magical training, they create places that don’t exist. They bring into existence things that don’t exist in our Realm. “ he paused for a moment, but Dani could tell he was finding the words to say.

“The idea behind this is that it throws us in completely unprepared because we have never encountered anything like this before, so when we get back to Askara, we will be prepared. “ he finished then and glanced back at Dani before staring back down at their hands for a moment.

“So it doesn’t make any sense that I feel as if I’ve been here, if this place doesn’t exist.

Dani tilted her head to the side, her long hair falling over her shoulders in cascades.

“Maybe you have been.” She replied and he looked at her confused, then shaking his head.

“I have a feeling I’ll find out eventually. But, for now, we should prepare for…well…something.” He said, turning around and casting his eyes upwards and Dani could see he had narrowed his eyes in concentration, as if he was listening to something hidden.

He crossed his arms in annoyance after a minute and sighed and Dani tried to listen as well.

Nothing.

“What should we be looking for? Maybe there’s something we need to find.” Dani suggested as she knelt down to the ground, running her hands through the flowers, reaching for something foreign hidden among them. She heard Caden kneel down next to her, his eyes scanning through the flowers and then a glint of surprise in his eyes as he leant over one of the flowers.

Dani moved over to Caden and looked where he was staring.

She looked at the object on the ground, confusion alighting in her eyes as they both reached for it.

It looked like a small metal object, smooth and flat, almost transparent, but with a slight silver glint to it.

Caden picked it up and turned it in his hands and Dani brushed her fingers against.

She felt no energy from it, no sensation emitted from the peculiar metal object. She looked to Caden for an answer, but he looked just as confused as she.

“By the Veil, how did that get here?” he murmered, still turning it over in his hands and then looked around him as if by doing that it would give him an answer to the mysterious object that lay before them.

Dani had a thought. If that object was here…that could only mean one thing.

“Caden.” She grabbed his arm urgently and looked up at him with alarm.

He looked quickly at her alarm and then stood them both up, pulling her close and looking her in the eye.

“Caden, if this place doesn’t exist, how did this object get here? It clearly doesn’t belong here. That means,” she gasped and then continued.

“Someone else must be here.”

Caden’s eyes widened as what Dani had said sunk in.

Dani felt a slight vibration under feet. Caden grasped her hand tightly and she gripped his back and slowly raised her eyes upwards, and then they both took a step back in shock.

Mere feet in front of them was Reel.

Dani let out a gasp and was about to run towards him before Caden grasped her arm and stopped her. Dani looked back at Caden and was about to question him and he gestured back at Reel.

Or rather where he had been.

Then she heard a frightened voice.

“Behind you, Dani!” she heard the frantic voice of Reel cry out and she whirled around and bumped into Caden.

They turned around hastily only to find that there was nothing there.

“Reel? Where are you? You’re not meant to be he – “ she was cut off all of a sudden by Caden’s hand and he looked at her with wide eyes and then took his hand away from her.

“Caden, where is Reel? Why did you stop – “ he interrupted her with a quiet voice.

“Dani, that’s not Reel.” He said and then turned her around again to face Reel.

And then another.

And another.

And then two more.

Each completely identical to each other. There was dozens of what seemed to be…clones of Reel?

Dani put a hand over her mouth and looked back at Caden.

Then she heard a cry again.

“Dani, please, you have to listen to me! They are going to hurt you!” she whirled around to see one of the many Reel’s that surrounded her take a cautious step toward her, but another one grabbed him by the shoulders and flung him back.

“No! Do you really think they won’t lie to you?” The other said and looked straight at them.

Dani looked at Caden and pulled them behind a tree, breathing heavily as she gripped his armour then looking up at him.

“How do we know which one is Reel? They will all lie to us.” She said frantically.

Caden put a hand to her face and looked into her eyes deeply.

“We will know. I have an idea.” He crushed her to his chest and smoothed down her hair, and her breathing steadied. She took a reluctant step back and kept a hold of his hand.

Then she heard Caden’s voice in her head.

“I will make it look as if I am going to harm you and the true Reel will defend you.” She heard a trembling voice in her head.

“Tell me the plan once more.” He said in her head, sounding determined now.

She nodded slowly. That would work but…” she shook her head to herself. It would be alright.

She made her thought and cast it out to Caden.

“You will act as if you are going to harm me, but the true Reel will defend me.”

Then she saw Caden’s face change from a look of determination to one of pure horror.

“Dani! I will never risk your life! We need to keep you safe. You can’t do that!” he said in horror and took both her hands.

Dani looked at him in confusion.

“But, that’s the plan you told me. In my head. I heard you.” She repeated and held his hands tighter.

He shook his head while she spoke.

“Dani, I don’t know how, but that wasn’t me. I think we’ve underestimated whatever these…things are.”

She tilted her head in confusion and looked back at the many Reels behind her. They looked at them blankly as if frozen and she turned back to Caden.

“You mean,” she said slowly, trying to understand, “they’re getting in my head?” she said, horrified at what this meant.

“They’re trying to use your power against you. We must be more careful than ever.” He said fiercely and then slowly pulled her out from behind the tree.

She heard him whisper something urgently in her ear.

“Look as though you are injured. Then they will think they can take us off guard and you can use your magic.” Dani nodded and thought carefully about how to do this.

Then she heard a faint little whisper in her head.

“It’s not safe.” Then quickly the ghost of a whisper disappeared as if it had never been there.

Dani stopped.

A Shadow Voice?

This was only training, after all. But maybe…

“Dani!

She whirled back around to the sound of Caden’s voice and rushed towards him.

They were surrounded by at least 10 identical looking Reel’s.

Dani realised what they were doing.

This was a dangerous game they were playing at.

“They’re getting in my head. I can’t sort out what’s actually true. They can – they can trick me.” She raised her hand to her mouth in horror as she looked at Caden.

She couldn’t trust herself around Caden. With all the voices…she didn’t know what was trying to help her or harm her.

How could she know?

Then she saw a light turn on in Caden’s eyes.

“Of course! What we found!” he said excitedly, and then pulled the transparent metal object they had found in amongst the spiralling flowers before.

She took it from him and turned it over in her hands and couldn’t help but feel a small spark of hope.

“Are you saying what I think you’re saying?” she asked, looking back at Caden, him looking excited and flustered all at once.

“You can use with something else.” He hinted, looking back at the eerie copies of Reel that surrounded them, he didn’t want to risk that they could understand what they meant and he was still at a loss to why they had not attacked them yet.

He could only hope that they could find out the true Reel before they did attack them.

Dani was staring intently at the metal in her hand and then sighed, shaking her head as she closed her eyes briefly.

“I don’t even know what it actually does. I can’t make a new element until I know what this does.”

Caden pursed his lips as he realised Dani’s point.

Then Dani shook her head in defeat.

“I don’t even know what I’m saying.” She was about to throw the metal object down when all of a sudden a tingling sensation ran up her arm like electricity, melting in her veins and she gasped in shocked pain.

Caden lunged towards her and grabbed her arm.

“What just happened? Are you alright? Your arm…” he looked at it and was shocked.

Black twisted underneath her skin and then just as quickly vanished.

She seemed to fall out of a trance-like state and fell into Caden’s arm, shuddering from the residual pain.

But her eyes were clear as she looked up.

“Caden, I think I know what it does.” She managed to get out.

Caden gritted his teeth, barely controlling his anger. To see Dani in pain like that…caused his very soul to ache.

“I don’t want you to touch it again.” Caden said in a low, pained voice and he encased her hand in his own.

“Caden, please listen to me, I know what it does.” She got out and looked him in the eye, trying to convince him.

He stared at her for a moment and then relinquished to her request.

“Tell me. But don’t touch it again until I have. Please?” he asked, cupping her face in his hand.

“I won’t.” she promised, putting her own hand over his.

“It causes pain if a lie is spoken.” She spoke and then started again.

“See, I said, I don’t even know what I’m saying, but obviously the object thought otherwise and thought I was lying. Hence, the pain.” She finished, and gestured to the transparent object on the ground, lying shrouded by the stems of flowers.

“Can you be sure?” Caden replied, leaning down to grasp the object.

Dani was about to reach for it, but he covered it with his hand and breathed heavily.

“I’ll try it.” He said and then was about to say something when Dani interrupted, with a terror filled voice.

“The pain is unbearable. I can’t let you.”

“We have to be sure. I can bear it.” He said, holding the metal piece in his hand.

He was determined to be sure of the truth and Dani knew that there was no swaying him. She gritted her jaw and took his other hand.

He looked back at her and then spoke.

“I am not a Phoenix.” He stated the obvious lie and then Dani watched in helpless horror as they metal quivered in his hand, and she knew that he could feel the tingling sensation, heralding the unstoppable pain. She pulled him into her, wishing he did not have to feel this pain that she had.

He shuddered slightly into her shoulder and then stilled after a moment before stepping back.

“Well, it’s power is undeniable.” Caden broke the silence and Dani couldn’t bring herself to speak, she just gazed down at his arm in silence, which Caden immediately noted and then took her hand.

“It’s stopped now.” He promised as he looked into her eyes and she returned it with a shaky nod as she buried her head in his shoulder for the briefest moment and then pulled back.

“I hate that you had to feel that.” Dani whispered back as she took the metal from his hand.

“I didn’t want you to feel the pain alone, Dani.” he looked back at her with a fierce loyalness in his eyes.

There was silence for a moment, as they bore each other’s sorrows and then Dani spoke firmly.

“We know that the this,” she gestured at the strange object in her hand, as she was still unsure of what it really was, “can detect any form of lie.”

Then an idea began to form in her head. Caden saw this contemplation in her face and waited silently for her to speak.

“I have an idea…I think what we need is something that will allow us to see who is lying to us, visually. Perhaps show us who the true Reel is?” she pondered and Caden listened, intrigued and then had a thought of his own.

“The truth will remain, but that which is false be unseen.” He said quietly, the words of the Jeleni Ljudje (Deer People) coming to mind and then stopped short as he realised his idea.

Dani stared as well and opened her eyes wide with excitement.

″That’s it!″ Dani exclaimed and then looked back at the cloned versions of Reel still staring at her and she lowered her voice. She didn’t know how much good that did though.

″We need something that will make the imposters disappear, while the true Reel remains. Although,″ Dani let out slowly before stopping still, staring at the ground.

″We’ve missed the most important thing we should have found out.″ She looked up at Caden, barely concealed fear lay just under the surface of her eyes and she whispered.

″If there is only one true Reel, then what are – Caden finished her sentence for her ″the others.″

″Whatever they are, they will not defeat us.″ Caden looked at her firmly, she could see the steel in his eyes and she realised the truth in his words.

They had come this far and they would not back down.

Because together, they were stronger.

″This thing,″ Dani held up the almost transparent metal up into the air and they both stared at as it refracted the light and glimmered in between Dani’s fingers, ″is not strong enough on it’s own. It needs something else.″ She finished, lowering the glinting metal down and then looking back at Caden. His face was twisted in thought, his eyes a distant grey colour as tried to think.

Dani glanced back at the soundless clones that surrounded them, and then shivered and drew her red cloak around her. The thought of the imposters so near to them made her blood turn to ice.

Who knew what they were capable of.

Caden’s eyes faded back to gold, as he gazed into Dani’s emerald ones and drew her into his arms, his strength and his warmth comforting her. Dani turned her face away from the blank faces of the children in front of her and nestled further into the Caden’s chest, breathing in his musk like scent.

″Do you want to move? Maybe there’s another place in the forest we can go.″ He spoke at last, glancing back around the towering trees and marvellous plants around them, before looking down at her again, trying to read her expression.

Dani took Caden’s hand and nodded, relief spreading on her face as the unusual plants swayed closely to them, and leaned over them, as though they were listening to Caden and Dani.

″Let’s find out. I have a feeling we’re not going to make any progress with them staring back at us.″ She motioned towards the unseeing eyes of the clones in front of them and they seemed to glare back unrelentlingly, a subtle challenge to them both.

Caden looked at them with a grimace, dark parading across his face,but quickly banished it. He then tugged on her hand, urging them to take leave.

″It’s very unsettling. But, I have a feeling we might be seeing a lot worse than this in the near future.″ He spoke solemnly and the forest agreed, a sudden haunting wailing sound whipping through the air as though the trees were singing a melody of warning to them.

Dani was going to shudder again from the thought, but forced herself not to. She didn’t know what gave them strength, those mindless clones of Reel, but she didn’t want to risk their strength being from the fear she exuded and she gritted her teeth as she fought off the stampede of terror that twisted in her stomach.

Caden held out a strong hand to her and she did the same, placing her hand in his and not looking at the creatures staring back at them. She willed them not to follow as they ventured into the shrouded, mysterious forest that lay before them, hoping for an answer beneath the towering vines and trees.

“I have a feeling we’re not going to strike it lucky again. I don’t know how that got there, but I doubt we’ll come across anything else.” Caden walked through the undergrowth, his enormous billowing wings making a canopy over them, protecting them both from whatever lay around them and his hand still enclosed around Dani’s tiny one.

Dani let out a groan of frustration as they continued to follow the path of the moonlight in front of them.

“You’re right, that would be too easy. And this is the actual magic training.” Dani shook her head in hopeless annoyance and they slowed, as they had been walking for a good hour now and they couldn’t fly again for some reason, so that was out.

There were a mass of oddly shaped rocks, – at least that’s what Dani assumed they were – they were cut like diamonds, dull colours seemed to swirl around the rocks silently. Dani and Caden managed to seat themselves on the rock for a moment and they were nearly in darkness, as the towering plants and trees of beauty and curiousness around them, the odd shapes on the branches stopped most of the moonlight from flooding down and tumbling around them. Only small streams managed to worm their way through the denseness of the forest, twisting and winding around the massive, layered leaves that were above them.

The moonlight was indeed beautiful, it’s silver – white ethereal beams dripping with flecks of energy around the forest floor. It was easy to forget they were in grave danger, with the breathtaking quivers of magic and the incredible forest surrounding them.

They had been silent for only a moment, drinking in the scene around them, when Dani stopped short.

Moonlight.

How could she have forgotten?

She lifted her head up so fast from Caden’s shoulder that it created a breeze, whipping through Caden’s hair and he looked down at her in puzzlement until he saw the look of realization in her wild, glinting eyes.

He sat up fully then and took both her hands, and waited for her to speak.

She could barely contain herself and tried to measure her words as they came bursting forth from her mind.

“Caden, the moonlight! That’s what we need! How could we have forgotten!?” she nearly shouted at the forest around them, and Caden lifted a single finger to her lips, a gesture for her to lower her voice as those things did have ears after all.

Dani steadied herself and then lowered her voice, her gestures less frantic and urgent, but more excited this time.

Then Caden’s eyes lighted as he understood what she meant.

“It makes us – “ he started and Dani finished his sentence in excitement.

“Invisible!” she whispered, a shout wanting to break out.

She leapt down off the rock and Caden quickly descended as she practically leapt off the ground and Caden stood there, amused at her, despite the whole situation, Dani never failed to bring him joy, even in the face of fear and uncertainty. Something he hadn’t been able to do for his parents.

He quickly dismissed that thought and seized Dani in his arms and brought her back down to earth, her hands resting on his shoulders. She was calm once more, but eyes still held that vibrant glint that told Caden she had answers.

Then Dani dropped her head as she thought and looked up, anxious. Caden noticed immediately and brushed his finger along her face and she spoke hesitantly, knowing he knew her fear.

“I don’t know how to use it. I’ve never done it. I – I have no clue what I’m doing.” She whispered and she turned away, allowing her head to still rest on Caden’s shoulder, and he squeezed her hand and looked her in the eyes, giving her reassurance, the strength in him Dani could feel immediately and it made her more determined.

