Knight of the Dragon

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					Knight of the Dragon
                           Acknowledgements
                                      8-12-2006 A.D.
       I want to thank first other authors in general, who inspired me to read, and end up
writing on my own after a while. Secondly, I want the thank the authors and other sources
I mentioned in my notes as my inspirations, from whose books and stories I pulled small
threads, pulled up some of my own threads, and ended up weaving a tapestry of a story.
Thirdly, I want to thank some of my original fans, Katie, Ashley, Courtney and Dania
and her younger brothers, without you I have little doubt this would have ended up as yet
another incomplete outline in my computer archives. Lastly, I want to thank my family,
who encouraged me to get beyond the first page of writing.
                                Author’s Notes
                                            3-17-2006 A.D.
        I am writing this document as simply an outline or rough draft, and as a reference
source. It will also serve as legal proof that I authored this book series if needed. Please
keep in mind that I am not using all proper English on this, and some paragraphs an
English major would say are out of order. Also, this is only meant for the Author to read,
as any other reader might become hopelessly lost in it. I want to acknowledge, J.R.R.
Tolkien, Bryan Davis, King Arthur, Christopher Paolini, The DragonHeart movies, the
game RuneScape, David Meece‟s song „Early in the Morning (Remix)‟, and dragon lore
in general as inspirations for this trilogy. I am taking the liberty of using the metal
„Mithril‟ in my books as a tribute to J.R.R. Tolkien‟s epic story, „The Lord of the Rings.‟
By the way, if someone other than the author is compelled to read this, the map of
Midwest Wanvaria will be helpful.
                                            9-12-2006 A.D.
        I am currently using a number of placeholder names such as: Sardon, Sir Walter,
Sir Barlow, and Falcor. These will be changed in the final version to something more
original.


                                Quest      Prologue
        The village Borian was a small place centered on the farms that surrounded it.
Harvest time brought the farmers in each year with their families to celebrate another
successful year. They would bring their excess crops to sell and their money to buy useful
items from the merchants. The inn was large and able to house all the people who came
for the harvest celebration, thus making it the place of gathering at night for all the
people.
        On the first night a storyteller from far away who was telling a few tall tales drew
the young men. A few of the men over heard him and said, “Come, tell the young men a
true tale.”
         “Which one?” He replied.
         They glanced at each other before answering. “Tell them the Karcelow tale, for all
good storytellers know it and all young men should hear it at least once.”
         “I see.” He replied slowly with an expression that made it seem the knowledge of
the story pained him. “Well boys, can you stand a tale that will take three nights to tell?”
         “Yes!” They replied in unison.
         “Very well,” He said, taking a drink before starting. “It was nearly two hundred
years ago know, when the fate of the world was uncertain…”
                                          Part One
         Kurt Karcelow is a boy of fifteen who lives with an old woodcutter, whose past is
a closely guarded secret. The woodcutter used to be a commander of two hundred men in
the King‟s Army, until the usurper Sardon betrayed him and falsely accused him of
treason. Because of his loyalty in the past and his exploits on the battlefield, the King
only discharged him from the army. To Kurt, the woodcutter whose name is Derrick
appears to be only that, a woodcutter. But Derrick has taught Kurt some rudimentary
swordplay and how to use the bow in hunting, so Kurt knows he must have once been
something more than a woodcutter. Kurt also knows Derrick is not his real father but he
does not know who his father is.
         Derrick is sixty-one years old and has been a simple woodcutter for twenty-five
years. In that time, Sardon has moved up from Derrick‟s former position of field
commander to become Baron Varkoe. The Baron now seeks to eliminate the last person
who knows the truth about Sardon‟s identity. Sardon sends two men in black hooded
cloaks to kill Derrick. They come in the night but they do not know Kurt lives with the
woodcutter. Kurt hears them and awakens Derrick.
          The duo fights the two assassins and kills them, but Derrick is mortally wounded
in the process. In the throes of death, Derrick tells young Kurt that his father was Sir Eric
Karcelow, loyal knight to the King, and his mother was the youngest daughter of Duke
Jorrain. He also gives Kurt a brief outline of how he was once a commander and how
Sardon betrayed him. Sardon had been Derrick‟s chief and trusted lieutenant and had
accused Derrick of selling the battle plans of the army‟s defeat several days before to the
opposing army. A prisoner, whom Sardon paid off, gave a false testimony against
Derrick. The King sorrowfully decided that Derrick was guilty, but one of his Knights,
Sir Eric Karcelow, convinced the King only to send Derrick forth from the army in
disgrace, rather than hanging him for treason.
         Sardon found out ten years later that it was Sir Eric who convinced the King to
spare Derrick‟s life. He had Sir Eric and his wife of one year assassinated shortly after
the birth of their son, whom he did not know about. Derrick took the baby Kurt from the
castle in the night and raised him as his own for four reasons. He had always wanted a
son, for Sir Eric‟s part in sparing Derrick‟s life and he did not want the boy to grow-up a
spoiled, gossipy court brat. Lastly, Sir Eric had made a secret will that if both he and his
wife were to unexpectedly die, Sir Eric wanted Derrick to raise the boy, for he could trust
no one else. Derrick had always wondered why that was so, as Sir Eric had many
powerful friends, but he always put it aside. Derrick feels death nearing, so he tells Kurt
to take his sword and bow and travel fifty miles to a cave in the White Mountains. There
he believes the great Dragon Falcor still lives. The Dragon Falcor knows much and is the
last in Freleka who could possibly defeat Sardon. A map to the cave is in Derrick‟s
locked chest and the key is in Derrick‟s pocket. Derrick whispers as he dies that because
Kurt has his father‟s blood, he will someday become a Knight like him. Those sentences
were more a prophecy than either of them knew.
         Kurt takes his change of clothes, Derrick‟s sword, bow, the map to Falcor‟s cave,
and some food for the journey. He leaves everything else he has ever known behind. He
travels ten miles down the path through the forest in one day and stops for the night just
outside the village Borian. He is awakened in early dawn by the whispering of two young
ladies, who are debating whether to awaken the “young handsome woodsman” and ask
the best path to the White Mountains from the Village Borian.
         Kurt speaks before they can finish debating and says that he has a map to a place
in the White Mountains. He is going there himself, so if they wish, they may join him on
his quest. After some hushed conversation among themselves, the two agree to
accompany Kurt on his quest. When asked why he is journeying to the White Mountains,
he says that his old master told him to seek a certain knowledgeable one and ask his
advice. He says the details are a private matter. He tells them his name and the one who
seemed to be in charge said her name was Hannah, and this was her attendant: Juliet.
Juliet has to stifle a giggle at the attendant part, but Kurt does not press the issue. As they
travel, they learn that all three are fifteen years old and both parties have many secrets,
which they do not wish to tell each other. It is on their third day of travel, twenty-five
miles from Kurt‟s old home (Kurt has cut his traveling speed in half so the girls can keep
up), that Kurt goes out hunting. While the girls were awaiting his return, a highwayman,
a “Gentleman‟s thief,” engaged them in conversation and is considering whether to
lighten their load when he hears a sword being drawn.

        Kurt himself did go hunting and caught two rabbits, and was returning to the
trio‟s makeshift camp on the road when he meets a Frelekan Knight coming down the
road behind him. The knight‟s name is Sir Barlow and he says he is searching for two
young girls. He asks if Kurt has seen them; Kurt replies to the affirmative and that he is
currently camped with the duo. The two travel down the road together for the next few
minutes and are approaching the camp when they spot the man talking to the girls. Sir
Barlow quickly moves off the road and dismounts his horse. He then bades Kurt to come
quietly with him, so as to surprise the man who has an ill look about him.
        It is only when Sir Barlow and Kurt have come quietly upon the talking trio that
Sir Barlow purposely steps on a loose rock to alert everyone to their presence. The
highwayman spins towards them and partially unsheathes his knife in the process,
confirming Sir Barlow‟s suspicions. He tells him to be off with himself, or face the king‟s
wrath. The highwayman wastes no time in mounting his horse and galloping away to the
west. Sir Barlow then turned to the two girls and speaks. He declares them the Princess
Hannah, granddaughter of the King and her good friend Juliet, granddaughter of Duke
Jorrain.
        Sir Barlow then says that the two had been missing for eight days and that there
was a reward for bringing the duo safely back to the King‟s castle. Hannah persuades Sir
Barlow to forget he met them, for she was on a quest seeking advice from someone great.
He agreed finally but warned them that the next Knight might not be so easily convinced.
Sir Barlow bid them farewell and headed down the road on a now pretended search.
         As the three travel on, the duo informs Kurt that they are seeking the advice of the
great Dragon Falcor, who was rumored to exist in the White Mountains. The reason was
because they were both feeling that something was wrong in the castle and they weren‟t
sure what it was. So they were going to get advice, and hopefully, physical help from the
dragon. Amazed, Kurt proceeds to tell them his history in its entirety, as well as he knew
it. It comes as no small surprise that all three are seeking the same being.