“We have time. And that’s all we need to figure this out. And we’ll do it together.” Caden looked right into her eyes and she smiled at that thought. She couldn’t have imagined facing this on her own and more questions raced through her mind, and how she wished she could ask them. There was still so much to discover about Caden.

He smiled, eyes playful as he heard her thoughts.

“Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with questions. I have many of my own.” He tapped her nose lightly and Dani stifled a giggle as he looked on yet again with a playful look.

“Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s go catch some moonlight!” Dani ran slightly ahead of him and he moved quickly to catch up to her, a grin alighting yet again on his face as he watched her.

Streams of moonlight were tumbling through the trees up ahead, where the canopy of the forest was thinner, allowing the light to escape through the trunks of the trees and falling to the ground.

Dani was careful not to step into the moonlight and Caden did the same as he quickly weaved his way among the beams of the light and they stood, surrounded by the dazzling rays and they were struck in wonderment as they gazed at them for a moment.

Dani sighed in frustration as she felt like her mind was becoming a twisted maze of nonsense, coherent thoughts ceasing to exist.

How does one catch moonlight?

That thought even though it was her own, puzzled her.

Catch moonlight?

How can moonlight be caught?

Caden reached out his hand to the beams of moonlight and was startled when it moved, as if avoiding him. Dani stared, surprised as well.

Did the moonlight just jump out of Caden’s reach? The other moonlight hadn’t done that. Shaking her head and Caden with the same idea in mind, they giving each other a quick glance before they reached out their hand once more to a ray of moonlight.

This time their eyes did not deceive them. They both reached for a ray of light, and Dani who was used to elements gravitating towards her, was shocked to watch it practically leap out of her reach. The same happened again with Caden.

Caden and Dani simply stared at each other.

Was the moonlight playing tricks on them? Literally?

“It’s avoiding us.” Dani said, feeling the need to state the obvious, making it sound more real now that she had spoken it out loud.

A look of realization, a smug look crossed his eyes and he folded his arms.

“It likes to play tricks. Like the forest does.” He spoke out loud to the mysterious forest air and Dani mirrored him, still staring at the moonlight and then gave Caden her own smug look.

“Well, we’ll have to be trickier than the moonlight, won’t we then?” she walked out of the rays of moonlight and they swung out of her way as she moved out of their midst.

Caden looked at her gleefuly and then raised his hand to his head in a salute.
“Goal of the night: Outsmart the moonlight. Over and out.” He said in a playful voice and Dani nudged him, looking up at him, almost hiding an amused grin.

“Since when do you know science – fiction?” she asked, hiding the gaping jaw that was her mouth, Caden yet again surprising her. As usual.

“I’ve been to many worlds. Not all are like this one.” He said, grinning back down at her, and he noted the playful jealousy in her eyes and laughed.

“Lucky.” She did a mock pout and folded her arms, and he laughed again and engulfed in a hug which lifted her off the ground for a brief moment and then she nearly fell to the ground, but Caden kept her from falling. He had a habit of doing that.

“Come on, fire boy, we’ve got moonlight to outsmart.” She said cheekily as she slipped free from his grasp.

They stilled for a moment, the moonlight beams just in front of them, they looked so easy to reach.

That what was so tricky about it.

Dani turned towards Caden, a finger to her lips in thought.

“Maybe we should just chase it? I mean, I don’t suppose moonlight gets tired. It probably doesn’t.” Dani sighed and kept staring at it, as though gazing into the brilliant rays would give her a flash of inspiration.

The forest remained calm around them, the only unrest the steady beating of Dani and Caden’s heart, the subtle melody of the wind and hum of magic caught in the forest.

Well,” Caden moved, shifting out of his position, “we can always give it a try. We don’t have much to lose after all.”

Dani breathed in heavily and nodded, and he motioned to her.

She heard his determined whisper in her mind and listened closely.

“On the count of three, 1, 2, 3!” Caden sprung towards the moonbeams and they moved effortlessly out of his reach, his fingers just missing the teasing beams of light and Dani leapt towards them, her hand outstretched and tried to touch it, to clasp her hand around the light. But to no avail, it simply squirmed out of her way and dashed to one side and Dani fell to the ground.

She quickly got up, determined to try again and she could see Caden about to run at them again and she rushed towards them.

They seemed to know that she was coming and had already curved out of the way by the time Dani and Caden both jumped through the air, landing in the midst of darkness where moonlight had been moments ago.

They climbed to their feet.

“Maybe we just need to keep running after them, not so much grab them. We have to try something different, jumping spasmodically for them is not doing a thing.” Dani grimaced and climbed to her feet again, brushing off her red pants that had transformed from the red skirt a while ago and straightened the short gold cloak around her and looked to Caden.

“We’ll just have to keep going. No stopping.” He said grimly, then shaking his head.

“Something tells me we’re going to be at this for a while yet. That moonlight does not want to be caught.”

They looked at one another again, once again falling silent in concentration and Dani gave a firm nod as they sprinted towards the moonbeams. They seemed to hover there, in the air, the light seemed almost dazed for a moment and then started to dash and swirl madly in between Dani and Caden.

They dashed relentlessly after the light and it was going so fast that the light seemed to morph and bounce off them and shatter colour into the air as they moved in a blur.

Dani’s lungs were burning and without warning her feet collapsed under her and she fell to her knees, Caden following suit as he stumbled in exhaustion and sunk down next to her.

That was when Dani noticed something other than the cooling breeze, the midnight of the darkness around them, the trees and plants that observed them from above, the leaves occasionally brushing Dani’s hair and electrifying her.

The light hadn’t stopped after Dani and Caden’s relentless chase. They continued to zoom around Dani and Caden, the light trails looping and twining in amongst themselves, until it was a mad fury of brilliant silver light cascading and leaping madly through the air, the silver trails brushing Dani’s hair and fingers, but not quite touching it.

Dani was breathing heavily and she had her eyes closed, her hand on her chest, and so she was surprised to feel Caden’s hand on her arm, shaking her urgently.

“Dani, look!” she opened her eyes quickly and looked back at the light and was instantly entranced.

The light was whirling around so fast it was just a whirlpool of dazzling white beams, curving, ducking, swirling all around each other, going out of control.

Then the light exploded all around them, lighting up the now dark sky, sending beams hurtling through the air, light sparks whizzing past Dani, and whirling all around them.

Then it dimmed and faded away, ever so slowly, and their skin was pale, like the light, as if it had left a little of itself inside them.

Standing where the light had been was a silver sceptre, floating in the air, a tiny shield of light surrounding it, and Dani was still in awe, and she looked over at Caden to see what he thought of it all.

He only grinned at her, excitement evident in his now glimmering blue eyes, and he motioned that she should grab it.

Dani moved closer to it, not sure of exactly was going to happen when she touched it. Her hand was quivering slightly as she moved forward to grab it and she could feel the magic pulsating around it, the light now moving towards her. She brushed her hand against the object and little tiny shivers ran through her fingers and flooded through her heart.

As soon as she touched it, the silver sceptre dropped into her hands and she surprised to note that it felt extremely light in her hands, as though it weighed nothing more than the air brushing around them. She turned back to Caden and he was right behind them with the strange transparent metal object from before and he held it out to her.

“You know what to do.” He said simply to her, and she could sense the nervous tone in his voice. She only hoped she could pull this off.

She gingerly took the transparent object out of his hands – she still had no idea what it was called – and her other hand gripped the sceptre in determination.

It was then that she realised that the sceptre was hollow, like a telescope. That must be why it was so light.

She had no idea how she was going to make a new element from these two things, but she had to trust the magic inside her.

It would know what to do. She just had to harness the power she hoped that she had.

She concentrated then , and closed her eyes and saw her own magic inside of her for the first time. She didn’t really know how to describe how it looked as it was constantly changing and morphing as she observed it. She reached out to it, in her mind, and it seemed to notice her there. It was like it had a life of its own. Dani was still in awe. She didn’t ever think she would fully understand magic.

And that’s what made it magical.

She continued to reach out for it in her mind, and it rushed towards her like a bullet train. She pulled harder on it and it hurtled through her veins, her mind, her soul and she felt it fizzing inside of her now, bubbling up and coming out from her.

She opened her eyes now, and she could see it pouring forth from her hands, encasing the sceptre and transparent object with the buzzing golden energy that moved around it.

She imagined them as one, and the magic did its part. The transparent piece melded with the sceptre, sending off little sparks as the two objects bonded. At first they seem to resist each other, like two opposing magnets, but at last they seemed to relent and bonded completely together, the magic sealing the edges.

Dani withdrew her magic back inside of herself and her hands fell dark again, but now, with a new element.

She at least needed to name it.

Then she realised it wasn’t finished with the transformation, as it began to shrink in her hands, going from being a metre long, to now only 10 centimetres in length.

Caden ran towards her, and just looked at it, astonished, and then looked at her, shaking his head in utter disbelief.

“And you did it again.” He said softly, marvelling at what he had just witnessed. She looked up at him, a gentle smile on her face.

“I couldn’t have done this on my own.” Dani gazed at him and seemingly once again caught in his gaze. He moved slightly closer to her and Dani’s breath hitched in her throat, still captivated.

Then he spoke lowly in her ear, the breath he let out, causing her skin to shiver under his touch.

“I wouldn’t want you to have faced it on her own.” He pulled back, only inches from her face and Dani’s heart thudded like an earthquake. Somehow Dani got an odd impression like Caden could hear her heartbeat and she blushed slightly at the thought.

“And also, I’d really like to kiss you right now, but we have a battle to fight.” Dani’s heart nearly combusted right then and there and she looked at him with a dark gaze in her eyes, and his eyes matched her, then they slowly faded back to a golden calm.

He shook his head, a teasing smirk on her face as he grabbed his hand and took a step back from Dani.

“Don’t tempt me, Dani.” He said darkly and Dani sighed in mock frustration and then skulked past him.

“Fine. You win. This time.” She said snarkily, pulling him with her as she walked.

Caden let off a laugh and shook his head at Dani’s antics, then stopped short, in sudden thought.

“I don’t know about you, but I feel like this test is suspiciously easier than all the others. That’s the last thing I expected.” Caden mused, looking up at the tree trunk bridge they were under.

Dani had to admit, he did have a point. After making the pre – training insanely difficult, they expected the actual training to be much more difficult than this. But it was almost like things were much too…expected.

“Huh. That’s odd. There’s some kind of hole here. I’d say a woodland creature, but it’s not small enough to be that. It almost looks like a tunnel of some kind.” Caden knelt down, his wings brushing Dani’s shoulders and she bent down to examine it closer.

He was right, it did look like some kind of tunnel. The hole was fairly large, probably big enough for someone to crawl through, as long as they kept their head down.

It got a little more strange, for instead of being pitch dark, like any typical tunnel, it was lit up dimly by tiny glowing lights. Dani couldn’t make out exactly what they were, as they were so small it was impossible to see where the light was emitting from.

Dani couldn’t help but think that it might be a good idea to lead the clones down there, and getting Reel out before trapping them in there forever.

Caden already knew Dani had formulated some kind of plan, he could see it on her face.

“Alright, what are you thinking?” he asked, folding his arms, facing her.

Dani relayed her plan to him, she had a feeling that he wouldn’t like the idea of venturing down an unknown tunnel to who know where, where anything could be waiting for them. But that had to take the risk. It was the perfect way to save Reel.

Caden seemed to realise this, and he uncrossed his arms and sighed heavily.

“Alright, we’ll do it. On one condition though.” He said, looking at her with an intent gaze.

Dani didn’t like where this was going, and she sat down on the ground, and then Caden took a seat on the ground next to them.

“What’s the condition?” she looked at him, knowing him, she had a feeling it wasn’t going to be something she wanted to let him do.

“I’ll go first and see what’s down there, if it’s safe then I’ll call for you to come down.” He insisted with a firm tone.

Dani knew that this was coming, and she put her head in her hands.

“Caden, please, I can’t let you do that. I don’t want you to go down there by yourself.” She traced the dirt aimlessly under her fingers, and she brushed it mindlessly off her hand, still looking down at the ground.

Then she glanced up at him, and saw his quiet gaze.

“Dani, I want you to be safe. And there’s nothing down there I can’t handle myself. Please trust me.” He asked, looking straight through her eyes, right down to her core.

She let out a breath and then spoke. “It’s not that I don’t trust you. I don’t know what’s down there, and I don’t want you to face it by yourself.”

Caden thought for a moment, clearly this was something that troubled her. She seemed to think it was her duty to protect everyone.

“How about this. When I reach the end of the tunnel, you can come after me and then whatever’s down there, we’ll face. Together.” He spoke with resolve and taking her hand, he helped her to her feet.

Dani was still cautious about this, but she did trust him. And so she agreed. The moment she took Caden’s hand, she heard the voices. They had been silent, nothing more than fragmented static in her head, but now she heard them seeming to suddenly grow tormented. But she couldn’t understand what they were saying. All she heard were thousands of whispering voices, yet nothing came out clear. She hoped it wasn’t a warning. When they thought they might have had a chance at safety.

Caden gripped her hand tighter and the voices eased off, growing silent once more, retreating back into the chambers in her mind.

“Did you hear something?” Caden asked, concerned, as she looked pained, a little confused. She looked up at him and the look melted off her face, replaced by a slightly more relaxed expression.

“It’s just the Shadow Voices. They were talking again.” She responded and leant against the towering tree trunk below her and it glowed where she leant.

“What did they say?” Caden spoke, copying Dani, and his shoulder grazed the trunk that Dani was resting on.

“That’s the thing. They didn’t. I couldn’t understand anything they were saying. All I could hear was fragmented whispers. Nothing clear.” Dani shook her head and looked up at him.

“If they wanted you to hear it, it would’ve been clear.” He took her hand and guided to her the tunnel.

“I hope so.” Dani said, before following Caden to the dimly lit tunnel. Caden knelt down to enter the tunnel, but all of a sudden the ground started to rumble underneath them and Dani pulled him back frantically. The ground vibrated underneath them, violently and Dani grabbed Caden and pulled him out from the under tree trunk that made the bridge under them.

They didn’t have time to even scream as the ground suddenly collapsed out from underneath them, burying them, but then they hurtled through the air, travelling under the surface of the earth and Dani blacked out, the last thing she felt was Caden’s hand holding hers they fell.

Dani didn’t know what to think when she woke up and, there was something in her eyes, like…sand or something? She wrenched up right and looked around frantically for Caden and breathed a shaky sigh of relief when she saw him next to her, wings splayed out, chest rising evenly. She realised that their hands were still entwined together and Dani leant over him.

She touched his shoulder gently shaking him and he didn’t stir. Dani shook his shoulder harder, panicking slightly, until she saw his eyes slowly begin to open. He didn’t realise where he was at first and then his eyes sprung open, looking around shocked. He spotted Dani immediately and moved over to her instantly and Dani grabbed him fervently.

“You could have been killed.” She heard Caden’s voice, fierce but soft in her ear. She looked at him with the same fire in her eyes. “You could have been too!” she gasped out. Then she clung to his chest and his hand brushed over her cascading hair and she felt him look around them, observing their environment.

It was a small underground cavern of sorts, tunnels spanning off in all different directions. Somehow there were still the lights glowing above them, but very dimly above them. Dani could only just make out Caden’s outline in the gloomy cavern. The air was dangerously still, the silence thundered in their heads, thick around them and Caden pulled Dani to her feet.

Instead of the customary dirt brown that she was used to, the ground underneath them was a deep purple colour and she saw a light under her as Caden helped her to her feet. Then she looked around hastily and breathed a sigh of relief as she saw the element that she had made tucked in the rucksack that was hanging off Caden’s waist.

“How are we going to get out of here? This definitely was not anticipated.” Caden pondered, his wings only just grazed the top of the cavern, and he looked down one of the tunnels.

He shook his head and looked back at Dani, “I don’t think it’s a good idea to go down these tunnels. We could end up lost, or running into something else more sinister.” He walked over to Dani and then looked at amazement at the ground below him. Dani looked and took a step forward and clapped her hand over her mouth. The ground lit up where they walked and then faded as they stepped away from it.

They looked at each other in amazement and began to walk around the cavern, the ground lighting up under their feet as they did.

Dani stooped down to pick up a handful of the purple earth underneath her, it lit up as her hands touched it, glowing as it ran through her fingers and slowly faded as it hit the ground again.

Then she had an idea.

She ran over to Caden and picked up another handful of the earth, it glowed once more, a beautiful silver glow and it lit up the entire cavern, lighting up the tunnels before them.

Caden realised what Dani was getting at and he too bent to pick up a handful of the purple earth. The cavern became increasingly brighter and Dani moved towards one of the tunnels and saw under the silver earth light that the tunnel had some kind of gems encrusted into them, and they glinted brightly as they hit the silver light, it refracted magnificently as it surrounded them, shrouding the entire cavern in points of fragmented silver light.

Caden broke the silence, standing next to her with his glinting earth light and looked at her with excitement. “Both the lights should guide us through the tunnel. We’ve got to move, and now that we have the light, we should be able to navigate this maze of tunnels much easier than in nearly pitch black darkness.

“You’re right. I just hope we’re ready to face anything else that comes our way. Something made these tunnels after all.” Dani finished and they both, holding the earth light in their hands, began to make their way down the tunnel.

The tunnel was long, and wound constantly, and the ground didn’t light up under their feet like it did in the cavern so Dani could only hope that the light they had didn’t fade out. The diamonds on the tunnel walls helped reflect the light so they could see a good 20 feet in front of them. For this she was glad, they could see anything that might be coming up ahead, whether it be something or…someone.

That was when Dani heard footsteps and she froze, putting her hand up to signal Caden to halt also. She heard him breathe in sharply and come to stand directly next to her, his wings spanning out protectively.

They held their breath as they looked down into the tunnel. They continued to hear the footsteps but they didn’t appear to be anything coming down the tunnel. Then she heard voices behind her and they both whirled around to face frantic faces, and then they seemed to be relieved as curious creatures ran toward them. Dani and Caden backed up slightly. They looked human, but not quite. Something seemed different about them. Dani tried to place it and the creatures moved towards them, they seemed to look panicked. Dani hoped they weren’t running from something.

“Oh, thank goodness you’re here!” one of the odd looking creatures crying out and the rest of the creatures swarming towards them.

“We thought the clones had managed to get you!” another one gasped out before taking Dani’s arm. She turned to look at Caden in confusion before looking back at the slightly human looking creatures. They saw Dani’s confusion and Caden’s suspicious eyes and one of the creatures stepped forward out of the midst of the other ones.

“We’ve been expecting you. When you didn’t turn up when you were meant to, we feared that the clones had gotten to you.” It said, looking fearful, then it looked at them both directly.

“Did you make it down the tunnel successfully? That is how you got here, isn’t it?” It quizzed them intently and the other creatures seemed to lean forward with baited breath.

It was Caden who answered them, his voice bouncing off the walls of the tunnels.
“Well, we were about to head down the tunnel, but the ground started to vibrate underneath us and we managed to get out of the tunnel. Didn’t much good, as the ground fell open and it swallowed us whole.” Caden spoke and put an arm around Dani, and the creatures seemed to absorb this information and looked back at the other creatures, conveying something to them before looking back at Dani and Caden.

“We need to lead you out of here. The clones will be coming soon and you don’t want to fight them down here. You’ll be wiped out.” The creature said, motioning towards Dani and it to follow them down the tunnel. Dani then noticed that the other ones had vanished and it was only them and the other creature, silently leading them down the tunnel.

Dani looked down at Caden’s rucksack and saw the element that she had made before and motioned for Caden to hand it to her. She just wanted to look at it again, they’d still need to use it against the clones, wherever they were. She could only hope that it would work and restore the true Reel back to them.

Dani noticed that they were in another large cavern and Dani looked around, curious as she looked at the walls, that were the same purple as the other cavern. The creature was heading out of the cavern towards another tunnel and she noticed that Caden had stopped to look at the wall as well. The creature was moving quite slowly and didn’t seem to realise that they weren’t following it anymore. Dani would catch up in a minute and Caden seemed to have the right idea.

Dani decided to test out the element, maybe it would pick up something here? She didn’t think much would come of it, but she might as well give it a shot. She was about to look through the hollow opening of the element when she felt a tug on her arm. She looked up to see Caden’s eyes holding an excited, yet confused expression.

“Dani, come here and look at these. I only just noticed them.” He gestured towards the wall, where Dani could barely make out small black shapes. She peered closer and saw that they seemed to be odd engravings of some sort. They looked similar to the runes that she had seen back on Earth in some of the history books at the Library.

“Maybe the creatures did them? I wonder what for”? Dani mused, tracing her fingers lightly over them and then pulling back.

Dani and Caden turned around and gasped, pulling Caden back against the wall, Caden looked at moved in front of Dani. All the clones were in the cavern with them, staring blankly at them. And the creature was staring directly at them from down the tunnel.

It shouted at them and Dani could barely hear what it was saying, but she strained to listen.

“Ignore them! You need to follow me! You won’t be able to defeat them down here.” It gestured with its hand and started moving towards them, and that was when Dani knew she needed to look through the element and she stared straight through it at the clones. She narrowed her eyes in confusion.

All the clones were still there, staring blankly at her. She looked up through it towards where the creature was and then nearly dropped it. Where the creature had been standing and her face went pale.

It was gone.

She slowly lowered the element and it reappeared in her vision. It didn’t seem to realise anything was amiss.

Dani was going to hand it to Caden, but all of a sudden she couldn’t move. She could hear everything, see everything. But she was rooted to the spot. Caden realised this immediately and took the element out of her hands, looked through and lowered it, slower than Dani and looked.

She tried to get out words, but her tongue felt rooted to the top of her mouth. She managed to finally move her mouth and two words slipped out.

“Can’t. Move.” She managed to get out, before vainly trying to move again. It was in pointless. She was paralysed and she couldn’t do anything but stand there in shock. Caden knew there was something wrong and while he had nearly no idea what was happening, he knew the truth now. Finally.

The clones had never been out to get them.

The creature was the liar.

And they had trusted it.

Caden looked up, trying to think through the panicked haze in his brain, and fought his way out of it. Dani was still rooted to the spot and he looked around frantically and tried to pull back down the tunnel. Caden knew it was useless as she didn’t budge and when he turned around, he saw through the dim light of the tunnel that the other creatures were advancing towards them.

He had no idea what to do.

He looked around, trying to think, trying to do something to prevent to what he knew was imminent.

The only thing to do was try to activate his shield and hoped that it worked in here, so he could figure out how to unfreeze Dani. He concentrated hard, shutting his eyes and letting the magic awaken slowly inside him. He felt the air around him begin to thicken and he grabbed the energy that pulsated through him, taking control of it and casting it out of his body, thrusting it out further and further until it covered both Dani and Caden. The clones were staring straight ahead, but there eyes seemed to be glowing slightly, as though they were some kind of machine and they grew stronger and stronger as Caden continued to look at them.

He kept the shield out, willing it to keep around both of them and looked around the cavern, fear shooting through him as he noticed the creatures still advancing towards them.

He noticed that instead of the dim light they had been in, it was beginning to change. The walls started to send out an odd blue light and Caden tried to make sense of what was happening. He looked back at the clones and strangely enough, the light that emitted from their glowing eyes matched the light coming out from the walls. Caden processed this, trying to understand what was happening.

The clones looked as if they were beginning to wake up out of some kind of unusual coma, like they hadn’t been aware of what was going on before them.

Carefully moving over to the wall, he kept the shield up around him and Dani and peered in to look at the now glowing wall.

All he could see was the light beaming out of the deep purple wall of the cavern and he knew he was missing something. That was when he saw it. The strange black symbols, that vaguely reminded him of runes and he inhaled sharply.

He glanced back into the tunnel to see that the creatures had vanished, and he exhaled slowly, relieved. He had to get both Dani and Caden out of their before it was too late.

Suddenly something smashed into his shield, nearly breaking through, but somehow in the nick of time, he managed to keep the shield intact and he whirled around sharply.

Nothing.

He knew something was there. They were hiding. In plain view.

Invisibility spell. That made things a hundred times harder than it already was.

He turned away from the wall, his hand brushing it as he went and that was when he felt a thundering jolt of something run through his arms. Instantly, the cavern was bathed in searing brightness and Caden covered Dani’s eyes, as she still had them open, unable to move at all.

When the cavern finally dimmed down again, he saw that the clones had moved, forming lines in front of Dani and Caden. Then Caden felt a rush of wind through his shield and one of Reel’s clones leapt into the air and collided with…something. They crashed into each other in mid – air and thundered backwards, smashing against the wall of the cavern, purple dust flying through the air and Caden heard a faint rasping noise just from outside the shield.

Then Caden felt something different in the air. Reel’s clone had been fighting against something, but Caden felt like the room was being flooded with a sense of dread and that was when he realised that there was many more than just one creature in the room.

Caden tried to slow his heartrate down, but it crashed and collided unmercifully in his chest and Caden forced himself to think.

The clones of Reel clearly had not been moving when they last saw them, and it was apparent that only one of them was moving now.

It was as if something he had done had somehow activated them. But clearly only one of them.

He looked back at the wall where he had been just before the clones had been moving.

The runes.

He’d brushed his hand against the wall when he turned around and must of touched one of the runes.

They must have some kind of activation influence on the clones. But, he’d only touched one of the runes. Where were the others?

He could feel the sickening energy of the other creatures in the room and he could see one of Reel’s clones looking at them all, sizing them up. He glanced back behind him and looked back at Caden with a look of desperation in his eyes.

There was no way one clone could defeat all those creatures, whatever they were. No wonder Dani had though they had looked odd. They weren’t even human. It was merely a disguise. Thank goodness they’d had the element or things could have ended much worse had they not seen the creatures for who they really were.

He had to get to another of the runes. Before it was too late. Gritting his teeth, he held the shield wider around him and Dani as he carefully inched himself towards the wall and glanced another of the runes. He reached his hand out towards it, and as he touched it, he felt electricity weave its way through his arm and send shock waves through him. He jumped backwards in shock and felt his shield slip for the briefest moment, and that was when he felt something jab into his stomach, and then a rush of wind moved past him, heading for Dani.

His eyes widened and he immediately launched out his shield into the air, quickly getting it around Dani and he saw the point of contact as spider webs of light radiated around the shield as the invisible creature hit his shield.

Now there were two clones battling the invisible creatures, the other one released from its coma when Caden had touched the rune. He looked around at the walls, glancing all around him as he searched for another rune to release another clone from a coma.

Nothing.

That couldn’t be all, could it?

He looked up at the roof of the cavern and that was when he saw them. They were spaced out on the ceiling of the caver, strange black drawings all over the roof.

His wings were too hard to use in the shield, it was hard enough to generate his shield as well as using his wings. He didn’t want to risk it.

He’d have to jump and hope to the Veil that he had enough strength in him to activate one of the runes.

He made sure the shield was intact before bending down as low as he could, the cold ground under his fingers and he looked up at the roof, breathing in heavily before launching himself off the ground and hurtled towards the roof. He put both hands up and aimed for two different runes on the ceiling. He barely managed to hit both of them before he felt the painful jolt of static snaking its way through his body and he hit the ground, dust flying everywhere.

He looked out beyond the shield and saw two more clones spring into action, their eyes vibrantly pulsating with light and then leaping through the air, and then smashing into collide with something. Caden could’ve sworn he had seen a vague outline of a very odd looking creature wrestling with two of the clones. Another faint shadow was battling single handedly with another clone.

Caden had to get another rune. Preferably as many as possible. He made another leap through the air and just managed to make contact with another rune, and at the last second, he kicked his leg up towards the ceiling and touch one with his foot before plunging down to the ground again.

The cavern was a battle scene now, although they could only make out one side of the fight, Caden began to notice that the faint outline of the creatures where becoming more clearer and Caden leant back in revulsion as he realised their form. He could see the outline of tentacle like apendages winding through the air, only just, for they nearly were invisible.

He hoped this meant the battle was coming to an end. Caden looked back out beyond the shield and saw the clones had turned to stare back at him for a single instant, their looks filled with determination and urging.

He knew what they needed.

The last of the Runes.

Dani was still paralysed. She had been frantically willing herself to move for the past 15 minutes but it was useless. Her limbs were utterly still. All she could is watch Caden in a mixture of terror and awe as he kept the creatures from breaking through the shield and leapt through the air, activating runes as he went.

She hadn’t tried to move her uncooperative body for what seemed like hours. She couldn’t just lie here useless. She was determined to try again. She couldn’t just let Caden continue to do this all by himself.

She tried to wiggle her fingers and felt the slightest movement.

Finally.

She jerked a finger upwards, and her hand began to move out of the lock it had been in. She could feel life moving back into her limbs every slow slowly. She moved her arm, it snaked upwards, ever so slowly and she tried to stand up. It was ridiculously difficult, every movement sapping more and more of her strength, but she did it. She hauled herself to her feet and Caden suddenly turned to look back at her, and heavy relief crossed his face as he saw that she was moving again. He would’ve moved towards her, but they both knew they had to finish this.

Caden’s breathing was heavy, she could hear it from the other side of the cavern. She could see that he was exhausted and she made her way over to him, her dress skimming along the purple ground and she knelt down beside him.

“It’s my turn now.” She spoke softly, yet a tone laced with determination and he stood up, his wings hanging low as he tried to replenish his energy.

He held her around the waist for the briefest moment, and looked firmly at Dani. “We’re stronger together. You know that. It won’t be over until we finish them together.”

In that simple statement, she realised that he was right. Together they were better.

“You’re right. We finish this. Together.” She stepped away from him and took his hand, preparing to jump as Caden pointed upwards to the last rune that was on the ceiling of the cavern, the inky black writing glowing slightly in the dimness of the cavern and Dani looked towards it.

“That’s the last one, isn’t it?” She said, still staring at it, then glancing back down to Caden’s grim face.

“The Last One.” He said, and tightly gripped her hand. Around them, they could still hear the collisions of the clones fighting the creatures and dust flew around them.

Caden and Dani both bent down and gave one last look at each other before Caden silently mouthed, “1, 2…3!” As soon as it left his mouth, they exploded off the ground, the ceiling hurtling towards them and they reached up their hands, straining for the final rune. Dani and Caden both outstretched their fingertips and only just managed to graze it with their hands.

In that instant as their fingers made contact, the cavern erupted with a fierce, blinding light that stayed for almost a minute. Dani and Caden crashed back towards the ground and landed on their sides, and quickly rolled up right, standing in the centre of the cavern. Now every last clone was activated, and Dani began to see the faint outline of the creatures in their true form, just a slight shadow of them and they moved swiftly through the air, but the clones were right on their heels and they ferociously attacked every last one of the creatures and then it was over.

And then they were horrified.

Lying on the floor, all dead, were the creatures that Dani had trusted.

Their twisted, dark faces, featureless, no nose, eyes or mouth, merely slits in their face that glowed a dull red colour. Thorns protruded out from where their arms and legs should have been and Dani recoiled in disgust at the hideous scene that lay before them.

But she was not scared of them.

She refused to let fear ensnare her so easily.

The cavern was lighter now, and the clones stood all around them, motionless once more as the effect of the runes had faded from them. They began to fade slowly from their vision, melting slowly into the air like fog disappearing in the light of the sun.