         The trio journey on for four days and arrive at the small village Narkaya. There
they stay the night at the inn and purchase three heavy cloaks for the trek into the
freezing White Mountains on the morrow.
         The journey takes most of the day and on the way, the three encounter an
avalanche and a pack of five white wolves, which Kurt dispatches with his weapons.
Upon reaching the cave of Falcor, they discover it is empty. After scouring through it,
they conclude that the dragon must be out hunting and would return soon. It returned
sooner than expected however and catches them in the main chamber. After some tense
moments in which the dragon suspects them of being scouts for dragon slayers, Kurt
hurriedly explains that was not their intent, then asks if the great dragon Falcor can help
them. The dragon sighs and informs them that Falcor was no longer among the living; he
had died twelve years before. The dragon then informs them that his name is Faladron
and twenty-one seasons have passed since his entrance into this world, so that makes him
a very young dragon. The trio is dismayed at the news of Falcor‟s death, but they go on
and explain their respective situations, which takes over an hour. Faladron lights a torch
on the wall as they speak and considers their words for a minute before replying. He says
he believes that this “Sardon” was the cause of not only Kurt‟s situation, but also of the
unrest and uneasiness in the court of the King.
         After much talk, it is decided that Hannah and Juliet would return to the King‟s
castle and await the coming of Kurt and Faladron. The duo of princesses leave and then
Faladron says to Kurt that they have much to do and speak of.
                                            Part Two
         One year has passed since the return of the two princesses to the King‟s castle and
no word has come from Kurt, nor had there been any rumor of his presence anywhere.
Because Sardon had always been a trusted ally and had done nothing wrong against the
King‟s kingdom, Hannah was unsuccessful in getting the King to understand Sardon‟s
evil nature. Kurt‟s story was told by both Hannah and Juliet, or at least part of it, but it
had little effect, as it could easily have been concocted by two girls with time on their
hands. The fact that Sir Barlow refused to acknowledge that he had been near the two
princesses (because he wanted to stay in the King‟s good graces) did not help the duo‟s
position. The existence of Faladron was not believed either.
         Amidst the intrigues of the court and the disbelief of the princesses‟ fantastic tale,
a man who appears to be about twenty-five years old approached the two late one night.
He says he believes in the existence of Faladron and asks them to tell him more about the
dragon. The two spill out their story again, unfortunately in great detail, describing the
route to Faladron‟s cave and of Falcor‟s death. After speaking with them far into the
night, he says he must leave or his master will become angry.
         The man‟s name is Jared, his master is Sardon, and the Baron Varkoe hired him
long before to do him services. Jared is a dragon slayer, and he seeks to profit
handsomely from the death of Faladron. Jared wears armor made from the scales of fallen
dragons and he carries a short sword and a great yew longbow. Jared is the one who slew
both Falcor and his wife, Faladron‟s mother. Sardon has promised to tell Jared where his
long lost older sister is, if he can slay Faladron. Sardon has threatened Jared that if he
betrays him, he will kill his sister.
         Hannah‟s father asks the princesses the next morning if they have spoken with a
man named Jared, they answer in the affirmative. He then informs them that a spy has
brought news that Sardon has hired a dragon slayer named Jared and the King will issue a
secret reward for the Knight who brings him in alive. Jared is a wanted man who has
slain many good dragons in a number of kingdoms. Hannah‟s father also says that
although no one would publicly believe the two‟s story, the King and Hannah‟s father
believe them; for Falcor had helped them many years before and rumor had been heard
almost twenty years before about a dragon named Faladron, but no one believed them at
the time.
         The duo of princesses are horrified at the news that they could be a major factor in
Faladron‟s death. The next night they conspire to leave the castle and seek out Kurt and
Faladron to warn them. Hannah's father, after their last escapade, is taking no chances on
them falling out of contact. He has placed the responsibility on his two most trusted
knights to watch over the princesses, if they once again leave the castle unexpectedly. It
is past three bells when the duo steals out of the castle. The knight‟s squires witness the
event and awaken their masters, who mount and ride after the princesses, attended only
by their squires.
         The princesses are riding their palfreys this time instead of going on foot, so the
knights do not catch up until the duo stops to sleep the next night. The knights and
squires take turns standing guard and do not wake the princesses until morning. The
knights inform the princesses that they have been orders to guard the young royals, but
not necessarily to take them anywhere, only to guard them. The princesses are overjoyed
at the news and tell the knights that are once again traveling to Faladron‟s cave. First,
they must go to the village Narkaya and gather any news there about the dragon and Kurt.
The Knights agree and the six travelers head out for the village.
         The group arrives at the village two days later and there they stop at the
Dragonfire Inn. This time because of the knights presence, the princesses can no longer
travel incognito. The arrival of two princesses guarded by knights causes a great stir in
the village, for rarely do personages of such stature visit them. Asking the innkeeper, who
would know the most about local events, the innkeeper informs them that everyone
comes in to his inn, so he gathers all the news and would be glad to share it. Hannah
thanks him and asks him if has heard anything concerning the dragon, who lives nearby
in the mountains. At that question the innkeeper loses his jovial attitude and becomes
rather grim. He says that two days before a man dressed in armor made from dragon‟s
scales had come through requesting information about the dragon.
         Hannah knows that it was Jared the Slayer, so she asks what the innkeeper told
the man. The innkeeper said that at the time he had not put together the facts of
dragonhide armor and asking about a dragon, so he sadly informs the princess that he told
him everything he knew: that the dragon had left almost a year before but had returned in
recent weeks and as far as anyone knew, was living in his cave once again. Hannah tells
the knights that they cannot stay the night and must ride hard if they are to warn the
dragon. The knights disagree, because traveling at night in the freezing mountains was
asking for the white bandits to attack them. The princesses reluctantly agree to stay the
night at Narkaya.
         Before the six travelers leave the next morning, Hannah asks the innkeeper why
the inn is called the Dragonfire Inn. He says that almost one hundred years before, a
battle was waged there. The great dragon Falcor destroyed both sides in a storm of fire,
for both sides were evil. The village was built there a few months later and the inn was
named in honor of the dragon by the innkeeper‟s great-grandfather. Ownership of the
business was passed down through the family, so now here the innkeeper was. Hannah
thanked the innkeeper for his hospitality and then they left.
         The princesses, knights, and squires leave and move at a good pace most of the
day. They are near the cave and are in a deep valley when arrows start raining down on
them from above. The knights shout a challenge and say that if an arrow so much as
grazes one of the ladies, the knights will skin the bandits alive. The arrows stop and
minutes later four mounted bandits appear at each end of the valley, trapping the six
travelers. The bandits say they did not know that ladies were with the company and the
ladies can go free, but the knights and squires must stay and fight. The knights whisper to
the princesses to go and seek the dragon‟s help, for they will need it. The princesses leave
the valley and continue on. After they have passed, the bandits charge the knights.
         As soon as they are out of sight the girls put their palfreys into a gallop and go
quickly to the dragon‟s cave. Inside they find the dragon asleep; he awakes at their
approach. He is not surprised at their return, although he had thought that they would
wait another month. The princesses were surprised that the dragon was not surprised;
however, he informs them that he judged from when the princesses left before, that they
would return before Kurt or he contacted them. Hannah then quickly tells Faladron about
the knights‟ plight. He tells the girls to wait in his cave and he will go to the knights‟ aid.
         The dragon and the knights return around a quarter hour later, saying that the
white bandits will never rob another soul. Hannah then asks where Kurt is and what has
happened in the time since they had seen him last him. Faladron replies that he has been
making Kurt a knight since he the dragon discovered Sardon‟s true identity, although he
will not share that last piece of knowledge.
                                              Part Three
         We now return to six months after the princesses originally left Faladron‟s cave.
In that time, Kurt has learned from masters of the sword, bow, and lance. He can hold his
own against any knight in all the realms. For six months previously, Faladron had
declared that something was brewing, a great evil that had been put down many years
before was once again arising. Faladron was going to make Kurt the most powerful
knight in the realms; he was going to make him a Knight of the Dragon.
         The Dragon Knights were an ancient order, of which there had only been six
members before Kurt. The first five had been spaced apart by more than 100 years, so
none of them had seen each other. The sixth however, had only died a short while before;
he had helped put down the Shadow Alliance. In fact, he had been murdered only shortly
after Kurt was born. Very few had known who he was and Faladron himself did not
know, but his father had. In the six months since the princesses left, Kurt and Faladron
have traveled far and wide in secret. Much of the time was spent in Faladron training and
testing Kurt on various skills and knowledge. Faladron however, did know enough to
finish Kurt‟s training, so it was decided that Kurt would leave the kingdom and search for
the Imperial Federation of Dragons. The IFD was a legend known to most people, but to
them it was only that, a legend. Faladron knew better, for he had been to their land once.
The IFD had made itself known to the world many years before, shortly after the rise of
the Shadow Alliance. The two fought for centuries, until the last Dragon Knight had been
instrumental in their defeat.
         Slaying almost all of them, it was a marvel that his identity was never known;
never the less, it was not. Only a few had escaped the great slaying. One had been cursed
to live as a human, one as dog, and the other seven survivors vanished into the western
wilds, never to be heard of again.