Dani and Caden realised they’d been holding their breaths and they leant against the wall, letting out the air from their lungs, trying to calm down, trying to process everything.

Dani had closed her eyes only for a brief moment, but when she opened them again, they were standing in the centre of the Elf Palace, silence around them as the candles glimmered softly and the jewelled walls cast light rays around the walls.

The Elves stood before them, gazing at them as Dani finally noticed them standing quietly behind them, and she jumped, a little startled at their somewhat ominous presence.

They looked calm, collected.

At least on the outside.

But Dani looked further, past the mask that they so carefully put on and saw something in the depths of their eyes, hidden just out of reach.

Astonishment.

It lay their just below the surface of their calm exterior.

Dani didn’t know what to make of it. She had a feeling though. They were hiding something. She was determined to find out what exactly they were concealing.

Her stomach fluttered a little and waves tumbled around inside of her being.

She could only hope that they were not like the creatures and that their trust would not be betrayed.

The Leader’s voice echoed throughout the tunnels under the Elf Palace, silver light flickered all around them from the blazing torches behind them all and they stood silently in a circle as they waited for Terlin to continue.

They all spoke in their native tongue, the swirling dialect sounding evil instead of graceful, for their words were spilled in betrayal. Terlin’s face was distorted in a look of pure hatred, the emotion on his face transforming him into a creature of Darkness as thick grey lines formed across his face like a mockery of lightning bolts.

The other Elves pulled back their blood red cloaks to reveal the faces of many deceived Elves, two being Laurel, and the utter Judas; Hurol.

The Leader of the Elf Sorcerers.

The Prince’s most entrusted had never loved him, had never truly served him, had simmered hot with treachery, sickening hatred and vile anger all whilst deceiving the Prince under his very nose.

“The one we have been waiting to arrive is finally here.” The Leader’s foul voice spoke out with a cold that would have frozen the blood of any innocent that heard.

The Elves waited in silence, dimness all around them, barely discernible by the pale, silver flickering light that instead of looking pure and right, took on a twisted representation of what had once been innocent.

Terlin began to pace in between the rows of ominous Elven men, heads straight ahead, covered with a tainted hood of darkness as they listened to their new leader.

Only they did not deserve that title.

“For years Eru had sworn that he would never love, and for this,” he stared them all in the eyes as he passed each of them, his darkness permeating more and more into the Elves, sucking every shred of innocence from them and crushing it in a fist of betrayal.

“we laid in wait for the day his foolish heart would open once again.” He continued, coming to the head of the line and turning to face them once more.

He lowered his head and drew back his cloak to reveal the harsh, grey veins of evil that spread across him and his eyes darkening to a colour so much darker than black.

“For now Eru has pledged his heart to Amanda, and her to his likewise.” He sneered, clenching his fist and the Elves faces grew harder, granite like, souls turning to dust under the influence of his hate and evil mind.

“For our alliance to use the sacrifice of Eru’s blood, he must be killed by one who has given their love to him. Only then will his blood be of use to the Dark Lord.”

The slight rustle of wind billowed through the tunnels, turning the Elves already cold hearts to ice, but they felt no bite of the frost, even though the wind whirled around them, extingusing most of the lamps.

Only a single lamp remained, the silver flame dwindling under the force of the wind and barely illuminating the face of Terlin, as he hid behind the shadows.

If it was even possible, Terlin’s face became even harder with hatred and malice and drew his cloak back to his face.

“The time is near for us to strike. Maintain the trust of the Prince,” he seemed to inwardly wince as he referred to Eru as a Prince, “and wait for my orders.”

The tunnels echoed with the silence that was thick with disloyalty and malicious intent, treachery sliced through the air and into the darkened souls of the deceived Elves.

Pale hair, hair dark as ash and glinting silver hair was covered by the hoods of the Elves as they prepared to infiltrate and continue to lie.

Terlin gestured sharply to a circle of Elves that stood behind the other departing Elves, as if they were waiting to be beckoned.

They moved soundlessly towards Terlin, their cloaks trailing languidly across the ground of the tunnel. Hurol withdraw his hood to look directly at Terlin, but the others kept their faces concealed in the cover of the dark.

“The prophesy is confirmed then?” Hurol did not speak, only gave a terse nod and Terlin narrowed his eyes, malice streaming out of them as he spoke in a voice tinged with ice – cold hatred.

“Then they will be on our guard for us then. The Shadow Voices would have warned her.” Terlin hissed and turned away, pacing backward and forth and then whipping around to face the other’s again. His pale hair hung low around his shoulders, strands escaping from his tightly woven braids.

He strode towards them with measured, heavy steps and stood tall over them, intimidation and violation leaking from his very being as he spoke in a calm voice that was only just holding back fury. Somehow this was more horrendous than any yelling could be and the Elves felt a slight chill run through them, but they ignored it, listening to Terlin as the promise of unbelievable power and wealth blinded their eyes to the truth.

“I want them both. Bring them to me immediately.” He whirled around again, his back to them, looking up into the dim air and then turned to face them once more, the grey lines across his face spreading more as he spoke.

“It’s time to use the Prince’s lover against him.” With that, he disappeared into a swirling pool of blackness, the air shivering at his departure.

The other Elves looked at each other, nodded at each other, and made their way down the tunnel, the last silver light spluttering and vanishing into the air.

Behind a high pile of craggy rock, the veil of lies was pulled from an undecided Elf. Valkiere stumbled back in horror in realization at what he had nearly done, before grabbing his cloak and fleeing back up the tunnel.

The fate of possibly everything lay in his choice to turn back to the light.

“Go on, draw the sword. It’s not going to bite you.” Eru teased Amanda lightly as he stood in the centre of the training room, panels of weaponry all around them and the door heavily bolted them in the room.

Amanda slowly looked up from where she was focusing her attention to her hilt and glared up at Eru in mock annoyance.

“Someone else is going to get bitten in a minute, at the rate their going.” She said smugly, adjusting her hand around the hilt of the sword and drawing it clean out of the sheath, slicing it through the air as she did and pointed it him for a split second, then lowered it, a sneaky smile on her face.

He was behind her in an instant.

“Was that a threat?” he said lowly in her ear, pulling back her hair and then letting it go.

“It was a promise.” She whispered back, turning around to plant a kiss on his face, but he was at the other end of the room.

She narrowed her eyes at him and he just smirked back at her, drawing his sword as she had.
“Tease.” She thought as she moved closer to him with her sword, circling him, intent on winning this sparring match. He looked very measured as he simply crouched slightly, drawing his sword back behind him, it whistling lowly in the air as he did.

She knew simply lunging at him would not do, as she was sure he was calculating her every move and guessing at what she would do.

Amanda decided to go for the legs, as it would take him by surprise and she could easily duck his own attack when he struck back at her.

Without warning, sprung at him, diving towards his feet, her sword outstretched as she hurtled through the air towards him armour clad legs. Eru was startled for the briefest moment, and managed to move to the side, but not before Amanda struck her sword towards him, causing him to lose his balance slightly, giving Amanda an advantage over him. She fell to the stone floor, wincing slightly as she made contact, but she nimbly sprang to her feet and prepared to put her sword around his chest, but this time, Eru was ready for her attack. He spun away from the tip of her steel sword, and she frowned as she realised her plan had been thwarted. Carefully lowering her sword, she whirled around, but before she could, she gasped in surprise.

Eru’s cold, sharp blade was at her neck, the icy metal teasing at her throat as it lingered there for just a moment, then she felt its touch disappear just as quickly as it had come. Amanda didn’t know how long she could last if Eru kept taunting her in this manner that made her shiver in anticipation.

She turned around, slowly this time, to see Eru standing on the other side of the room, a teasing smile on his face, with just a hint of dark in his deep eyes.

She folded her arms and pursed her lips, letting her sword swing lightly in her fingertips.
“Are you going to keep doing that? It’s hardly fair.” She said dryly, walking across the hall to stand in front of him. He looked down at her with a spark in his eyes, his dark hair falling loosely over his face, and Amanda resisted the urge to tuck it back in place.

“Are you going to try and stop me?” He said, taking another step towards her. Amanda tilted her head to the side as if she were considering the possibility.
“I might.” She replied at last, looking down and swinging her sword casually, the looking back at him from under her eyelashes.

Amanda blinked once and he was back in the middle of the room, examining his sword with a trained eye then looking at her with a domineering gaze.
“Well, good luck with that.” He said and then went straight for her, his sword trailing behind him for a brief moment and then flashing out in front of him to point directly at her.

Amanda’s eyes went wide for a moment, caught off guard by his lightning speed movement and brought her sword up to meet his, the metal clashed together in the air, the metallic sound colliding off the walls, sparks generating from the contact, dark stares in between in stroke of the sword.

Inwardly, Amanda fumed.

It wasn’t just the sword fight that had her on edge, no, it was more than that. It was the fact that Eru had been teasing and taunting her in a disgraceful manner all morning. Up until the time that she’d crawled out of bed, up till when they’d walked in to the duelling room, his breath would ghost along the back of her neck and then vanish, leaving her breath smacked clean out of her, his finger would run down her spine and then he’d remove it just as quickly, leaving her a quivering mess. This was the way it had been all morning and by this time, she didn’t know how much longer she could last.

She hadn’t been this way in the past, very few men ever caught her attention and even when they did, they never made her feel the way Eru could in a light touches and one single smouldering look.

Then he was behind her once more.
“Damn it.” She thought as she turned around to face him.
His face was stern, intimidating, but there was a hint of a sultry smile hidden there.
“Not handling it very well, are we?”

Amanda’s let her guard go up a bit, panicking for a moment as she thought that he’d somehow read her mind. She relaxed a bit when he realised he must be talking about the sword fighting.

He sheathed his sword, while still staring into her eyes and her breath hitched in her throat, as she took a step backwards, putting her sword back in her place as she moved.

He continued to stalk towards her, coming closer and closer to her retreating frame as she shivered in anticipation. Finally she was backed into a corner, but he was still just out of her reach.

He lowered his head and stared right into the writhing torrents of her soul.
“I’m not talking about the sword fighting, Amanda.”
Amanda’s eyes widened as realization hit her with the speed of a bullet.

He knew.

He’d hardly touched her since that first day in the forest when they’d met and Amanda was desperate to feel his touch once more.

She gritted her teeth and tried to ignore the simmering feeling rising up inside her, instead taking out her sword once more.

He was still walking towards her, each step held intimidation and anticipation and she began to lower her sword as she could see that resistance was futile.

She felt something cold behind her and realised she’d hit the wall, and was unable to back up any further. Eru was still heading toward her, the stare of a ravaging predator in his hooded eyes and within an instant, he was directly in front of her.

Yet still he did not touch her.

Was he trying to make her insane?

Apparently.

Dani and Caden bolted through the halls of the palace, desperately looking for Amanda and Eru before the Betrayers made it to them first.

Valkyiere had come to them, desperation in his eyes, pleading with them frenziedly that they had to act now.

Dani and Caden had simply stood there for a moment baffled, petrified in their place until they’d shook themselves out of it and had hurtled down the hall with Valkyrie only paces behind them.

Dani could almost hear them now, smell their treachery in the air, it seeped into her and caused her to shudder in disgust as she saw the figures in her mind, pale figures storming through the dungeons and up the halls, blackness wrapping all around them, sinister as it moved like a sick force through the palace violating everything they touched.

Caden skidded to halt and ripped the other half of the Flame stone out of his satchel and fumbled with a moment, before frantically staring into with darting eyes.

“There!” he shouted and he threw the stone back in the satchel.
“The weapons room, we’ll only just have enough time to get them out!” Caden’s eyes filled with a blend of fear and anger, his wings seemed to glow with emanating light as his emotions grew and Dani felt her own mixture of emotions rising quickly to the surface, like bubbling lava.

Then they ran, whirling around bends and then finally falling through the door room to the palace where Eru and Amanda were standing, organising the weaponry, rows of gleaming swords and shields along the walls and Dani nearly collapsed in relief.

Caden bolted the door as firmly as he could and Eru quickly turned around, his eyes glinted with annoyance and then realised that something was amiss as he absorbed the ferocity of the emotions of Dani and Caden, he stiffened slightly, looking down at Amanda. She understood immediately that something wasn’t right, as soon as she looked into the caverns of his eyes as he tried to hide the fluster of fear in his eyes.

“You have traitors in your midst, you have to flee now! Before it’s too late!” Caden spoke, his voice cracking as he looked at all of them, spreading his fear and anger like ice freezing over a river.

Eru looked at them stunned, and a frantic fear began to overtake him as he took a step backwards, horrified.

Amanda grabbed him by the arm and steadied him, Eru gripped her hand as insurmountable guilt engulfed him.

She looked up at him, refusing to let panic rise up in her, trying to reassure him; but she needed to know.

“Is this because. . .?” she whispered, her voice trembling only slightly as she looked up at him. Eru nodded, looking at her with a tormented expression and he was about to drop his head into his hand, when Caden put a hand on his shoulder, the urgency and menace of the situation causing Eru to snap his head up and get back into focus as he began to broadcast an emergency messages into the minds of all the Elves. The Betrayers ability to communicate with the Prince was cut short when they betrayed his trust.

Dani was confused by Amanda’s comment.

Eru was hiding something?

There wasn’t time to think on that, their only hope was to flee before they could capture Eru and murder him.

Amanda could feel the rising panic in her chest, the struggle as she fought to enslave the fear in her heart, the screaming of her soul as it told her to flee, her mind as it swore to protect and then. . .

It vanished.

The violent river that had been bubbling in her soul disintegrated into a calm, unfeeling, chilled place and she felt an odd feeling over take her.

Like something was being extracted from within her being.

She tried to fight it, tried to stop her essence from leaving her and she felt her hand jerk towards her sword.

And then before she was taken over, she knew what she had to do.

Eru noticed immediately as Amanda paled and became paler than Cloudstone, her entire being shaking and trembling as though she was fighting inner demons.

Then he saw her eyes, the sign of horror in them, her essence being sucked out of her.

Eru knew what was happening.

Mind Control.

But he couldn’t leave her, even if he knew what was going to happen.

It had never been their plan to attack him themselves.

They were going to use Amanda as a vessel.

He had to stop it, but the silver gleam was slowly overtaking her eyes and he grabbed her and that was when he saw the blade.

Moving towards him.

Just as the frost froze over her eyes, it retreated momentarily and with that moment of clarity, she looked into his eyes, and then bowed her head.

“Please be safe.” She whispered, tears seeping from her frozen, silver eyes and then before Eru understood what was happening, Amanda plunged the blade into herself.

Everything shattered in that moment.

His soul splintered into diamond like shards, spilling out in a violent hurricane around him as the world went silent, the cold touch of steel against his skin as the blade fell from her hand and she shuddered, and then fell limply against him, and the silver disappeared from her eyes, the frost melting in her as she was set free.

His voice chords seemed to rip open as something worse than a scream spewed forth from the ground and her body fell with his to the floor.

Knife blades of gut-wrenching sorrow cut through his heart, reducing it to shreds of hopelessness as he lay over her, silent sobs tearing forth from centuries of pent up emotion.

His fists clenched by his sides, and all of a sudden lightening poured from within the walls as the sobs continued to rip through out.

The white blades of electricity tore through the room, whirling around the hall, violent, desperate.

Pleading.

Orbs of lightning gathered at the top of the room, careening around frantically and suddenly they all morphed together into a sword of enflamed desperation, as it quivered, glowing psychotically as it flashed and spun.

A single bolt of electric beams spewed forth from within the orb as it spiralled down, towards Eru and Amanda.

It hit Amanda, scorching her, branding her with the mark of the sky, with the mark of thunder and lightning, it surged throughout her blood, her cells absorbing the ecstatic spindles of crazed energy that tore through every atom in her body.