         Faladron had only been to the outskirts of the IFD‟s land, so he knew little of
what lay within; he could not advise Kurt on anything except the border passwords. Kurt
left seven months after the princesses departed and Faladron has made use of the time by
searching for the vanished seven. His search yielded few results. Six were still a mystery,
but the seventh Faladron had spoken with at length and determined that he had mended
his ways.
         Let us now go to Kurt, who has been on the road for a month since leaving
Faladron. In his time with Faladron, the two traveled from Faladron‟s lonely northern
cave to the cities of Kendar, Grasha and Cho. It was done discreetly; only a few master
combat trainers knew of their passing. Kurt had become greatly skilled in the art of
combat. The two Kendar weaponsmasters had trained Kurt in the sword and the lance.
The weaponsmaster of Grasha had trained him in the arts of the bow, crossbow and
throwing weapons. The masters in Cho had taught Kurt naval and siege warfare. In order
to avoid leaving tracks, Kurt had ridden on Faladron throughout the time, as he flew from
city to city.
         Kurt developed into the strongest of knights, leaving his boyhood frame behind.
He could now run faster than most of the king‟s messengers. Faladron had also taught
him to avoid leaving footprints in harder ground. During their travels when the duo was
not in the city, Faladron had passed on to Kurt all he knew of the Dragon Knights: how to
call forth a fire on your blade, how to call for help so that a dragon would come, and he
had instilled the ancient virtues that had kept the Dragon Knights from becoming
dictators at the height of their power.
         Despite all this, Kurt knew little of magic, only enough to bring his sword to
flame, to heal wounds in a minute, to call for help through magic and small useful magics
like that. To fully gain the knowledge he needed, Kurt must journey to the dragon
trainers, who had all left central Wanvaria and gone north of the White Mountains after
the Shadow Alliance‟s defeat. The dragon trainers were the substance of legends; they
themselves were dragons, the oldest and wisest of a powerful species. They had trained
all the Dragon Knights, many of the younger dragons, and some of history‟s greatest
knights.
         Kurt would complete his training under the Dragon Trainers. To reach them, Kurt
had to travel northwest from the Port of Cho until he reached the White Mountains, then
north over the mountain range, then northwest again until he found the border guards of
the IFD. Faladron had assured Kurt that he would not find the dragons; they would find
him. That gladdened the young Dragon Knight, for it was one less worry on his journey.
         Kurt left Cho in secret, in the same manner as he came, during the dead of night.
This time however, Kurt would ride one of Cho‟s warhorses, instead of Faladron, who
was leaving to search for the vanished seven. It was seventy leagues from the seaside city
to the base of the mountains; Kurt covered the distance easily in a week on his horse, who
was named Feyrock. Feyrock was undaunted by the distance, lack of adequate supplies,
and the heat of day. Kurt soon discovered why Feyrock had been renamed the year
before; he was as unyielding as a rock and hardship put him in a fey mood, which drove
him all the harder.
         Kurt missed the wise and yet mischievous company of Faladron, whom he had
lived and traveled with for the past six months. Faladron had taught Kurt much and he
traveled much faster through the air than Feyrock traveled over ground. Never the less,
Kurt did enjoy the solitude, for he could contemplate all that had happened and plan for
all that might occur in the future. What to do about Sardon and not knowing if the
princesses were all right troubled Kurt‟s thoughts. Kurt had worried about them ever
since leaving the duo and time had done little to ease his anxiety.
         The plains Kurt crossed were dry, as the constant western winds blew the
moisture of the sea away from the land. There was little fresh water available, forcing
Kurt to burden Feyrock with extra water and to drink less whenever they stopped.
Despite the lack of water in much of the plain, there was a surprising amount of wild
game available. Bison and deer were the most abundant, although Kurt had seen several
flocks of turkeys and a few scattered prairie dogs. On the fourth night, Kurt had camped
with a small band of gypsies. They seemed curious about the fine weapons he carried, the
powerful warhorse he rode, and his apparent youthfulness, but they did not question him.
Travelers here were bound to be heavily armed; as bandits roamed the plains, preying on
outlying settlements and gypsy bands. A fast horse would be useful against them too. His
age was the one question the gypsies could not settle in their minds, but they kept to
themselves despite this. Other than replenishing his water supply from the gypsies‟ water
wagon, Kurt exchanged nothing with the gypsies.
         In the morning, Kurt bid the gypsies farewell and continued his journey in a
northwest direction. Upon reaching the mountains, Kurt was glad he had brought the two
extra cloaks, as the air chilled quickly as he traveled through the valleys and passes of the
mountains. Feyrock was unaffected by the cold, this heartened Kurt and gave him the
resolve to better face the cold. Wolves followed the horse and knight, but they were
frightened away when Kurt brought out his sword and the blade burned with fire.
         Kurt had left Derrick‟s weapons locked in a stone chest in Faladron‟s cave. In
Kendar, he had been given a Kendar Paladin‟s Mithril sword. In Grasha, Kurt had been
given a bow of the finest Yew wood. He had also been supplied with two-dozen of the
straightest arrows tipped with the rare Mithril metal. The ranged weaponsmaster told him
that a spell had been cast on the arrows so that they would not break. Kurt had also been
given a fine grain leather quiver and bow-strap. As a final gift the ranged weaponsmaster
had given Kurt a pair of throwing knives forged of Mithril. When Kurt asked why he was
being lavished with such expensive gifts, the master had laughed and told him that it was
because he was a Dragon Knight; that settled the matter. In Cho, it would be impractical
to give Kurt a siege weapon or a ship, so the masters there had given him several
parchments, on which were plans for the finest of siege engines.
         Traveling through the White Mountains got Kurt thinking about the mountains
themselves. They dominated lore, legend and the northern borderline of Freleka, not
unlike their counterparts; the black mountains. The Black mountains dominated the
southwest border of Freleka, along with that region‟s tales. The Kingdom of Jornia‟s
northeast border abutted the Black Mountains as well. Humans had never mapped South
of the Black Mountains; however it was said to be a wasteland. Only in the past few years
had rumors surfaced that the Shadow Alliance had been reformed in the wastes. The
White Mountains were always covered in snow, or in the rare occasion that they were
not, their ranges would be covered with green trees and foliage. On the other hand, the
Black Mountains, because of their southern latitude, received almost no snow; the
mountains were solid rock, so no greenery grew there.
         Kurt had little trouble crossing the mountains, as no storms occurred during his
ten-day journey across the range. Little was told in tales about the lands north of the
White Mountains, he had always figured that snow would cover the lands. He was no
little surprised when he saw green plains, scattered trees and forests, and several streams
running quietly through the lands. Both low and tall rolling hills covered most of the
landscape, although further west the flat plains extended beyond as far as Kurt could see.
The absence of any dragons caused Kurt some worry, but he guided Feyrock down from
the mountains and onto the lush land beneath the mountains.
         Kurt dismounted when he reached the plain and determined the direction of
northwest by looking at the sun, then mounted Feyrock again and began traveling. Three
days and nights passed and Kurt had seen only small game. This worried him, for it
meant he would have to hunt in the mountains for food, although wild fruits were
abundant. Kurt made camp in a valley next to a stream the fourth night, where the
strawberries were plentiful and the water ran clear and overflowing with trout.
         The neighing of Feyrock awakened Kurt from his slumber; he jumped up from his
bed to a startling sight. The sight of four dragons twice the size of Faladron froze Kurt in
his tracks. He dared not move for his sword or bow, which left only his dagger belted at
his waist. The dragons quieted Feyrock with words foreign to Kurt and then focused their
attention on Kurt. They questioned his identity and his purpose for traveling in this
region. Their voices reminded Kurt of Faladron, shaking him from his trance. Kurt
decided to divulge everything to the dragons. He informed them he was a Dragon Knight
in training and that weaponsmasters from the cities of Freleka and the dragon Faladron
had taught him everything they could. Faladron had sent him to find the Imperial
Federation of Dragons and complete his training with the Dragon Trainers of the IFD. He
also revealed to the dragons the border passwords Faladron had given him.
         The Dragons considered Kurt‟s words and then declared that they were the border
guards of the realms of the IFD. They had been tracking him for two days and had
determined it would be best to let the stranger explain his circumstances before turning
him into a living torch. This brought both fear and consternation to Kurt, who had never
considered that the IFD might be unfriendly. Kurt figured Faladron had determined that
the IFD would be receptive at least, if not friendly. A memory sprang up concerning one
of Derrick‟s stories, which had revealed that the Shadow Alliance had used many human
spies to penetrate the IFD, while all the while the spies retained their allegiance to
Freleka.
         The dragons told Kurt that at dawn they would depart for the central section of
IFD territory, where the Dragon Trainers resided. In the absence of Kurt‟s dragon
Faladron, he would have to ride and train with one of the young dragons in training. This
disconcerted Kurt, because Faladron had never mentioned that a Dragon Knight would
have a „normal‟ dragon; but now that he thought about it, it would be absurd for a Dragon
Knight not to travel and fight alongside a dragon whom he trained with and knew well.