She was encased in a violent white light for a moment and then her body jerked upward from the ground and a gasp wrenched forth from her lungs.

Meanwhile Dani and Caden were staring with shock at the spectacle that unravelled before their eyes, looking on in grief and then in astonishment as the lightning ripped through Amanda and brought a shuddering gasp from her lungs.

Eru’s head was still bent down, his strong form shaking like a leaf in the violent storm, but then he heard the breath of Amanda and he looked at her in disbelief, as if not believing the scene that had unravelled before him.

The blood still pooled around her but as the lightning fizzled around them and shot sparks of power into the air, the magic began to show itself, drawing the blood back into Amanda, her heart shuddering spasmodically in her chest cavity and then roaring to life once more as the lightning slowly died out and left one more searing white light in the centre of her chest, blinding them all momentarily, Dani and Caden shielded their eyes from the burning beams and then the light in her chest faded out slowly.

Amanda looked up at Eru with astonishment, her memory crawling back to her. And then Eru wrenched her into his hold, grasping her tightly as she remembered.

All they could think of to do was breathe.

All Eru could remember was Amanda’s lifeless form on the icy ground, as she had slipped from his arms.

All Amanda could remember was Eru’s vibrant eyes when they stared into hers as the blade pierced her.

Eru finally pulled her up gently from the ground and they still stood silently, breaths emitting from their lungs and they remembered they had to leave.

Amanda looked to Dani and Caden, who were standing, still observing the scene with a mixture of disbelief and sheer relief and Dani sprinted towards Amanda, encasing her in the tightest of embraces, nearly taking all her breath away and Amanda couldn’t help but let out a small smile, gratefulness permeating her being.

“Careful, chest is a bit bruised after that.” Amanda whispered, with a little tease to her tone and Dani could feel tears slipping out of her eyes and she let Amanda out of her grasp and looked to Eru. He stood right behind Amanda, hand on her waist; and she knew he wouldn’t ever let go again.

Caden approached Eru hesitantly and Eru could feel his presence and turned around.

“It could have ended so much worse had it not been for your knowledge. I can’t begin to thank – “ began as he put a firm hand on Caden’s shoulder, the two exchanged looks of determination and vigour, faith binding their paths that they would be travelling.

Caden shook his head, stepping back to gesture at Dani.

“It’s not me you have to thank. Dani heard the warning of the Shadow Voices. She knew.” Dani lowered her head in humiliation, not acknowledging the praise.

“It doesn’t matter about that now. We need to leave now before anything worse happens. Whatever they have planned next will be much more powerful.”

“I have you both to thank. There is no more to be said.” He said bowing his head to them, and Dani saw the eyes of Caden widen slightly at Eru’s humbles towards them. He looked them both of them in the eye, silently asking them for a part of their allegiance and they wordlessly agreed.

“We don’t where to go. They’ll know Eru is on the run.” Amanda said, panicking in Eru’s arms as he calmed her.

“I have a feeling we won’t need to worry about them pursuing me. They’ll be planning something much worse than this, and if they do decide to pursue me, it’ll be a last resort. There is much they must do before their evil can hope to taint and destroy, before they tear the Veil. We have time.”

Caden spoke up, in realisation at the dire straits of the situation.

“We must warn the other worlds. And combine forces. There is much to learn before we can hope to battle.”

For it was now that they were beginning to realise that the story was only just beginning.

There were discoveries to be made that would baffle their minds.

Places they must find to know truth.

Sacrifices to be made in order to conquer.

“Eru, you sent out those messages. All the Elves must know by now.” Amanda realised, and she felt hope rise up as she knew they were not alone.

“But who will rule? Someone must guide them and keep them safe. And now that we must go, there must be someone to take their place.” Dani said urgently, for guidance among groups of a single kind where vital to the functionality of the world, she knew this from her combing of the library that she had read in her time here.

A bang sounded throughout the room and Eru stepped closer to Amanda, Caden and Dani’s heads turned towards the source of the sound and the sound came again.

It didn’t sound violent, it sounded urgent as though they were desperate and pleading.

Caden knew this and quickly unbolted the door and an Elf fell through the door, cloak torn and hair wild from running and he looked around the room frantically and then fell to his knees.

Valkyire.

The Undecided, yet now completely sure of his choice.

He would not turn from the light, be swayed and manipulated by lies.

But. . .

Would he be trusted again?

Would Eru take mercy upon him?

Valkyire finally got to his feet, his cloak trailing on the ground, desperation in his eyes as he looked around the great Hall.

“What happened?” he croaked out, noticing pale look of Amanda and the even paler look of the Prince.

Caden looked back at Amanda and she gave a slight nod to her head, as if giving him permission to disclose everything.

“Mind control.” Caden spoke out, softly, muted, still in shock from the whole spectacular and horrifying ordeal, his eyes and mind scorched with the image of Amanda’s limp body as she had plunged the blade into her chest. He shuddered and clasped Dani’s hand closer to him.

He could not begin to imagine the horrific pain that he would endure should Dani ever be snatched from his grasp. He felt Dani squeeze his hand back, reassuring him of her presence.

“But – mind control? How did you esc – “ he dwindled to a halt as he realised the sombre face of Eru as he crushed Amanda into chest, vowing never to let go.

Valkyire saw the image flash through his head.

Stuttered.

Static.

Screams.

Light.

Blood.

Falling.

His face changed of one of relief to one of hopeless remorse, his heart wrenched as he shuddered to think of what might of happened had he been there, for mind control was something that he had the ability to do, as well as a few of the others.

The images continued to flash through his mind.

Lightning.

Thunder.

Scarred.

Breath.

He was about to say something more when Eru spoke up for the first time since speaking with Dani and Caden.

“Your decision to resist the lies was the strongest choice of all. But we must leave. You know what is to come. For the first time since. . .” Eru trailed off, his face contorting in agony as he remembered.

“the Great War, we must prepare for battle.” He paused, staring Valkyire directly in the eyes and then turning to gaze at Dani and Caden, before directing his attention back to the Elf.

“I must leave. But I need to leave a ruler. And your choice has showed the strength to resist evil. This is why I am leaving you to lead the Elf Kingdom.”

Valkyire’s face showed a number of emotions running through them, shock, relief, fear and then finally guilt.

“ I can’t – “
“Yes, you can. And you will.” Eru’s voice rang out, firm and decisive.

“You know what to do first. Before anything worse happens.”
Valkyire knew what he was asking and he inwardly cursed, wincing mentally as he spoke.

“I wish I could, but they fled the Castle. But I know where they went.” He said, shuddering as he thought of the Evil that lay so close to them.

“Antalrin.”

Eru’s eyes widened, his grip on Amanda tightened further and his eyes grew dark with something vile, and a sliver of fear made the concoction deadly.

“Beyond the Veil.”

Caden took a step back, his wing shooting instinctively forward in order to shield Dani, but she stood to face Caden, looking at him, hands on his chest as she stared into his eyes filled with shame and desperation. He was drowning in it and Dani dove in, and then he resurfaced, the desperation fading slowly from his eyes as he collapsed on the shore of his mind.

Eru shook his head, scanning the room, looking at the faces, some filled with understanding , some with confusion, fear, desperation and yet there was courage that was there.

Determination.

“I know where we must go. I have only heard stories, passed down from centuries. It is difficult to find. It lies between the realm of time and space. It is hidden to those who have no true need of it.” Eru spoke up, a wave of his hand, a lilt in his voice as he explained.

Dani felt the curiosity well up inside of her, the magic in her slyly rising to the surface of her soul, writhing around slowly inside her, the distant whispers of the Shadows and she stepped forward, an eagerness awoken inside of her.

Caden and Eru both spoke.

“The Caged Forest.”

A look of understanding rose and a small smile crossed their faces at their realization.

“There is a path that must be taken, locations to be gone to in a specific order to reach it, to sense it. And then the rest we can only feel until we see it.”

“The sooner we leave, the better. I somehow have the feeling this journey may take a while.” Caden stated, and his hand around Dani’s continued to comfort him.

“Another is coming. You’ve not met her. She only just made it back. She must have sensed the distress.” He blanched quickly, but Amanda’s eyes brought the colour back into him and he turned to the wall, hurrying over to a row of swords, moving them hastily to the side as he seemed to be searching for something.

A muted shout of success made its way through the air as they all inched closer to see what Eru had done.

Dani looked over his shoulder and noticed a small lever hidden behind one of the blades of the sword, Caden glanced at the row of gleaming steel as his eyes alighted on the same lever, as did Amanda.

What was he planning?

Eru brushed his fingers over the lever and then hesitated, and turned toward Valkyire, nodding at him.

“It’s time.”

Valkyire breathed, his chest moving inwards as his image seemed to warp and wobble in the air; then fragments of gold sunk to the ground as he disappeared from their sight and Dani put a hand over her mouth, taking a step back towards Caden.

A great shudder shook the entire Hall as Eru pulled the lever harshly downward, taking a hasty step backwards as he pulled Amanda with him, she held onto him firmly and then her mouth fell open as she looked down at the ground.

A shimmering, swirling hole had appeared in the Hall, strange colours mixing and swirling and spinning around, the sprays of colours shooting out into the air like the blue firefly creatures that Dani had seen.

Then she heard a low, trembling voice coming a few feet from behind her.

“Dani?” The voice quivered, and Dani’s eyes misted as she spun around to face Reel, the child who she felt connected to for reasons she could not explain.

Caden’s heart pricked as he heard the voice of Reel as well, and an instinct of protectiveness rose up inside of him.

“Are you leaving me behind?” Dani could see the hopeless look in his eyes, mixed with a steel of determination not to let the tears flood out.

Dani knelt down to his level, and Caden mimicked her movements, and they looked Reel in the eyes.

Reel placed a gentle hand on Dani’s shoulder and spoke quietly, but yet there was fear laced through his voice that they both heard distinctly.

“I understand if you have to – “ Reel started but then another voice interrupted him.

Eru.

“They will not leave you behind, you both need one another more than ever, even if you do not realise it right now.”

Reel looked up at Eru, confusion welling in his face, but strains of relief permeated from his features and he took a step to Eru.

“They need me?” his voice echoed in the room, his soft yet strong voice around the room and this time it was Amanda who spoke.

“We all need each other. This journey cannot exist without each of us here.” Eru solemnly nodded his agreement, with Caden and Dani joining the circle once again.

“But who is this one other?” Dani asked, a curious eye on Eru and he gestured towards the vortex of colours that beckoned them.

“She is my sister. The only one who survi – “ Amanda put a hand on his arm as he cut off, looking down at the ground, sorrow seeming to weigh him down. Dani knew there was still so much she didn’t know yet. She only hoped there would be time to understand everything. Who knew what would happen in the next hour, the next day even.

Eru was the first one to disappear into the swirling array of colours that hypnotically cascaded in the hall. Amanda next, then Caden, holding Reel’s hand firmly in his. Dani took one more look around the room, the gleaming rows of metal that spilled around the room, then she felt a tug at her fingers and she was pulled into the dizzying rainbow of light.

Then she was falling, so fast, she felt her hair was being pulled out by her scalp and then she hit something before she could even cry out. The breath knocked clean out of her, she gasped for air, frantically trying to draw in gasps of air and satisfy her screaming lungs; she finally made it to her feet.

She staggered for a moment, seeing nothing but blackness and feeling the empty presence of nothingness, and panic filled her momentarily.

Her vision slowly began to clear and she saw dark figures lying on the ground, still, unmoving and she froze for a split second and then realization flooded her as she recognised them all.

They were all safe.

But where they were, was another question that had to be answered.

Her vision grew brighter and as it did, she heard a few indistinct mumbles and groans as the dark figures began to move sluggishly. Dani could make out the small frame of Reel and the face of Caden as she breathed a sigh of relief.

Dani looked all around her and astonishment rippled through her as the scene shocked her. Endless rows of mirrors, all around her, tall, sparkling mirrors, emanating dim grey light all around them and Dani couldn’t speak for a moment.

“Where are we?” Amanda was the first to speak as she looked anxiously about her, and then looked to Eru for clarification.

“The Hall of Cursed Mirrors. Or at least, that’s what it looks like to me. Kauanoe is near here. She always did like the sound of the mirrors. Why that is I’ll never know.” He trailed off a bit, and then looked around him, familiarising himself again with the territory that he must have visited long ago.

But something was confusing to Dani.

“The sound of the Mirrors? Your sister can –“ she struggled to form the words correctly, “ hear a Mirror?” Dani asked in astonishment.

“You can hear a Mirror?” Caden asked at the same time, and Dani let out a small smile as they both had spoken at the same time yet again.

“You can, however, it can be rather unsettling if you’ve never heard them before. And. . . it’s quite difficult to hear. You can’t hear with your ears but rather,” he tapped his slanted ears, “with your mind.” He finished, glancing around at the mirrors while they all looked on in astonishment.

It was then Dani realised that every single mirror was cracked. The shattered webs of silver overtook most of the mirror, however the cracks were so small that it looked like shimmering spider-webs rather than jarring splits in the clear surface.

“You said cursed. . .” Dani trailed off slowly and Caden looked pointedly at her, and her eyes widened as she remembered the Cloud Tribe.

“The Rebellious Mirror Daemons. . .” she near whispered as she realised what they were seeing.

“You know of the Mirror Daemons?”

Caden spoke up. “When we visited the Cloud Tribe, we saw the Mirrors in the palace, the Mirror Daemons. But they were the pure Mirrors, untainted by rebellion. But these ones. . .”he trailed off.

“Not totally damned.” Eru stated, as he peered closer at the Mirrors.

“Only a partial curse lays upon them. It prevents them entering the physical world. They are trapped within the Mirrors of all the Worlds.”

Dani shook her head, bewildered.

“Only part cursed?” she asked, unbelieving slightly, yet she’d quickly learned that there was so much more was possible than she’d ever imagined.

“It is confusing, I’ll say that,” Eru responded, with an understanding look on his face, “but it is possible.”

“How did this happen?” Dani’s voice laced with question and Caden quickly added, “There are so many. I’ve never seen so many Mirrors in one place before. “ he exclaimed, going quiet at the end of his outburst.

Eru gave a half smile, while Amanda and Reel silently listened, as they were unbeknown about the Mirror Daemons.

“That would be the work of the Mirror Guards. They didn’t fully understand what they were dealing with so, they moved them here. They’ve been working for years, trying to understand the “Partial Curse Dilemma.”

“So, the Mirror Guards.” Dani paused, looking down at her hands, tracing the lines absentmindedly in her palms.

“Where are the Mirror Guards now?” She hoped they had not suffered some terrible fate.

Eru responded quickly, he seemed to know so much of this world. Although he had been alive for centuries, as had Caden, but from what she knew, he had fled the world many times, looking for. . . well, she didn’t know what yet.

“They devote much of their time to training their Mirror Daemons. It’s quite a paradox, to be honest, since they’re not allowed to venture into these Mirrors, only to Guard them. But that’s what makes the training so astonishing. It’s almost impossible to train a Mirror Daemon.” Eru’s voice drifted off into the air, they were all silent as they gazed at the Mirrors in wonder, Dani still trying to understand the new information and Caden mourning that he lost so much knowledge why he was away, cursing himself inwardly for not being wiser. Maybe if he’d been wiser then – “ his thought was cut off by Dani’s hand that snuck into his. He took it, grateful the distraction, now focusing on the warmth of her hand and the lines in her palms, his mind calmed.

“I think the real question is, where is your sister?” The voice was faint behind them, lower down and they looked behind them to see Reel, looking all around at the Mirrors and then glancing back to Eru.

“She’s meant to be near here. I usually can feel her energy. . .but, there’s nothing but a faint remnant of her. It’s weeks old.” He said, shaking his head, jaw clenched as he tried to think, to understand.

“You said it’s possible to hear the Mirrors. . . “Caden began.
“So, maybe we need to listen to them.” Dani realised out loud, finishing Caden’s thought for him.

Eru paused for a moment, considering, drumming his fingers along the blade of his sword that was at his side and it was then that Dani realised the presence of her own blade that she had her side.

The Healing Blade that she’d used back in the Elf Kingdom.

Grateful for it, she seized the hilt of the sword in her hand and felt the energy fizzling from it.

“I didn’t think of that. But, to listen to the Mirrors, how could they know of what we seek?” he asked, more himself than of anyone else.

“Maybe they know something that we don’t.” Amanda quietly suggested to him, in spite of his nearly inaudible voice, she had heard his dilemma.

They all became quiet for a moment, sound slowly disappearing from them and silence overtook them. But even the silence was loud and Dani tried to forget the blank feeling of the silence in the air.

They heard nothing, save for the muted sound of their breathing and Dani strained to hear something, anything.

She shook her head, exasperated and she saw the others were having the same reactions. The Mirrors were staying silent. Or if they weren’t, they certainly had no idea how to listen.

Dani paused to think, to allow the thoughts of what was happening to rush through her head and then –

It hit her.

Her mind.

Filled with thoughts, feelings, curiousities.

Her mind was deafening, not with sound but the energy of her thoughts and feelings.

To hear the Mirrors, the mind must be empty. It was one thing for the world to be silent, but quite another for the mind to be silent also.

She let her mind free of the chains of her thoughts, unlocking them from their shackles, letting them drift free and so her mind began to empty, her mind turned silent with nothing.

She heard something strange then.

Winding melodies of voices that didn’t sound quite human, but that were not alien to her.

A symphony of something that was not quite music, but not words either.

Even though the sounds she heard were not words, she understood them.

She didn’t realise what was happening until Caden took a step towards her and Amanda’s jaw dropped in astonishment.

Her hands were moving through the air, but this wasn’t this the strangest thing. The most shocking thing was the images coming from her hands. They seemed faded, flickering as though they were holographic images.

All Dani was focused on was the sounds in her head, which her hands responded to, as if they were translating what she heard into something that made sense to all of them.

Strange creatures raced around the hall, turning and twisting through the mirrors, making distorted, unreal reflections in the cracked glass, then there was an Elf that Dani did not recognise, but she heard a sharp gasp from Eru, but she had to continue. The sounds in her head moved from her hands so fast she could barely keep up with them. The Elf, that Dani could tell was a young women seemed to be trapped in a place, but it seemed strange to her because nothing seemed to be trapping her.

She was pounding her hand on a seemingly clear surface, so it looked like she was simply attacking the air, but then a thin sliver of silver broke the seemingly clear surface.

That was when the images shattered into a thousand pieces, Dani’s hand’s dropped to her side and the indescribable sounds in her head vanished.

Dani began to feel light headed, the others seeming to blur in her vision, as she tried to take a shaky step towards them but then fell to her knees. Caden rushed to her side and grabbed her before she could hit the floor, and then she saw every Mirror around her explode into light, and then darkness came for her.

“Dani? Dani?? Please, I need you to wake up. You’re still breathing.” She heard a distant, desparate voice float through the air and she tried to latch onto it but failed.

“Her eyes moved! I saw them!” she heard a softer voice cry out and she began to see the vague outlines of people in front of her. Silver light seemed to surround them and she squinted her eyelids at the intrusion, and then she felt a hand in hers.

She wrapped her hands around it and then finally opened her eyes.

Her vision was sharp, clarity seized her view.

She had expected her vision to be hazy, blurry but everything was reflected clearly in her gaze.

Like a Mirror.

She clambered to her feet, her boots scraping along the floor, she stumbled a few times, but Caden steadied her and she looked up to be sure she had really woken up, that she wasn’t dreaming.

“The images – what happened?” Dani asked, her voice still groggy and she pushed the hair away from her face, trailed her finger along the side of the Elven Blade, feeling the pacing energy through the hilt of the sword.

“You passed out. You – you started to stumble, and then you just collapsed. Whatever,” he struggled to find the words to continue, “that was, it must of drained your magic sources much too quickly.” Caden finished, still holding onto her arm, for fear that she would fall again.

Dani closed her eyes, trying to remember what she’d seen. It was slowly coming back, but the images had been confusing to say the least. She’d know she must have heard the Mirrors.

“What did you all see? I can only remember fragments, pieces of what happened.” Dani said hurriedly, waiting for answers.

They were all silent for a moment, as the events passed through their minds once more.

“There were the Mirrors.” Amanda started cautiously, “and then there were – “the creatures.”
Eru looked up, as if the memory had fallen into his hands.

“The Mirror Daemons – and then there was someone.” Caden narrowed his eyes, holding the bridge of his nose, a habit that Dani had learnt was a sign of intense concentration, and his wings shared in his agitation, moving anxiously back and forth through the air.

“Another Elf. She looked scared.” Reel spoke up quietly, as he usually did. Hiding everything inside of him. He looked up at Eru, realization dawning on his face.

“That was your sister?” Reel’s mouth dropped open a little.
“But that would mean – “ Caden started as they understood the truth, and Eru’s face went blank with an emotion that Dani didn’t quite recognise.

Amanda looked Eru in the eye, intense determination in her eyes as she spoke.

“Eru, listen to me. She’s your sister – you know her better than anyone else. You can get her out of there.” Amanda urged him.

“But – how? I don’t even understand how they trapped her in the first place in there! The Mirrors aren’t strong enough to trap Mirror Daemons!” Eru’s tone became frustrated, angry even and he began to pace in front of the Mirrors, the cracked surfaces of the Mirror seemed to make him on edge, more frantic by the Mirror, until his hand came fiercely down on a Mirror, yet the surface, cracked as it was, remained unperturbed by his violent outburst.

Amanda’s voice rose now, and her frustration permeated through the air and she stormed over to Eru.

“Think of your sister, Eru! Our only hope of getting her out of there is by staying calm.” His fist was still on the surface of the Mirror, the cracks under his palm, his eyes tightly shut, his breathing heavy and Amanda placed a hand on his shoulder. He tensed slightly, but then relaxed as his breathing began to slow down.

He opened his eyes, his ash dark lashes flickered across the burnt coal kindling in his eyes and turned around to face them.

“What do we do?” Eru spoke, quietly, but they could all sense the thunder under the surface of his tone.

“There must be a way to get into the Mirror. You said it was only partially cursed?” Caden said, questioningly, his wings still moving back and forward anxiously in the air.

Something odd happened then.

It flashed through both of their minds in the same instance. It had felt like years since they had been in The Chambers.

“The Adorning.” Dani breathed, and suddenly she felt a searing current run through her side and then she felt something hanging from her belt. Eyes wide open in shock, she instantly cast her gaze over to Caden, who had the same unusual object hanging down from his belt.

It looked like something Dani had seen before, spider webbed links of shimmering blue light formed the shape of. . .a net! That was why it had seemed so familiar. It was missing the rod on the end of it that Dani knew was a defining characteristic of a one of those centuries old net, one that she herself had used back at home, to catch butterflies in the park down the road from her house, when she was not more than five. She remembered those butterflies, flitting teasingly in the air as she had leapt from rock to rock; though she had never caught one before, as their blue and gold bodies had always managed to dart out of her reach.

She was snapped back to the present moment when her hand made contact with the bottom of the net, and she felt another burning sensation, the net glowed brightly for a moment once more and then it somehow moulded to her palm. She tried shaking it gently, but it remained fused to her fingertips and she began to worry. Surely it wasn’t going to stay there forever, was it?

She was brought out of her worrying when she heard the breaths of astonishment around them. She saw the glow of Caden’s net as well, and she remembered what Amanda had said about the Adorning.

Amanda must of remembered as well, and her voice broke out in astonishment through the air.
“The Adorning will change according to the needs of the wearer.” She breathed out, her hand over her mouth, Eru’s face the same, Reel’s face had a smile painted across it as watched the glow of the webbed nets.

Dani marvelled in awe of the creation in front of her, but as much as she appreciated it’s beauty, she didn’t want it to stay stuck on her hand forever. She tried as hard as she could to shake it off, but it remained stubbornly connected with her hand.

“You’re fighting it Dani. It’s only there to help remember?” Caden reminded her, he wasn’t trying to get rid of the net.

“I can’t walk around with a net stuck to my hand for the next I don’t know how long!” She said, trying once more to shake it from her hand. Still a fruitless effort, and it seemed to bind itself even tighter to her hand as she finally stopped her attempts to rid herself of it.

“What is it? It looks like a net, but there’s nothing here to catch?” Eru was confused, as he stared at the flickering glow of the net, brushing his fingertips tentatively, and even Reel not resist a slight tug at the alluring net.

“Or maybe there is.” Caden spoke up, interest sparking in his voice, and she saw Caden close his eyes and his whole body seemed to relax into a trance light state, and the net began to glow brighter.

The net sprung forth from his hand, the rogue net leaving electric trails of blue behind the interwoven web of light that swiftly moved from his palm. Caden’s eyes opened immediately, watching in awe as the others took a step back in wonder and then the net flicked back towards into his palm.

“So that was why it stuck to our palms!” Dani exclaimed, feeling a little foolish as she looked down at the net in her palm. They knew what it did, but there was still the matter of actually catching anything.

What were they even catching?

And why?

There was still the Hall of Mirrors, stretching out endlessly before them, tiny slivers of silver seemingly embedded in the surface of them, all of them marred in some way, but the clear surfaces contradicted the cracked surfaces.

“I saw your sister here, she must be here. I don’t know where, but I know she’s here. “ Dani began to ran down the rows of Mirrors, the cracks with the silver seeping out of them glinted off her Elven Blade, and she could hear the others in quick pursuit behind her.

Nothing but rows and rows of Mirrors.

Shattered reflections of themselves in the Mirrors taunted them, beckoning them towards the flaws in the Mirrors as they ran past, their faces distorting in the Mirrors. They saw flashes of creatures, constantly appearing and disappearing behind the cracks of silver in the Mirror.

Dani knew they must be the Mirror Daemons.

Dani rounded another corner and stopped short, transfixed by what she saw, causing Caden and the others to nearly hurtle into her. They managed to stop just centimetres before colliding with her and then they also saw too.

“So that’s what they nets are for.” Dani breathed, her eyes clear and wide as she stared at the scene before her.

She was once again transported back in time nearly twelve years ago, to when she had eagerly roamed the park with her net, amazed by what she saw, what she had tried to catch. Hair flying everyway as she had clung to her net in an attempt to catch the butterflies.

What she was staring at right now.

Yet they were eons ahead of the butterflies that she had seen at the park when she was younger.

White light seeped out from their wings as they flew in front of the perfectly clear Mirror, devoid of any cracks, and they seemed to be growing in size as Dani continued to stare at them in wonder.

The actual butterflies themselves shone an iridescent golden which faded into the white light that poured out from within them.

They soared above the Mirror, but didn’t venture out any further than a few metres from the Mirror, as if they were tied to it by invisible strings. As they flew above the Mirror, they began to grow again, becoming larger as they reached the ground, smaller as they flew up higher, and Dani began to see the difficulty of her task. They’d have to leave the ground to catch them in their smaller form. They were too large to fit in the net when they were so close to the ground, and she glanced over at Caden, asking him in her mind if he’d realised the same thing.

He looked at her, a gleam in his eyes as he nodded.

Dani turned to face the others, Amanda at Eru’s side, an arm around Reel’s shoulder as they simply stared at all that was before them.

“The Daemons, they’re – I think they’re guarding the Mirror. This is the only one that doesn’t have the cracks like the other ones.” Dani explained hurriedly as she gestured to the Daemons in front of them, in the form of butterflies.

“She must be trapped in there! I just can’t understand why she wouldn’t be in the cracked Mirrors. This one is not cursed at all, there are no cracks. The cracks are the sign – “ Caden cut off Eru as he knew, “Yes, the cursed Mirrors have the cracks. But, these are only partially cursed, remember?” he reminded Eru, and he shook his head in response.

“It still doesn’t make sense. I’m sure there’s something that we don’t know.” Eru paced in front of the Mirror, pausing to stare into the reflective surface and shaking his head once more.

Caden looked back up at the Mirror Daemons, watched as they gracefully moved upwards, decreasing in size as they did, and then growing larger as they came closer to the ground. It was easy to see what they must do, even so Dani was determined to get into the Mirror and took a step towards it.

Just as she thought she was close enough to touch it, a blinding light hit her and a shock ran through her body as her finger touched something invisible to her eyes that lay just in front of the Mirror, and she fell back towards the ground.

Caden quickly grabbed her arm before she hit the surface of the room, and she understood why they must catch the Mirror Daemons. Of course, it was blocked by more than just the Daemons themselves. They had more power than Dani realised.

“I thought we might have a chance of getting to the Mirror when they were up in the air.” Dani murmured to Caden, now feeling rather foolish as she realised her error.

“Clearly it’s not just the Daemons we have to worry about then.” Caden spoke back to her. The others were in a group a few feet from them as they spoke quietly in between themselves. Eru caught their eye and nodded solemnly at then, turning back to speaking with Amanda and Reel.

Dani and Caden knew only they had a way of releasing Eru’s sister. Catch the Mirror Daemons and hopefully the wall would disappear, hopefully it would allow for them to break through the Mirror and release Kauanoe.

Caden began to hover slightly above the ground, and Dani floated off the ground, and the Daemons seemed to become aware of their presence, their tiny bodies beginning to grow larger as they flew back down to the ground.

Dani noticed one just above her head, and felt the net begin to leave her hand, moving swiftly through the air, but it just flew out of her reach. Dani followed it swiftly down to the ground, faster as she watched it grow. She had to get it before it grew too large for the net.

The net surged through the air and it was caught. The butterfly struggled in the net for a moment before coming still, floating there in the net as if suspended in a bubble of liquid.

“I caught one!” she shouted out to Caden who was closer to the ground, and the others noticed, excitement flooding their faces, rejoicing at the victory of the catch.

She turned her attention back to the rest of the Daemons, when she realised that the butterfly was beginning to make unusual, spasmodic motions in the net, glowing it’s white light even stronger than before and that’s when it disappeared, exploding into a galaxy of golden beams that fell from the net. She saw something fall from the net that looked like a small golden stone. It fell right towards Caden, just grazing his arm.

“Caden, catch it! Next to your arm!” she shouted to him, but it slipped past his outstretched fingers and it plummeted towards the ground.

Eru had heard Dani and reached out his hand towards it and with surprising ease, clasped his fingers around the small golden stone, it glinted as it hit his palm and he gazed at it in amazement. Dani and Caden floated to the ground to see for themselves.

A glinting stone that shone like a golden mirror, glimmering like a star in Eru’s palm.

“What is that?” Amanda wondered in awe and Reel’s eyes widened at the beauty of the stone, brushing his fingers hesitantly at the stone.

Dani’s feet touched the ground and she gazed at the stone in Eru’s palm. He held it out to her, urging her to take it and she reached out hesitantly for it, grasping the stone in her hands as she tucked in the pouch at her side.

Caden had already left the ground again, his wings stretching out as he moved through the air, and Dani leapt up to join him, and this time, they took the Daemons by surprise, they scattered through the air, and Dani’s net sprung out from her hand, and it snatched another Daemon in the net. Caden had managed to catch two in one go.

Now there were only ten left to catch.

The Daemons began to still in the net, then moments later, jerking and glowing as light poured forth from them and the golden stones dropped through their nets.