When the four dragons, the knight, and the horse reached the Dragon Trainers, two of the
dragons would return to guard the border and the other two would be dispatched to find
Faladron and bring him to train with Kurt.
         The plans were carried out with precision. The border guards went to fulfill their
missions. Feyrock was set loose on the plains and Kurt was brought before the Imperial
Dragon clan, who deemed him worthy of training as a Knight of the Dragon. The
Trainers were strict, wise, and tough upon Kurt; but they also had a sense of humor and
carried out several practical jokes on Kurt. The jokes were nothing serious, although
slightly embarrassing, and it took several weeks for the young Knight to laugh about
them.
         Kurt thought he had learned much and been strengthened in his time with
Faladron; he was wrong. Kurt‟s stamina and training were weak and he was little learned
by the Trainers‟ standards. Kurt‟s weapons the Trainers approved of, saying that they
were good, but not the best ever used. This caused Kurt no little wonder; what better
metal could there be than mithril?
         Faladron arrived three weeks after Kurt‟s training began. Then the Trainers
stepped up the program, using grueling and frustrating exercises to test the duo. Kurt
learned much about magic, swordsmanship, archery, dragon riding, and woodcraft.
         After four months, the Dragon Trainers told Faladron to return to his home and
stay there until Kurt arrived. Kurt remained for only two more weeks, until he left for
Faladron‟s cave. Mounted on Feyrock, who had been recovered by the Dragons, Kurt
made good time on the journey to Faladron‟s cave.
                                               Part Four
         While Faladron was relating everything he knew to the princesses, a shadowy
figure rode into the valley leading to Faladron‟s cave. He rode on a fine brown horse, a
great bow was on his back, the tip of a sword‟s scabbard stuck out from beneath his
cloak. His head was hooded, so that his face was lost in shadow. The rider dismounted
silently and picketed his horse. He came in on silent boots and waited until Faladron‟s
story was complete.
         The voice of the stranger startled everyone in the cave. The squires brought out
mini crossbows and the knights drew swords, Faladron‟s head snapped up in reflex and
let loose single blast of fire over the stranger‟s head. The dragonfire and the knight‟s
quick movement to arms did not apparently impress the figure. He was unmoved despite
the weapons and burst of intense heat from the flame. Hannah feared it was Jared, come
to kill Faladron. Once the initial hostilities were abated, the shadowy rider revealed
himself. Kurt restarted his sentence, this time getting beyond the first word. He informed
them that his training as a Knight of the Dragon was complete; he was ready to rid
Freleka of evil.
         With a cry of joy Hannah ran to Kurt‟s arms and embraced him, exclaiming that
she had missed him greatly. Kurt replied that he had felt the same in their year of
separation. After giving Juliet a similar but not quite as enthusiastic embrace, Kurt met
with the Knights and Squires. Then Kurt turned his attention to Faladron. He said that on
his way back he had spoken with travelers in Narkaya about the condition of the
Kingdom. Kurt had felt that the extra days detour was worth it to learn the news. The
travelers had said that a lone dragon, whose scales were black, had attacked Grasha. The
dragon had been repelled back to the Black Mountains with only minimal damage to the
outer walls.
        The Baron Varkoe had marshaled an army in secret that had only recently been
revealed. The King‟s scouts had spotted an army bearing Varkoe‟s banner crossing the
northern fords over the Ellsia River. Also there was a rumor that a small company of men
in the army had been bearing the banner of the Shadow Alliance. The travelers had not
believed that rumor, even though they passed it on.
        This was all troubling news to the people in the cave. After much deliberation it
was decided that the Princesses would return to the Castle Freka, accompanied by the
Knights and Squires. Feyrock would travel with the princesses, as he would only slow
down the dragon duo. Kurt would fly with Faladron to the three major cities of Freleka
and enlist their armies to help fight Baron Varkoe‟s army. Although it was possible there
remained a good and friendly reason for the Baron to marshal an army, it was almost
certain that Sardon had evil purposes for his new force.

         The Princesses arrived at the Castle Freka a week after the conversation in the
cave. Juliet left the castle the next day for the Dukedom Jorrain, while Hannah was
forced to stay at the Castle. Three weeks passed. Sardon‟s army had vanished without a
trace, despite the King dispatching more scouts in an effort to track them down. No word
had been heard of Kurt or Faladron but scouts reported Kendar and Grasha had begun
marshalling their armies. It seemed the Port of Cho had not encountered any change.
         Three weeks and two nights after the princess‟s return, the Army of Varkoe struck
the Castle Freka just before dawn. Hannah was awakened by shouts, the clash of steel
upon steel, and the screams of men pierced by the penetrating blows of their enemies.
Hannah rushed to the window to see the fighting, although little could be observed. Then,
an indistinct sound reached Hannah‟s ears. In a few minutes she recognized the sound:
fire. Hannah knew that the walls and most of the battlements were made of stone, but the
ballistae on the walls were made of wood. The ballistae were the defenders best hope for
destroying the siege weapons Sardon‟s army would surely construct.
         Hannah knew that the siege could last for weeks, if not months, and it was very
uncertain which side would win. After the first few days the attackers stopped their
foolish charges, which accomplished nothing more than to help deplete the defender‟s
arrow supply and to lose several companies of men. The King sent a sortie of Knights out
on the third night so they could damage the enemy‟s siege engines. The sortie returned
two hours later, chased back by the scattered arrows from Sardon‟s archers. Of the fifty
knights that had gone out, seven had been lost. They reported that they had set fire to the
siege towers and cut the support ropes of the trebuchets, causing them to fall into
shattered pieces.
         By the next morning the enemy had dug pits and stakes had been planted to
prevent another cavalry charge. A number of archer towers had been erected hastily
around the siege perimeter, out of the castle‟s bow and ballista range, but built
strategically enough so that each provided cover for two other towers.
         Another week passed, Sardon‟s army had rebuilt their siege towers and
trebuchets. Then, eleven days after the siege began, rocks again rained down on the
castle, launched by the trebuchets that were out of range of the castle defenders. The
siege towers began their slow advance toward the castle the next day. Arrow fire, even
arrows on fire, had no effect on the siege towers. All cracks between boards were filled
and the siege towers had been covered in wet animal skins to repel fire. The Ballistae
fared a little better than the archers against the towers, for their five-foot bolts were
tipped with metal and they caused havoc when they hit a tower. Inside the castle a
trebuchet had been constructed on a rotating base, so it could fire in any direction. It was
completed shortly after noon and it began hurling the rubble, which the attacking
trebuchets had knocked down, out of the castle at the enemy‟s siege towers.
        Three towers were approaching each of the castle‟s four walls. The trebuchet
succeeded in destroying all three on one side, but a shot from an attacking trebuchet hit it
and destroyed one A-frame, causing the whole weapon to fall to pieces. With only three
walls to defend, the King was able to better strengthen his position. The towers ceased
moving twenty feet from the wall, which was surprising; but it helped the defenders by
allowing them to hammer the towers with ballistae for the rest of the day. One of the
towers broke to pieces under the relentless fire from the ballistae.
        After dark, the eight remaining towers resumed their movement. At shortly before
eleven bells the ramps began dropping, allowing the attackers to pour over the walls and
begin to overwhelm the defenders by sheer numbers. Some of the knights had estimated
that the Baron Varkoe‟s army was five times the size of the defending force. The outer
wall was abandoned, along with a majority of the immobile ballistae, the rest being on
the second wall. The second wall would be much harder for the attackers to take because
they could not bring their siege towers over the walls; and they could not construct more
towers under the withering arrow fire the defenders put down.
        For three days the two armies were stalemated. The next day glorious news
reached Hannah‟s ears: the armies of Kendar and Grasha had arrived together and were
attacking Sardon‟s army‟s southern flank. Two nights after they arrived, several
battalions of troops bearing the Baron Varkoe‟s banner arrived from the north. With
them, came four beings whose presence would remain unnoticed until morning.
        Hannah was awakened by a terribly distraught maid, who said that the entire
countryside south of the Castle was on fire between Sardon‟s armies and the armies of
Kendar and Grasha. Hannah dressed and ran to the upper levels of the keep to see for
herself. Sure enough, the countryside was on fire. Four black dragons were circling the
Frelekan armies, sending streams of fire onto the defenseless troops, who were scattering
and deserting. When she witnessed the destruction and disarray, Hannah lost all hope.
She wondered what had become of Juliet while staying at the Jorrain Manor, which was
owned by her grandfather. Hannah knew that Sardon‟s armies had gone around the
Dukedom of Jorrain to keep their location secret and to catch the castle unprepared, but
the newly arrived Varkoe battalions had seen battle. She worried that the Juliet had been
captured and the Jorrain Manor destroyed. By the end of the day the Frelekan armies
were scattered and no longer a fighting force.
        With their southern flank no longer under attack, Sardon‟s troops refocused their
attention to the castle. Now Hannah‟s stories about dragons were believed, for no dragon
was born black. A dragon‟s scales were changed through dark magic to black when they
joined the Shadow Alliance. If the SA was indeed rising in power again, and Baron
Varkoe was allied with them, Freleka was doomed. Hannah lost all hope as those rumors
reached her ears.
        Let us now return to Kurt, who had traveled to Kendar and Grasha, and was now
on his way to Cho. In the dead of night two days flight away from Cho, Kurt was
awakened from sleep by Faladron‟s roar of pain. He jumped up from under his blanket to
see a spear stuck in the dragon‟s scales just below his head, where if he stirred ever so
slightly, he suffered excruciating pain. The cloaked figure laughed and said that should
keep the dragon still while he dealt with the knight. Throwing back the figure‟s hood
Kurt saw his face, this was one of the gypsies, but now he realized his true identity was
Jared the Dragon Slayer. Jared had his bow strung and an arrow nocked, he let fly the
arrow at Kurt. Kurt stretched out his hand casting a spell that froze the arrow in mid-air
and then it dropped to the ground. Angered, Jared fired yet another arrow, which Kurt
again halted and dropped to the ground. Realizing that arrows were useless against this
foe, Jared drew out his two short swords and advanced on Kurt. Kurt pulled out his
Mithril sword, which shimmered in the moonlight. With a clash of metal the swords met
and the fight commenced.
        Time slowed, seconds stretched to minutes, minutes to hours, and hours to
lifetimes. In reality the two stellar swordsmen fought in a fragment of time of eight
minutes, weaving a web of metal between each other, neither had drawn blood, and sweat
dripped from their bodies. Clouds obscured the moon, but when the clouds cleared Kurt
saw the dragonhide armor that Jared wore. This gave Kurt a new fury, and he drove forth
with his new attack, knocking first one sword of Jared‟s away, then the other. With the
tip of his sword at Jared‟s throat, Kurt asked why he had not killed him in the gypsy
camp. Jared replied that at the time he was not sure if Kurt was a Dragon Knight, so he
withheld himself. Kurt asked why he slew dragons; his reply astonished both dragon and
knight.
        Jared explained it was so that Baron Sardon Varkoe would reveal to him where to
find his beloved sister. Sardon had always compelled him that every slain dragon brought
him closer to the knowledge; and finally Sardon had pronounced the slaying of the
dragon Faladron and the newly risen Knight of the Dragon would earn him the
knowledge.
        Kurt sheathed his sword and inquired who Jared‟s sister was. Jared revealed he
did not know, or he would have found her long ago. He explained how his older sister
had taken care of him when he was a baby and she just seven years old. Strange men had
taken her away when Jared was three; he had searched for her ever since. Kurt was
moved by his story, but that did not change the fact Jared was a Dragon slayer. Jared
confided that as soon as he found his sister he would enter into a new life as a craftsman.
Kurt informed him the Shadow Alliance was rising again; so if Jared sided with the
Frelekan armies, the King and the IFD, Kurt would spare his life.
        Jared agreed under the condition that the dragon duo would help him find his
sister when Sardon‟s army was defeated. With a pained nod from Faladron, Kurt
accepted the terms. Kurt went quickly to Faladron and with a quick jerk he tore the spear
free. In a brief moment, Kurt cast a healing spell over the tortuous wound. He sealed the
wound and then returned to Jared his weapons. The night sky cleared and the fight was
over. In the moonlight, Kurt noticed Jared‟s horse, a fine stallion.
        The trio arrived at Cho three days later. While the reception at Kendar and Grasha
had been courteous, friendly, and cooperative, Cho‟s was courteous, cold, and strained.
Kurt soon learned that Jared had a bad reputation in Cho, which did not help matters. It
was the weaponsmasters who brought out Cho‟s good side, saying that Kurt and Faladron
were honorable; they did not mention Jared. With relations eased, Cho began marshalling
their own army. All docked ships that were of Frelekan origin were required to give up
ten percent of their crew to join the army. The Lord of Cho also promised to send
riverboats to the Ellsia River, where there the boats might do harm against Sardon.
         It took longer for Cho‟s army to become formed than Kendar or Grasha; for Cho
was mainly a business city and port. Most of the citizens lived outside the city in small
towns, and only came to Cho for trading or for their work. Despite all that, and with
several hundred men from ships in addition to the land-based troops, the army was
marshaled and formed within a week. With four full battalions, the Cho army numbered a
little over ten thousand. It was a little less than half the size of Baron Varkoe‟s army.
Still, with the full force from the king‟s troops in the castle, and the armies of Kendar and
Grasha, plus Faladron and Kurt, they should be able to overpower Sardon‟s army. What
Kurt did not know, was that there were four black dragons at Castle Freka. A recently
returned Cho scout told them the outer wall had been taken and that the Sardon‟s troops
had been reinforced, so they now numbered almost thirty thousand men.
         The army moved out nine days after Kurt‟s arrival; it would take a little over two
weeks for the army to reach the castle. It was decided that the army would follow the
road until they reached the border of Barondom Varkoe. They would then leave the road
and head straight to the Southern bridge. That would keep them hidden from Sardon‟s
scouts and cut down the travel time, although they would have to cross a bit rougher
terrain where there was less food and water.
         Kurt decided it would be foolishness to forge ahead of the Cho army and attack
Sardon‟s army. He would be cut down by the sheer numbers of arrows that the troops
would fire; as he could not stop hundreds with magic, for he had to see every one,
identify it, and stop it. He could put a magical shield around himself and Faladron, but it
would slowly drain his strength over the long period of time a battle between two such
capital armies would take.
         When the army of Cho crossed the southern bridge over the Ellsia River, they
encountered single and groups of men who were from the armies of Kendar and Grasha.
From the deserters, Kurt learned of the four black dragons. This news made it
inescapably clear that with the Shadow Alliance allied with Sardon‟s massive army,
Freleka very well could fall to the armies of Darkness. Despite all the unsettling news,
the army pressed on. Sixteen days after they left Cho, the force made camp just out of
bowshot of Baron Varkoe‟s army. Kurt and the Cho generals had hoped to use the
combined armies from all three cities to crush Sardon‟s southern flank, but they had only
a thousand men reinforcing them from the western cities. With numbers far smaller than
they had hoped for, the commanders drew up new plans.
         The defenders of the castle did not know that the Cho army had arrived, for no
scouts could leave or enter the castle, and the allied army was beyond the horizon.

       Slowly, the Varkoe army had built arrow shelters leading up to the second walls,
and now ladders were being constructed to scale the second wall. In the morning of one
day, weeks after the siege had begun, Hannah went to watch the sunrise from the keep, as
had become her custom; for it brought her hope, however forlorn. When the sun was just
about to stop touching the horizon, a flying shape flew out of it, followed by what she
guessed to be five thousand men on the ground. It was a reddish brown dragon, with a
man riding on top, arrayed in blue Mithril armor. Arrow fire was inaccurate at best,
because of the sun blinding the Varkoe archers. Those arrows that went even near the
dragon were stopped in mid-air, and then fell deftly to the ground.
        The Cho army had had five thousand men move around to Varkoe‟s army‟s
eastern flank during the night, while six thousand more stayed and attacked the southern
flank at the same time. Kurt was mounted on Faladron and it was them who flew out of
the sun, leading the upper army of Cho. Two black dragons flew down from the north and
attacked Kurt and Faladron. A third black dragon attacked the ground troops and the last
attacked the lower army of Cho, who was fighting on the southern flank. The dragons
inflected much damage to be sure, but since they faced the troops alone, the dragons were
forced to pull back.
        Kurt and Faladron battled the two black dragons, throwing fire and magic, while
the SA dragons returned fire with only fire. The fighters were evenly matched, dragon
fire was next to useless against dragon scales, so the fighters stuck close and personal.
Kurt had a magical dragonfire shield around him; forcing the black dragons to resort to
claws, teeth, and tails. Kurt countered by using his Mithril sword, which proved effective
against dragon scales. The battle was a stalemate, until the other black dragons joined the
fight.
        The battle turned ill in the sky and Hannah began to lose hope again, when
suddenly one of the black dragons uttered a great cry and fell to the ground with a spear
in his heart. He perished after only a few seconds on the ground, as the Kendar Paladins
descended upon him and killed him with Mithril swords. Hannah commandeered a
spyglass from a man next to her, trained it on the ground and saw it was Jared who had
fired the spear. She now saw it was not a spear at all, but a ballista bolt fired from one of
the notoriously accurate Cho ballistae, aimed by Jared. Cho onagers began raining rocks
down on the Varkoe troops and killed hundreds. Several rapidly constructed Cho
trebuchets also began launching massive rocks at the Varkoes trebuchets. Within minutes
the siege weapons built by Sardon‟s men all lay in pieces.
        One of the black dragons flew down to fight Jared, but his reputation as a famed
Dragon slayer was not undeserved, for it took only a few minutes for him to slay the
black dragon. As the day wore on, Jared assisted Kurt and Faladron in killing the two
remaining SA dragons. Kurt then flew down with Faladron and made full use of fire, both
from dragon-breath and Dragon Knight‟s sword. When the Varkoe troops learned their
mighty tools had fallen, the few remaining companies surrendered. Just before dusk, the
siege was declared lifted and the battle won by the Frelekan forces.