Dani lunged out to catch her stone, and it fell into her palm as she lurched to the side to get it before it fell to the ground. She had absolutely no idea what they were for, but they must be important.

She tucked the stone in her pouch, closing the clasp so she wouldn’t lose them and they turned their attention again to the Mirror Daemons again.

After what seemed like years, they had caught every one of the Mirror Daemons, and their pouches heavy to the brim with the golden stones that had been made every time they caught a Daemon.

They stood in front of the Mirror now, and Eru reached his hand out to it, but the wall still glowed and struck him back.

“I don’t understand. The Mirror Daemons were guarding it. This should be gone!” he exclaimed. Caden paced the floor; Dani ran her fingers through her hair, racking her brain for a solution, something that they missed. Her hands absentmindedly played with the tassel on the pouch.

Wait a minute.

Quickly Dani opened up the pouch with trembling fingers, her hand grasped one of the golden stones and held it in her hand, heating as it did and she knew then.

That’s why they had to catch the Daemons.

“Caden, the stones!” she exclaimed, pressing one into his hands. Eagerly, she dug the rest out of her pouch, giving a handful to Eru, Amanda and Reel.

Then stepping back, she held the first stone in her hand. The heat from it grew, her palm heating with the fire and she knew she had to let go of it soon.

There wasn’t any time to explain.

Only to show.

Looking straight at the Mirror, she threw the stone through the air.

It smashed into the invisible wall, shattering it as it hurtled through the wall. It created a crack in the wall, glowing as the stone hit the barrier between them and the Mirror. They could see the wall now, tall, and transparent in the dim light. The cracks made slivers in the wall, weakening it.

Eru hurled another golden stone at it, another crack and explosion of light ripped through the wall, the cracks growing larger, and veins of silver erupted throughout the wall.

A torrent of stones then flew at the wall as they became more enthusiastic. Slivers of light burst through the air as the wall continued to crack and shudder under the impact of the golden rocks as they pelted down upon it.

The last stone hit the wall and it finally shattered, silver shards falling like hail around them and the Mirror became clear before them, more transparent, their reflections looking back at them as the shards of the wall continued to fall around them.

Everything was silent now, even as the silver shards continued to surround and fall to the ground like relentless drops of rain and Eru took a step forward to the Mirror. The others watched him, their gaze transfixed on the clear surface of the untainted Mirror, expecting at any moment to see a face on the other side that wasn’t there’s.

He was face to face with the Mirror now, and he lifted a palm to the surface and it slipped through the surface, creating ripples as his hand disappeared, along with the rest of him, the Mirror exploded in waves and ripples of silver as he vanished through the surface of the Mirror.

The silence was taut, like a tightrope, wrapping thick around them like a canopy of smoke, their breaths all held as they waited. They strained to listen for any voices, any sound that would give them indication of Eru’s success.

Nothing.

Only the silence.

Only the echo of the endless Mirror Halls.

After what seemed like hours, but must of only been a minute, Dani saw the Mirror ripple slightly.

She held her breath eagerly, waiting for an appearance.

The Mirror was undisturbed again.

Then another ripple, this time larger, like a wave.

The waves of silver movement passed up and down the Mirror and Dani took a cautious step towards the Mirror, looking for any signs of life. She thought she heard faint noises, whispers of an Elven tongue.

Two forms tumbled out of the Mirror, causing cascades of clear silver to make waves across the surface of the Mirror, waves that were liquid glass as they shimmered as they moved.

A head of silver hair covered a pale face that was painted with the blush of youth, her eyes were hazed gold liquid as she stared with unseeing eyes straight at Dani.

The eye of a blind.

Eru’s sister was blind?

Eru had tumbled out of the Mirror next to her and pulled her to her feet. He embraced her momentarily, and then the words came.

The word of confusion.

The tone of frustration.

The gestures of realisation.

“Why come to the Mirrors? And they trapped you?” Eru exclaimed, gesturing wildly at Kauanoe, the movement was futile as her eyes could see no movement of the physical world, yet she felt the wind that was caused from his franticness.

“Eru, stop and listen to me. You never did listen, did you?” she exclaimed, a hand over her eyes as she shook her head.

“I think it was you who didn’t listen – I can see the effects of – “ he cut of and gritted his teeth, closing his eyes.

“Eru, the Mirror did not trap me in there. I had to flee – “ she began to pace the floor urgently, she could feel the presence of the others there, listening silently to her vehement outburst.

“You are in more danger than you realise. You all are.” She turned to face Caden and Dani, looked to Amanda and Reel with her hazed liquid eyes of molten gold.

“Fleeing from wh – “Kauanoe interrupted Eru, taking him by the arm and gesturing to the others.

“Explanations later, leaving now.” She spoke firmly as she began to walk briskly down the halls of Mirrors, with the others following quickly behind and Eru shaking his head in frustration.

“For someone who can’t see, she seems to be awfully confident about where we’re headed.” Amanda murmured under her breath, and Dani saw the slight lift of Kauanoe’s cheekbone as if she were laughing at the comment.

Dani could suddenly feel the air change, it was thicker, harder to walk through and Dani began to recognise the familiar haze of the mist not more than 30 feet in front of her. She hadn’t remembered seeing this when they had been through the halls before.

She hesitantly approached the mist, and felt a slight twinge of doubt inside of her, but she overcame it and took a step forward, the mist encasing her feet in white smoke filled haze.

The mist wrapped round her, and then everything disappeared from view. She could hardly see her own hand, and just made out the figures of Caden, Amanda and Reel beside her. She reached for Caden’s hand through the mist, and clasped his fingers in her own.

He grasp strengthened around her palm and she felt a little safer travelling through the mist.

She heard a voice float back to her from beyond the mist, the sound of Kauanoe’s voice in her ear.

“Stop!” Immediately Dani halted, and then took another cautious step forward into the mist.

What was in the mist?

Where they were even headed?

She heard a faint whisper inside her head then, the muted sound of a thousand bells as the Shadow Voices spoke to her. She let out a slight gasp as she heard the breath of the voices inside her mind.

“A city of Thunder.” They breathed in her head, the whispers fading away as an echo through the corridors in her mind.

Dani shook her head in wonder.

Everything that she’d imagined was a reality in this world.

Suddenly she felt a hand grasp her backwards and she nearly fell over into Caden, and she jerked her head upwards in confusion.

That was until she saw the edge of the cliff, pebbles and stones tumbling down the side of it into smoky darkness and she stared down into it, her face changing from fear, to horror and then to relief, but quickly fading out to panic as she realised there was nowhere for them to go.

She knew better than to think like that. This world was not like Earth. What was impossible and implausible on Earth was anything but on this planet. Possibilities lay at every angle and there was always a way.

It was then that Dani noticed something solid amidst the mist that drifted over the careening drop.

Stones.

Floating in mid – air, hovering hundreds of feet above whatever lay below, their forms quivering slightly in the air as they floated like ethereal beings amongst the fog.

Kauanoe was already on the stones, her feet hopping carefully between them as she disappeared almost immediately into the mist. She hesitated slightly as her foot dangled between the abyss and then she put her foot forward and she felt the stone wobble slightly under the pressure. She looked down and cringed momentarily at the incredible height, the mist swirling below them. The stone had lit up under feet, guiding the pathway into the thick fog.

She saw the next stone ahead of her, she’d have to jump to make it.

She took a deep breath and leapt into the air, landing on the wide rock, holding out her arms for balance, looking behind her to see that the others were following.

Caden was right behind her, with Amanda at his heels. Eru flanked them all, a hand at Amanda’s elbow. Reel must have gone with Kauanoe. She hoped they had made it safely through.

They made their way slowly over the stones, their feet thudding loudly on the rocks every time they landed on the quivering stones that hovered mysteriously in the air, the mist getting thicker with every jump they made. The light of the stones helped them to see in front of them. Dani was sure they would have plummeted to their deaths had the rocks not lit up for them. Even though both she and Caden could fly, she had a sinking feeling that their abilities would have not worked here.

She saw a shadowy figure in front of her, hopping quickly over the stones.

Reel.

She breathed a sigh of relief as she saw him.

Then her breath hitched in her throat.

She saw him stumble, his foot just missing the stone and her eyes widened, then she leapt over the stone to reach him, her hand reaching for his arm. Her hand just grazed his elbow, but she already knew it was too late.

She saw his horrified face as he hurtled backwards into the mist, his form disappearing into the dark abyss.

A scream broke forth from her throat and she fell down on the rock as she stared horrified down into the mist.

Suddenly Caden was by her side.

“Reel! He fell, he slipped. I tried to grab him, but . . .what have I done? I should’ve carried him! He’s dead because of me!” Dani sobbed, she felt the others around her. Dani didn’t even stop to think about how there was space for them on the single rock.

“Dani, there was no way you could have – what is that?” She heard Caden’s voice change from that of sorrow to that of confusion. No, wonder?

It didn’t matter.

Reel was gone.

She’d failed.

She felt a hand shake her and she tried to bat it away, but then she looked up again into the mist, only for a moment.

A dark shape seemed to be moving slowly up out of the mist. Hope welled up in her for a moment, then it was quickly extinguished as she realised it was far too big to be Reel.

“Dani! Look!” Amanda shook her shoulder again, but she didn’t care.

A massive whoosh of wind rushed past her which brought her to her senses as she snapped her head up to see what had nearly knocked her off her feet.

No.

It couldn’t be, could it?

It looked like the dragon they had spoken with back at the Cloud Kingdom.

A sputter of air surged up in her lungs as it came closer.

It was the dragon.

And he had something on its back.

The dragon moved through the air swiftly now, the wind of his wings creating a tornado effect on the mist, swirling and dragging it through the air, it cleared slightly and Dani could see the other side of the cliff.

“I knew we’d be meeting again, Dani. Not under these circumstances but -

“Reel!”

It was him on the dragon. He was clutching tightly to the neck of the dragon, his feet dangling precariously off the edge of him, but even so he was safe. Unknown to Dani, he’d fastened Reel upon his back with a spell so that he wouldn’t fall.

His scales glinted black in the air, the mist still swirling around him and he hovered in the air like the stones.

“I can’t believe it. How did you – “ Dani managed to get out, her voice cracking as she spoke, grabbing Reel and pulling him to her side.

“I like to say I have good vision. I was making my way back from the Cloud Kingdom and I saw your little company on the rocks, and that was when I saw the boy” – he gestured with a claw to Reel.

“I saw him fall, and I went down as fast as I could. He was about 30 feet from hitting a jagged pile of ice and I managed to catch him before – “ he stopped at that, as Dani could only guess the rest.

“I can’t thank you enough. I can’t believe how foolish I – “ the dragon cut her off and Caden squeezed her hand as the shocked silence of the others echoed around her.

“You could not have known. Blaming yourself will not undo the past, Dani. You must realise that now before you go any further.” He paused momentarily before he spoke again, his white horns glinting off his liquid black scales as he turned his head to address all of them.

“Would it be too bold of me to ask to join you? I’ve waited centuries to fight for a noble cause. And this is my world that is at risk of evil. This is my chance to defend everything. And trust me, with what you’re up against, the more you have at your side, the better. They will not be taken down easily.”

“You saved Reel. The chance to defend this world is the right that is already yours.” Caden spoke up out of the silence.

“It isn’t a right that I take lightly. I will do all that is within my power. I can only hope the others will accommodate a dragon.”

He turned to fly on ahead before turning to them once more.

“You can call me Aeth.”

His wings then disappeared into the fog and they watched in silence for a moment before they made it to safety on the other edge of the cliff.

Their feet finally hit solid ground again and then a thunderous noise ripped through the air, making Dani jump and whirl around toward the cliff, where she saw a fleeting glance of the stones dropping out of the air.

She heard the muted smash of the rocks echoing up from the bottom of the abyss and her heart shuddered in her chest, stopping herself from imagining what would of happened had Aeth not been flying over them at that instant.

The fog still lay in front of them, however not as thick now, so they could see the faint image of Kauanoe in front of them. She moved toward them quickly, appearing suddenly out of the mist, looking past Dani and the words rushed out of her mouth.

“The child – I heard the yell, is he. . . ?” She trailed the words off until Dani saw Reel move towards Kauanoe, taking her by the hand and she gasped, flinching at the touch.

“But I heard the cry, he –“ she turned her head suddenly towards a sound they all heard.

The rush of the wind, the flash of the light coming from out of the fog.

Aeth.

“I suppose that’s where I made my appearance.”

“Aeth?” they heard the voice of Kauanoe gasp. Dani was momentarily shocked for a moment.

Kauanoe knew Aeth?

The waves of everything that Dani didn’t threatened to overtake her and she simply shook her head in amazement.

“I’m beginning to feel like this is a small world.” Eru murmured, and Aeth let out a chuckle at the comment.

“More like everything is connected. It’s how we flourish.” Aeth said more to himself than anyone else, but everyone still heard him.

Kauanoe spoke briskly, yet with a quiver to her voice that Dani had not noticed before. So much had happened that day, that it was understandable. Dani felt like she had left Earth centuries ago, when she’d really only been gone three weeks. It felt so strange to have time here. It felt as though it did not exist here, although there was days as well as nights.

“We still don’t have time to waste. We won’t be even half safe until we reach the path we must take. Eru?”

He shook his head out of the trance he was in, holding Amanda’s hand tighter and turning to address his sister.

“The Faerie Tunnels. The first place to begin our path to the Caged Forest. And safety is a myth now. Safety is gone until the Dark is destroyed.” He finished, and there was a long silence for a moment.

“Well, walking is out of the question. It will take too long for you two,” Aeth gestured to Dani and Caden with a pointed gaze and a raised claw, “to fly and not to mention, not everybody has the ability to defy gravity.”

Eru looked toward Aeth with a calculating gaze, a raised eyebrow as he decided whether or not to trust him.

“You wish to join us?” Eru spoke slowly, stepping toward Aeth and the dragon looked down at the Elf with a decisive look about him.

“A chance to defend his world is all that he asks. It’s all anyone could ask. Only one with a noble heart would throw themselves into such peril.” Caden spoke out to Eru, gesturing towards the dragon.

“You yourself know that well enough.” He finished.

Eru pressed his lips together, his eyes staring into the fog as the silence wound around all of them like a snake.

“He saved Reel. He should not have to ask, Eru.” Dani spoke up, looking pointedly at Eru, and he gazed back at her, a sigh coming forth from his lungs.

“It seems I am outnumbered. Besides, I have no argument. The only way to win is to band together.” Eru said finally, and Dani noticed the dim blush that lit up Kauanoe’s cheek. It seemed that there was more to Aeth than he was letting on.

Dani smiled quietly to herself, her hand still in Caden’s. She’d tell him later, at the tunnels. Besides, he’d probably figured it out himself by now already.

“The Faerie Tunnels await us. And luckily, my span is great enough to carry you all.”

Above the clouds, Dani was amazed to see water. She had wondered where the seas where. And they were here, above the clouds of all places.

“Caden!” she pulled at his jacket excitedly and pointed to the body of water above them.

He grinned at her enthusiasm and gently placed her hand back on her lap as he told her.

“Shae Menal. The Sea in the Sky. Something tells me we might end up visiting there one day.”

“I’ve always loved the idea of mermaids. They’ve been hiding up there all this time.” She said, a mock frown on her face as she leaned on her back and watched the waves ripple above her. If she looked hard enough, she could almost see the mermaids swimming there, their hair swirling around them, their scales glinting and shimmering in the light of the sun. She watched the waves, amazed at the beauty and then looked back down at the ground.

She could see the Cloud City below them, and they manoeuvred through an empty place in the sky as they sped down closer to the ground, becoming clearer in her vision as she strained her eyes for any sign of their destination.

She scanned the ground, only seeing masses of forests, shapes moving through the woods, some a blur, some snaking through the vines in the trees.