        There were many joyful reunions and feasts that night. It was learned that
Sardon‟s armies had not touched the Dukedom of Jorrain, so everyone rejoiced
throughout the Castle. Kurt was reunited with Hannah. Jared showed up arrayed in new
dragonhide armor, black. It was evidence of his recent change of loyalty and slaying of
the SA dragons. The last quandary facing Kurt was solved when he asked why Jared had
not attacked Faladron in his cave when he had had the chance. It turned out that the white
bandits had waylaid Jared and they delayed him until they were destroyed, at which point
he escaped, but arrived at the cave after everyone had left.
         Kurt swore fealty to the King that night, making himself his vassal. It was
decided that once the armies were regrouped, they would attack Barondom Varkoe. Kurt
was to go and enlist the help of the IFD as soon as possible. But for now, everyone lived
happily after the victory.
                                               Epilogue
        “I thought you said it would take three nights to tell!” One of the boys said.
        The storyteller looked at them in surprise. “Did I say the tale was over?” The boys
glanced at each other. “No indeed, and did you not even listen to the end, Kurt was going
to be sent on a mission! But that is all I will tell tonight, go to bed now, enjoy the day
tomorrow, then come back here to hear the second part of the tale.”
                                            End of Book I


                            Ransom         Prologue
         The second day of the harvest feast passed all to slowly for the ones listening to
the storyteller‟s tale. They all began trickling in before the final festivities of the day were
over. They all sat down around the waiting storyteller who had a knowing smile on his
face. “Everyone ready?”
         “Yes!” They said.
         “Okay, let‟s see…” He paused for a moment and watched as each of them leaned
in expectantly. “Little time passed since the end of the first part of my tale, so not much
as changed in the world two hundred years ago…”
                                           Part One
         A week has passed since the defeat of Sardon‟s army at the gates of Castle Freka.
King Andrew Freka, King of Freleka and Grandfather of Princess Hannah Freka,
summons Kurt Karcelow, Knight of the Dragon, to his private chambers. There they
speak at length about Baron Sardon Varkoe, now declared enemy of the state. The armies
of Castle Freka, the Cities of Kendar, Grasha and Cho, plus reinforcements that have
come from villages and towns around Freka, are being formed into a cohesive unit. The
problem presented is that more reports of Black dragons in Barondom Varkoe have
reached the castle. King Andrew asks Kurt to now journey northward to the IFD and ask
for help in the war. Kurt agrees and he makes plans to leave the following day.
         After saying goodbye to Princess Hannah Freka, Kurt mounts Faladron and the
duo fly northward. It takes them a week to go from the Castle to the plains of the IFD,
crossing the western plains of Freleka and the White Mountains in between. They endure
no more hardship during the journey than a light snowstorm on the way over the
mountains.
         Upon reaching the IFD territory they were met immediately by the border guards,
who instead of escorting them told them to proceed into the inner territory alone. Kurt
and Faladron were surprised when they spoke with the ruling dragon clan, for they
refused to help Freleka in its time of need. They said that they had no wish to become
embroiled in the affairs of men again, because last time they had to fight a war against the
Shadow Alliance. Kurt knew they were right, for history like that had a tendency to
repeat itself. The SA was once again rising, only this time the IFD would not be there to
stop it.
        At Castle Freka the preparations of the army proceeded smoothly and they were
planning to move out in ten days time, with or without the help of the IFD. A week had
passed since the departure of Kurt and things continued normally for Hannah. Going to
bed that night, it seemed everything was fine. Alas, it was not so.
        In the dead of night, a black dragon flew over the Ellsia River and landed on top
of the Castle keep where he would not be seen. Two assassins came down from the
dragon‟s back and infiltrated the upper level of the keep. The few guards on duty were
put into a slumber with a spell uttered from their mouths. They moved quickly down
several levels until they were outside Hannah‟s door. With a muttered word the door un-
locked silently and swung inward with an equal absence of noise. Hannah was not to be
taken so easily by magic as the guards. Before he had left for the IFD, Kurt had cast a
spell over her, so that if a person with less than friendly intentions approached her while
sleeping, she would awaken.
        Hannah snapped awake as her door opened; she saw two shadows move in the
room and approach her silently. With a cry she grasped a dagger from her nightstand and
jumped out of bed. In the guardroom down the hall, six guards leapt out of bed and ran
towards her room. The assassins laughed in a quiet voice and one put out his hand and
muttered an unintelligible word. Since she was alert for magic, the spell could not put her
into slumber. Instead, the she felt her body go limp as her dagger clattered to the floor.
One of the men picked her up with unnatural strength and fled with her towards the door.
There they were met by the guards with torches and drawn swords.
        With a quiet oath, the assassin who did not carry Hannah put out his hand and
made use of a spell that Hannah had only heard of in legend. A barely visible bowl of
energy flew from his hand and crashed in front of the four guards; they were knocked
unconscious by the shockwave spell. The rear guards were slightly dazed but held their
ground, bringing their swords back up to ready position. The front assassin pulled out a
pale sword from under his cloak and attacked the guards. He moved with inhuman speed
and quickly overpowered and killed the elite guards. The front assassin dropped a note on
the floor and then the trio moved up through the keep quickly, carrying Hannah against
her will. They reached the roof, mounted the dragon and flew away as shouts were heard
and more watch fires were lit.
        News of the kidnapping reached King Andrew within minutes, along with
Hannah‟s Father, Prince Karl. The two converged at her room, where the four victims of
the shockwave spell were just coming to. The two guards who had fallen to the
kidnapper‟s blade were taken outside and buried with military honors. The guards in the
upper levels of the keep swore that they had simply fallen asleep and wanted to take the
blame; but the King knew that it was the work of magic, so he held it not against them. It
was deduced that the kidnappers could not have come from below, so they had either
flown on magic or on a dragon to the roof of the keep. It was accepted that they flew in
on a dragon because several sentries thought they had seen a shape and heard the flapping
of a great beast. There were claw marks on the roof and it took enormous skill and
stamina to fly with magic. Lastly, it was already known that the Shadow Alliance was
allied with Sardon, so it would have been inane not to use the black dragon‟s power of
flight.
         Only when the light of morning lit Hannah‟s chambers did a guard notice the note
on the floor; he retrieved it and sent it to King Andrew. He became much more grim
when he read it. Wordlessly, he handed it to Prince Karl who read it aloud. The note said,
„I, Baron Sardon Varkoe, whom you have declared your enemy unjustly, have been
forced to resort to extreme measures to keep Freleka from further war. I have kidnapped
the Princess Hannah Freka and will hold her hostage until ransom is received. If you
attempt to send in a secret group to rescue her, or attack Barondom Varkoe outright, I
will be forced to kill her. Know that you can do nothing of which I will not know, for the
Shadow Alliance has lent me aid, so I may survive your unjust war. None can enter my
domain without my permission or theirs. The ransom is the Dragon Faladron or the
Knight of the Dragon who swore fealty to you. I would prefer one of those two, but
anyone with dragon blood will do. Act wisely, Baron Varkoe.‟
         Orders were sent for the volunteers who had only recently come to return home;
only the standing armies would remain. It was decided to wait for the return of Kurt with
the IFD before responding to Sardon‟s actions. Nine days later Kurt arrived, weary from
the journey. He reported the IFD‟s position and said that he alone could not fight the SA.
Kurt then asked permission to see the Princess Hannah. It was then he learned the news
of her kidnapping. The news struck him speechless for a minute and then he bowed and
coldly strode from the royal chambers of King Andrew. It was Jared who met him outside
the doors and walked with him wordlessly. It was not until the duo reached Faladron in
the courtyard that Kurt spoke. Faladron reacted with anger but was not foolish enough to
damage anything. He flew away to mull the turn of events elsewhere, without Kurt.
         Kurt and Jared decided to get out their anger by sword practice and so went to the
armory, where Kurt unpacked his armor and weapons. When he uncovered the blue
mithril mail, there was a low gasp from the warriors in the room. Not even the Paladins
of Kendar wore such armor, for they wore steel like everyone else, albeit a lighter and
stronger version. The mithril armor had been a gift from the dragon trainers after one of
their practical jokes. It consisted of a full-sleeved hauberk, mail gauntlets, full-length
pants and coif for his head. None of it was plate, all was chain so as to make easier his
movement and it was lighter so he could last longer on the field of battle. He also had a
red tunic that was the exact color of Faladron‟s scales; also in his last trip the trainers had
inlaid red gold into his mithril sword‟s handle. His yew longbow, mithril tipped arrows
and mithril throwing knives brought similar reactions from the warriors.
         Kurt and Jared armed themselves, and then fell into a fierce sword battle, which
lasted a quarter of an hour. In the end Kurt won but all knew that only a handful of men
could defeat Jared. After their duel, the two went to the archery range and practiced with
their yew bows. Jared was the better at this, for the majority of his slain dragons were
killed with well placed projectiles. Kurt did not resent him for this, because Jared was
now on the side of King Andrew and the IFD, instead of Sardon and the SA as before.
         Prince Karl put out a secret reward among the knights of Freleka for anyone who
could bring back Princess Hannah. A week passed before three knights finalized plans to
infiltrate Sardon‟s territory and Manor, retrieve Princess Hannah, and return to Castle
Freka. They were dispatched quickly and then nothing was heard from them. Six days
later a messenger came to castle bearing a letter from Sardon. It said that the King was
foolish to attempt to rescue the princess, as the Knights had been caught and killed easily
by the black dragons of the SA. The letter made no mention of the Princess but things
were obviously not well.

        In the newly erected Castle Varkoe, Hannah had resigned herself to a long
imprisonment. The castle had been built mainly with the magical abilities of the black
dragons, which explained why it took only four months to build, instead of ten years. The
castle was well defended against all attacks. It could withstand a yearlong siege. No
assassins could get in and no Dragon Knight‟s could fly to Hannah‟s rescue.
        When she had first been brought to castle, Sardon had come to see her. She had
seen him before, but he had changed. His eyes were darker and sunken, his skin was pale
and stretched more than before, and his whole demeanor was different. Although he acted
calm and in control, Hannah sensed an underlying unease as he questioned her. There had
been nothing beyond questions because even the Shadow Alliance honored the sanctity of
a lady. Sardon was cordial however; after he had exhausted his store of questions, he had
brought her food and drink, both of royal quality. He was knightly in his actions, and
Hannah respected that, even though she hated him for attacking the Castle Freka and
declaring war on goodness in general.
        Another peculiarity Hannah noticed was that a sleek black dog accompanied
Sardon wherever he went. Sardon spoke to the dog as an equal and the canine seemed to
understand, although how the dog could comprehend was beyond Hannah‟s imagination.
        Instead of a dark dungeon like she had originally expected, Hannah was kept in a
suite of rooms in the upper levels of the keep. She was allowed to walk the grounds with
four guards on some days, but all other times she was kept in her chambers, under guard.
From the windows of her chambers Hannah had seen several of the black dragons, which
while consumed with evil, were also regal in their mannerisms and movements.
        The days of imprisonment wore on into weeks, and Hannah‟s hopes for rescue
faded. Everything around her seemed gloomy: from the black cloaks of Sardon‟s army, to
the black dragons, to the drab decorations of her rooms. The knowledge that her rescuers
would assume she was at Varkoe Manor made her realize it could be some time before
any successful rescue attempt could be mounted. There had also been much rain since
Hannah had been kidnapped. So she had no desire to be outside and that did nothing for
her gloominess.

        After the news came that the knights had been killed, Kurt immediately set about
preparing to go rescue the princess himself. Among the three knights had been Sir
Barlow, which saddened Kurt greatly and made greater his resolve to avenge himself
against Sardon. There was not much to do to get ready: summon Faladron with magic,
procure some food and water, and arrange and pack his weapons. He said farewell to
Jared, the King, and the rest of court and then the Dragon and Knight were off. They flew
east starting at night, so spies of Sardon‟s would not see them. Two days flight brought
them to the border of Barondom Varkoe.
        From where they were, it was a one-night flight to Varkoe Manor. So Faladron
and Kurt decided to rest during the day and continue that night. The day was uneventful,
most of it was spent sleeping; although a curious wolf passing by learned that dragon
breath does not have an undue reputation.
        When the sun finally disappeared beyond the horizon, Kurt mounted Faladron and
the duo flew northeast. For three hours the flight was leisurely, when out of the darkness
came an unexpected roar of flame. Two black dragons descended from above the duo,
spitting flame the whole way. Kurt uttered a quick spell and put a fire shield around
himself, then drew his sword. Faladron dove to get away from the attackers, folding his
wings and going into free-fall. The black dragons fell behind for a minute, which was
enough time to get re-situated to attack the aggressors.
        The trio of flying entities rammed into each other one hundred feet above the
ground, tails swinging, claws swiping and flame flowing like an air-borne river. Dragon
flame simply bounces off of dragon scales, so the dragons literally fell into a knockdown
drag-out fight. With these close quarters, wings become cramped and all four battlers fell
to the ground. Kurt dismounted, although it was really more of a fall and charged at the
enemy dragons. They both fired flame at him, but it dissipated against his magical shield.
He charged in and cut open the nose of the nearer dragon, which scrambled away with a
roar of pain. Faladron used the distraction of Kurt to fly again and attack the uninjured
dragon from above. The two fell into what looked like giant wrestling match.
        Kurt sheathed his sword, pulled out his bow, fitted an arrow, and fired at the
unprotected belly of the dragon nursing his nose. The black beast let out another roar and
this time charged at Kurt. Kurt drew sword again and charged the dragon, dodging
nimbly around his tail and claws. The battles were going well for a minute, when Kurt
spied three black dragons flying towards them from the east. Calling for Faladron, Kurt
disengaged from battle and ran towards his dragon, who was letting loose a final blast of
fire. The two black dragons on the ground were weak from loss of blood and did not
follow. Mounting up, Dragon and Knight flew away towards the west. The second
attempt to rescue the princess had failed.
                                              Part Two
        The days in Castle Varkoe dragged on slowly for the Princess. Although she
could watch the training of soldiers and the flight of dragons, it always was
overshadowed by the fact that these were her enemies. Hannah had not let the time go to
waste though, most the time she read from the Baron‟s extensive library. While it
contained some books on black magic and evil potions, it also contained many books on
the history of Freleka, telling of the Dragon wars of old, how the Family of Freka had
risen to power through their integrity and the people‟s love of the just rulers that were
part of their line. There were books telling of how the cities of Kendar, Grasha and Cho
were founded and some telling of many of the villages that were dotted throughout
Freleka. More rare were books about the lands South of the Black Mountains and the
Great Southern Woods, lands inhabited now by the Shadow Alliance. One book also
mentioned that the Dwarves still existed in the lands even further south, beyond the SA.
One book that captivated Hannah‟s attention told about a strange race that was told to
exist beyond known waters in the Eastern Sea. The race mentioned was called the Elves,
and they were said to live forever, untouched by age or common diseases.
        Lastly were books telling the histories the Wanvarian world. Common teachings
told that the Kingdoms in Wanvaria were now only inhabited by humans and dragons, the
Dwarves having been destroyed long ago, and the elves only a fairy tale. Of particular
interest to Hannah was the Wanvarian history book telling of the Kingdom of Jornia,
whose North-Eastern border nearly touched Freleka‟s South-Eastern. The war between
the two kingdoms was the one that was said to have eliminated the dwarves. The
extinction of an entire race had brought the warring armies to their senses and peace had
been between the two great kingdoms ever since. Nowhere in Sardon‟s library was to be
found a book telling of the IFD. They were only hinted at in the other books that would
be incomplete without making at least a reference to the alliance that was built
specifically to fight the SA and keep order in Wanvaria. Even those books made
reference to an older alliance of dragons, of which the name was no longer known.
        When not reading, Baron Varkoe‟s Falcon company of knights had taken Hannah
hunting in the woods to the east of the castle. Much to the knight‟s surprise the Princess
demonstrated great skill with the bow. What they did not know was that Ladies of the
Freka line underwent very similar training as the men, so that if they died by the sword it
would not be from lack of knowledge. Consequently, Hannah could hold her own with a
sword or a lance, although she never displayed these attributes in public.
        During her captivity Hannah got to know her captors, the knights and maids, and
infantry. Many of them followed Sardon out of loyalty because he was a just man. His
evil nature rarely showed through, revealing just how he had become a noble leader of
men. The help of the Shadow dragons was viewed by the common subject as simply an
alliance with dragons, although questionable ones to be sure. What the common subject
did not understand was why they had been called to declare war against their natural
king. Sardon‟s propaganda had made it acceptable though, so the average soldier went on
with his normal and ordinary life; or at least as normal as life in Sardon‟s army could be.
        When she was not hunting, reading, daydreaming, or walking the castle walls,
some of the Ladies in the castle taught the Princess much about the art of weaving.
Hannah spent a good deal of time constructing a tapestry that had a castle in the
background, two warring armies on the lower fourth and some interesting cloud
formations at the top. Dominating much of the tapestry was a red dragon with a mithril-
clad rider carrying a flaming sword.
        Hannah heard nothing of the multiple attempts towards her rescue; so despite her
fighting spirit, her faith began to wane. The constant reminder of the Shadow dragon‟s
presence and power kept her too fearful to attempt an escape. She knew she could not
look for help in the maids or ladies, for the one young maid who befriended Hannah was
severely punished and sent away to the outer farms. It seemed no help could be found in
the castle, especially with the black-clad army surrounding the castle for a mile radius.
All hope and chance for escape would have to be put on hold for a while.

         The mood of Castle Freka was darkened greatly when Kurt and Faladron returned
without the princess. Although no one doubted Varkoe‟s message, they had placed much
hope in the Dragon duo. Jared it turned out had vanished during the duo‟s absence. There
was some stipulation about his disappearance, but it was greatly overshadowed by the
kidnapping of the Princess.