Something oddly shaped appeared out of the mist suddenly, and Dani craned her head to see it better.

“The Faerie Tunnels.” She breathed, trying to decipher to indecipherable. The structure of it made her head dizzy. It was a case of the Penrose Triangle all over again. What she was looking at didn’t make sense. As they moved closer, the structure seemed to change shape, glowing pipes moved and twisted and met at places that didn’t look as if it should be able to happen.

It made Dani’s head spin as she tried to understand, tried to wrap her head around it all as she looked on, confused and marvelling.

They hit the ground with a thud, the thunder of the movement shook the ground and looking ahead of her, Dani swore that she saw the tunnels begin to glimmer.

“How do we get in? There’s no entrance, anywhere. Not even a gate. Nothing.” Amanda spoke out, looking to Eru, hoping that he would know more about this place than they did.

Maybe the entrance could not be seen. Maybe it wasn’t part of the physical world.

Dani blinked again, and tilted her head to the side, wondering if she was imagining things. Near the shimmering tunnels, there were six transparent tube - like objects. They had glinting, kaleidoscopes of wires twisting out of the sides with what looked like another clear casing about the size of her head attached to the wires.

She began to feel a bit uneasy as she looked at them. They didn’t look particularly inviting. But then again, nothing worth reaching was ever easy.

“I’m not sure exactly how we get in, but I do know that we can’t see it. At least not now.”

“I’m not sure the Faeries will be exactly – uh – welcoming of me. Our kind seems to have rather a bad reputation with them. Perhaps it’s the size difference?”

Dani heard a muffled snicker behind her, and turned to see a rather red faced Kauanoe staring down at the ground, pretending as if they’d all imagined it. Dani snuck a sideways glance over to Caden and he raised an eyebrow back at her, then looked quickly at Kauanoe, then shook his head at Dani.

She gave him an innocent look before turning back to look at the odd tubes again. They seemed closer now.

Reel was the first to move towards them, and Dani reached out hastily to take hold of his hand, standing next him as they walked towards the Tunnels, the clear glass like appearance of the tubes beckoned them to come closer towards them.

She bumped into something and looked down in surprise. She’d already bumped into one of the glass cases, the wires glinting to her inside. They seemed to bend and twist as she stared at them, the array of colours sparking from them made her head dizzy, and that was when Caden handed a piece of paper to her, Eru staring down at one as well, a puzzled expression on his face as his eyes scanned the parchment.

Dani looked down at the piece of paper to see what was so puzzling. She could see why Eru was confused. All there seemed to be was a couple of diagrams. One showed someone opening the tube, the next showed them attaching the glass sphere around their head and then the final showed the glass door being shut over them, laying still in the glass case.

Dani turned over the piece of paper, hoping there would be more clarification on the other side, but there was none. The page looked like it had been printed, so perhaps there were pieces missing?

“Did we miss something? Are there some extra pages that we missed?” Amanda suggested, glancing down at the confusing diagrams again.

Dani looked at the glass case, looking for something, anything that would give them an idea of what they were dealing with. How on earth was climbing into a glass case going to grant them entrance into something they couldn’t even see a way to get into?

She saw a black wiring that seemed to be holding the lid closed and she took hold of them. All of a sudden, they started moving, twisting and winding, like possessed serpents and Dani quickly removed her hands. The serpent like clasps disappeared underneath the lid, and she slowly pried it open as it glided open soundlessly.

She reached hesitantly inside and watched as the wires sparked and twisted as she moved her hands towards the small sphere like casing. As soon as she touched it, at opened at an unseen hinges, like a smooth geode.

It was large enough to fit her head in. She had a feeling she knew what to do. What if this was a trap? Her hands shook as she released the sphere and let it hang in the air by the wires that attached it to the glass tube.

“Dani, what’s wrong?” Caden’s voice broke through the fog of her mind and she tried to take her eyes off the glass sphere that hung there aimlessly, seeming to taunt and woo her at the same time.

“I think I know what we have to do.” Her voice a whisper of air as she finally managed to break out of the trance.

She began to climb in the glass case and the other’s looked at her confusion and wariness in their eyes. She began to float as soon as she got inside the glass casing, as if she was suspended in an unseen liquid. She reached for the sphere and with a shaking hand, opened it up once more.

Caden’s hand grasped her wrist all of a sudden, and she looked at him firmly.

“Dani, are you sure about this?” he whispered and the other watched, their faces a tormented mix of worry, pain and confusion.

“We have no other option. Either we stay here and wait for nothing, or we trust what we have and do this.”

She let her the glass sphere encase her head, and Caden closed the lid, watching for something to change. She could feel a trance begin inside of her, a fog overtaking her mind, a heaviness encasing her bones, her muscles turning to liquid inside her.

Her eyes drooped shut.

The last thing she saw were the others looking down at her, Caden’s a mix of pain and hope.

Light pricked at her mind and she could feel her eyes slowly beginning to open, but something felt different. She was lying on something . . .soft?

Not like a pillow, or a cloud, but something still soft.
And it was swaying slowly back and forth.

That was when her eyes snapped open and she lurched back in astonishment, her hands reaching up to grab the sides of . . .a hammock?

Above her, there seemed to be thousands of these hammocks hanging between staircase like trees, the leaves like canopies over her. Small globe like lights hung above her, driftly slowly through the air, weaving underneath and over the leaves, through the staircase trees. She hesitantly reached out to touch the leaves but it felt strange. She could feel it, but at the same time, she couldn’t.

She looked down at herself; the red cloak that surrounded her seemed to fade in and out of existence as she looked at it. She looked down at her arms, and for an instant, they were transparent, and then they flickered back into her vision again.

“Am I dreaming?” she whispered, and she looked upon again, the hammocks swaying back and forth between the trees, the lights glimmering in the trees, the trees towering over her. She looked over the edge of her hammock, looking at the thousands of hammocks hanging in between the trees. Every other hammock seemed to be empty, and the journey down to reach the ground seemed endless. She couldn’t even see the ground.

She tried to stand up and fly out of her hammock, but yet again she was tied to the ground.

Dani frowned in frustration and looked out again above her.

“You’d think I’d be able to fly in a dream.” She said to no one in particular as she sat down in the hammock, arms crossed in exasperation as she wished for something, a way out of this contraption.

A bridge or something maybe?

She brushed her hand along something resting against the side of her hammock and she looked up and then she raised an eyebrow in disbelief.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Polished wooden rails swayed back and forth in the non - existent wind as she gripped the side of the rails and took a cautious step onto it, testing her weight on it.

She began to walk across it, the wood creaking under feet and she looked down at the careening height she was at. Her heart beat faster as she realised she was one loose plank of wood away from plunging to the ground.

Then she shook her head, realising how ridiculous she was being. If this was a dream, then she was really in no danger. At least this body wasn’t. But what about the one that was still encased in glass back, well, she didn’t really know where.

Her foot suddenly hit mid air and she clutched for the side of the rail, and then drew in a sharp breath as she realised the bridge ended in mid air, invisible strings holding it the air. She turned around in frustration, she needed the bridge to be longer than that! And preferably going down so she could actually reach the ground.

She turned back to where the bridge dropped off into mid – air but then it wasn’t.

In mid – air that is.

She saw the bridge manifest as she stared in amazement, the planks of wood appearing out of nowhere, being drawn to her as if she were a magnet and attaching themselves to the bridge.

She walked quickly now, in awe of the world above her now, she had the time to appreciate it as she could see the bridge continuing to grow as she walked. The globes of light moved faster now, blowing through the air, coming down to her as if they were curious about her. She began to run now, her feet sprinting over the planks of wood, the lights blurring around her, the rough wood under her feet as she practically flew over the bridge downwards to a ground that she couldn’t yet see.

Out of nowhere, she hit an object in the middle of the bridge and she frantically reached for the side of the bridge, trying to see what she’d hit. She looked around, seeing nothing and then she stopped still, a shiver running through her fingertips as she saw a beautiful creature, hovering in the air before her, head tilted to the side, curious eyes as it drifted closer. It had a slender, small body, feathers reaching out from its back like wings, huge purple eyes that flickered when it tilted its head at her. Slanted ears like the elves, forehead covered in a hybrid of feather and fur, emerald and lavender iridescent feathery branches careening out the side of its head, drifting gracefully around its head as it moved.

Dani reached her hand out to the creature, but it jerked back and flew away, disappearing down into one of the staircase trees out of view. Dani shook her head in awe at the creature she had just seen and continued down the bridge where she finally began to catch a glimpse of the ground, covered in thousands of tiny white flowers, like an ethereal meadow.

She finally reached the ground, her feet enswathed in the thousands of flowers and she sunk into them as if they were a pile of clouds.

Aeth felt something brush over his eyes and his . . . arm? His eyes snapped open and he fell back in astonishment. He was in human form? He hadn’t transformed himself into his human case for decades and he barely remembered what he looked like it had been so long.

The last thing he’d remembered before appearing here was the massive glass tube that he’d been suspended in, succumbing to the darkness and then awaking to this.

Aeth examined his surroundings, willing his unfamiliar human limbs to lift himself up. He was lying on a pile of craggy rocks, surrounded by ever reaching plains of massive stones and cliff faces, covered in strange bubbles of black.

Where were the others?

Kauanoe was the first that came to his mind, but commanded her away as quickly as she had appeared there, trying to forget the influence that she held over him as he stared around at the jagged rocks that towered over him.

He looked down and jerked away in shock as fire licked up the sides of the rocks and that was when he realised where he was. He sat upon a glacier of rock, fire and lava licking up the sides of the haven that he sat upon. The cliff taunted him from the other side, mocking him with an offer of safety, yet unreachable.

He peered closer at the cliff, going out as far to the edge of the rock as he dared, and felt the surge of heat sputter up at the sides of his feet, and he backed away quickly in frustration.

It looked like there had been some sort of cave hidden in the spaces between the cliffs and rocks. He had no clue where he was, or where that cave would lead him, but it was his best bet as of now. He’d rather be there than surrounded by towers of heat that drew him towards it. That was part of the dragon nature that he couldn’t resist, even in human form. That was what made this place so dangerous.

It was part of him, but yet harmful to his human essence. The temptation was crushingly strong even now, the crazed urge to drown himself in the flames, to let the searing heat consume him and burn away at him, and leave his skeleton to the dry air. As a dragon it would of made him stronger, but in human form?

Deadly.

There had to be a way to reach the cliff, any longer here and there was no way he’d resist the pull of the alluring flames.

He couldn’t get to close to them or he’d be overcome and throw himself into the fire without a second thought.

No, there must be something else that he could do.

All he saw when he looked out was endless flames. He gritted his teeth and resisted again, yet he could feel his willpower becoming less and less as the heat and flames continued to pull him closer.

He sat down on the rock, trying to ignore the flames around him and sat, staring down at the rock, absentmindedly tracing the strange black bubbles on the rock. He pulled a piece of it off, rolling it between his fingers, then throwing it back out into the flames as he thought.

Looking up after a while in resignation, he paced around on the rock, looking back out to the cliff in silence, yet the thoughts running amuck in his mind.

The lava spat up onto the rock all of a sudden, and it was all Aeth could do not to cast himself over the edge of the rock into the simmering, alluring heat. He looked out into the flames, and made a double take as he realised to his amazement that an object was bursting through the surface of the bubbling lava and the rabid dancing of the flames.

Rough black surfaced to the flames and hovered strangely in the air above him, a majestic, twisted glacier of allurement. He looked down at his feet to the firm bubble like material below him and picked up another piece between his fingers, rolling it in hands as he realised what he’d done. With a pounding heart, he threw the bubble of darkness out into the flame and the lava, and it disappeared down into the depths of the heat that swarmed thickly over him.

He stared at the seductive twisting movement of the flames and waited, on the edge of the rock as he gazed with an intense look at the surface of where he had thrown it.

The sound of an avalanche broke through the flames once more, rising up quickly into the air and confirming his theory.

He grabbed the black bubble like material that was stuck to the rock he was standing on and thrust it into his pocket.

Then he jumped.

Like a panther, he soared over the flames, caressing the bottom of his feet with a scorching blaze and he tumbled onto the black glacier and quickly jumped to his feet. The next glacier lay before him and he knew what he had to do.

Casting yet another piece into the flames like a sacrifice, and soaring through the air to plummet onto the next glacier that hovered above the thick flames.

Caden could feel something surrounding him as he ran his fingers drowsily through something cool, weightless, floating.

He felt it rush over him like a waterfall, and he opened his eyes, then sputtering frantically as he realised what he was in. Encased in a shield of water, his wings floating lazily above him and he panicked as he felt a burning sensation in his lungs. He could see a light just above him and he swam hastily towards it, forcing himself to fight against the fire in his lungs, to remain calm, refusing to flail uncontrollably in this water. He burst through the surface of the water, and suddenly plummeted wildly through the air, his wings useless once again and he hit the ground with a thud, coughing up water from his lungs and gulping in air madly as the shudders of fire still ran through his chest, screaming at him to satisfy his half - starved lungs.

Thunderous noise echoed all around him, and he could feel his heart slowing and his breathing dim as he collapsed onto his back, his vision slightly blurry around him. He could see where he was now, what was before him and it made him sit up in bewilderment as he blinked several times, marvelling yet deeply confused at what was happening.

Where was Dani?

Where was he?

Had he lost them all?

Like he’d lost Zephyr?

Sickness rose up in his stomach as he remembered the past, and recoiled at the images it brought back his head. He looked around at the scene before him, remembering Dani and his face softened a little as he thought of the one person who understood him. Something that no one else had ever come close to doing. He smiled gently at the thought and the harsh images faded out of his mind as he continued to remember and stood to his feet.

He loved the waterfalls when he was younger. He still did, but there had been so much time that he recoiled from the upper world that he’d simply ceased to remember their existence. Now looking at them and how they weaved beautifully through the air, he wondered how he could have ever forgotten them. The thing he liked about them is that they weren’t like the water he had seen on other planets, which meekly submitted to their laws of gravity and flowed smoothly.

No, the waterfalls he knew liked to misbehave.

“So, this is where it really begins.” Dani murmured as she stared up into the Mirror with Caden, Amanda and Eru by her side.

Dani could almost hear the voices of the Shadow Beings as she stared into the refracting light that was absorbed by the Portal of Shadows.

She looked over at Caden and he took her hand, and once again, they all left another world to where they would learn secrets of the past.

And maybe the Future.

“You mean you failed!!?” The Prince shouted at the Hunters, his steel fist crushing onto the marble table, splintering under the force of his aggression.

Even the fierce, cruel Hunters cowered under his rule and one of them tried to speak out in their gravelly voice, but the Prince interjected with black spewing force from his fingers. It sliced through the dark cavern, sick fumes of evil vomiting out into the air and crushed the Hunter under its power.

He collapsed to the floor, convulsing as the dark consumed his flesh. His muscles twitched and he jerked spasmodically, letting out a last few horrible gasps and then going limp.

The other Hunters did not dare to speak, and up from the seats of The Arena, Imilron, Margtharg and Celka coolly observed the scene.

After the unfortunate Hunter was dissolved by the thick blackness that swarmed around the room, the other rulers appeared in front of the Hunters. Menacing gazes and cold putridness radiated out from their devoid souls.

Celka, the Scorned Faerie Queen broke the silence with an ice filled voice that caused the Hunter’s blood to crystallise inside of them.

“Procure The Descendant and The Phoenix. Or suffer a fate worse than eternal pain.” Her voice turned malevolent, and her dark gaze cast over them and they all shuddered under her foul stare.

“Do not fail again.” The Prince rasped out and with that, The Arena collapsed around them.


Varuy, Luiel, Neriu and Hurol

Elf Name: Morla orin


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