         Kurt now knew a direct attempt at Hannah‟s rescue was futile; he would need to
either try again with the IFD, or attempt a more dangerous road. While the road Kurt was
considering was far more likely to result in his death, it also had a much better chance of
drawing off Hannah‟s dragon guard. But that road was not yet necessary; there were
other ways of drawing off the Shadow Dragons from their constant guarding of Varkoe
Manor. Never did Kurt consider giving himself or Faladron up for Hannah‟s ransom.
         Talking with Faladron brought the duo to the conclusion that raids on the northern
edges of Barondom Varkoe would be of the greatest use at the moment. So after only one
night‟s rest, Kurt set off astride Faladron towards the northeast. The first day of flight
brought them to Jorrain Manor, where Kurt opted to rest. It was there that the Princess
Juliet, who had only recently heard of Hannah‟s kidnapping, despite the King‟s efforts to
keep it secret, met the duo. The threesome talked far into the night and before retiring,
Juliet gave Kurt a small locket. She said if he was ever in dire trouble beyond help, to
open the locket and help would come to its wearer. The Princess explained how Hannah
and her had once met a beautiful lady who had given it to them years before. The two
princesses had traded off keeping it every month. When Kurt asked the lady‟s name,
Juliet could not remember but she said Hannah probably would.
         Kurt and Faladron left before dawn the next morning and passed over the Ellsia
River just as the sun was peeking over the horizon. The sun was still touching the horizon
when a drowsy sentry saw a red dragon flying towards the camp at full speed. He
sounded his bell and the small outpost of Sardon‟s troops sprang from their beds. The
small company was ready to fight within two minutes and by that time, the dragon was
upon them. Rather than directly assaulting them, the dragon landed out of bowshot and
let off his mithril-clad rider wearing a red tunic.
         Kurt did not run but began striding towards the black clad troops. He took no
notice of the arrows flying towards him, for they bounced off his armor without so much
as scratching it. No arrow came near his face, for he had already put a magic arrow shield
around it. The men soon learned that their arrows were not working, so their captain
ordered them to draw swords. As they did so, the forgotten Faladron came swooping in
from behind, blasting the camp with flame.
         The duo took no delight in the senseless waste of life, but they knew no amount of
force or money would sway them in their loyalty to Sardon. After less than a minute only
the young sentry was left suffering several burns, but he would live. The duo saw fit to let
him tell his story of an unstoppable dragon duo. Why so many remained loyal to Sardon,
despite his war with the king, was beyond Kurt but he feared an evil spell.
         Over the next two weeks Faladron and Kurt conducted similar raids across the
northern border of Sardon‟s territory. They worked their way towards the Port of Cho, all
the while catching outposts or patrolling troops unawares. They usually left one man
alive, to spread their rumor; although several times miscommunications caused entire
companies of men to be sent on to the next life. Finally, a single Shadow Dragon caught
up with them at the northeast corner of Barondom Varkoe. He was looking for them, but
not even a dragon‟s eyes can look into the directly into the sun. And so it was that the duo
attacked, catching the dragon unawares.
         Kurt let fly an arrow that pierced the dragon‟s scales just behind the head, while
Faladron attacked a more vital part: the dragon‟s wings. Several rapid swipes with his
claws severed the right wing off the dragon. With a cry he began falling towards the
ground, where he died upon impact. With that final victory the duo turned and flew with
all speed towards the Port of Cho. Cho was the only city in the Kingdom of Freleka that
was cut off from all its allies by the betrayal of Sardon. Kurt feared for the lonely eastern
outpost of free men.
        The flight of two days brought Kurt and Faladron into sight of Cho. The city walls
and gates still stood but smoke rose from around it. Kurt could not tell whether the smoke
came from inside or outside the city. As the duo flew closer, they could see an army of
black clad soldiers surrounding the city‟s land facing walls. Almost a hundred siege
engines, ranging from siege towers, to trebuchets, to ballistae, were all burning. The Cho
knowledge of siege weaponry had let them use their highly accurate wall-mounted
ballistae to fire flaming bolts, which wreaked havoc among Sardon‟s siege weapons.
        The army arrayed against the city could not have been trained in remote fields,
nor could it have been trained at the Varkoe Manor. It was far more advanced than the
army that attacked Castle Freka, but Kurt was at a loss as to where Sardon could have
raised and trained an army so quickly. The duo flew over the water to reach the city and
arrived without harm. That flight afforded them a view of the water gates of Cho. There
the ocean was littered with sunken ships, while a massive Cho fleet still guarded the
harbor.
        The Duke of Cho greeted the dragon duo warmly when they landed in the manor
gardens. He seemed strained, which was understandable considering his city was under
siege. Attendants brought the duo food and drink immediately, which was much
appreciated. Once Faladron had drunk his fill, he moved to the side of the gardens to
catch some much needed rest. Once Kurt had revitalized himself from the refreshments,
he began talking with the Duke of Cho.
        The siege was not faring well, despite original impressions. No food or supplies
could reach the city by land and while the Cho fleet guarded against invasion, a blockade
of Varkoe ships blocked the city all along the horizon. The city could last up to three
months with rationed food, but there was no telling what might happen between now and
then. The siege had already been going for almost three weeks and the storehouses were
feeling the bite. So far, the black clad army attacking the city had used only conventional
means of assault. The Cho were grateful for this, because it meant no dragons had
attacked.
        With all his attacks having been repelled so far, the Duke of Cho feared Sardon
would call upon the help of his allies in the Shadow Alliance. The weapons of the Cho
soldiers would be no match for the juggernaught flames and near impenetrable scales of
the dragons. But dragon fire could at least be stopped with enough water and with a
powerful enough weapon, the army could bring down the flying beasts. No, the dragons
were not the weapons the Cho feared so greatly, the weapon they feared was something
armor could not stop, swords could not parry, and arrows could not pierce: magic. The
legends of Wizards across the Eastern Sea were told daily among the Cho sailors,
keeping the mages of old in high regard. While many people could master some basic
magic with practice and patience, the battle mages could alter the very elements around
them to do their bidding. Kurt himself could attest to magic being able to work, as he
could put up magical arrows shields, dragon fireproof bubbles, use magical flames on his
weapons, move small objects telekinetically, and perform other various magical spells.
        Tales were told of the ancient wars, which had led to the separation of humans
and dragons from each other‟s daily lives. It was said that was when the Kingdoms in the
world of Wanvaria were drawn up, the Major Dragon Alliance had its original founding,
and when the powerful ancient battle magics were develpoed and put to use. The magics
had come close to upsetting the globe‟s seasons, which would have ultimately led to an
end to all life in the world. That was the last time all dragons had fought together for a
common goal, to drive the mages from the main western continents. After that, the Major
Dragon Alliance had split into the IFD and SA.
        Kurt spent several days talking to sailors and supposed wise men, which told him
many tales. The dragon knight was at first feared when he entered the hovels and bars
seeking information. But they soon opened their books and minds and told him what he
wished to learn. It was only after following the trails of obscure tales for several days that
an aging sailor told him the near forgotten name of the mages. They were once called the
Elves.
                                             Part Three
        In the past weeks of Hannah‟s imprisonment she had witnessed most of Sardon‟s
army leave the castle and the surrounding fields. They had headed Northeast, towards
what she guessed was Cho. With the leaving of so many of Sardon‟s minions, a
possibility of escape began to form in Hannah‟s mind. It would not be the first time she
had escaped from a castle. Multiple times Juliet and her had escaped from Castle Freka,
but then they had not been specifically imprisoned, only kept under supervision.
        Sardon had made the mistake of leaving a certain company of knights to guard
her. Namely, the ones who had taken her hunting before and who probably would again.
Hannah knew she could either sweet talk one of them into pitying her enough to help her
escape, or just escape the next time they took her hunting. The young maidens of her age
who had been with her before were no longer a possibility, because they were not there.
The only women she saw regularly now were several old ladies who took no notice of
current wars and troubles, and who had zero pity for Hannah‟s position. There were also
confidants of Sardon‟s, so they could not be trusted. The only good thing about them was
that they had taught her to weave her tapestry of Kurt and Faladron. It was going to be a
shame to leave it behind.
        To Hannah‟s knowledge Sardon himself had not left his Barondom in many a
year. Not since becoming Baron she believed, although she could not be sure of that. Her
daily walks on the castles outer walls let her make a thorough survey of the countryside
around the castle. There were no forests for several miles and the closest one was to the
north, almost two miles away. There was no way she could reach it without help. So
Hannah set to work on one of the younger Knights of the Falcon crest. He was engaged to
be married, which gave her some relief, but that also meant he was young and valiant
enough to still be chivalrous to a maiden in distress.
        His name was Walter and he had proven himself in two of King Andrew‟s
tournaments; no small feat as the tournaments held at Castle Freka were the hardest in the
land. That had been before hostilities arose between his liege Lord Sardon and the King.
Now, although he had fought on the Baron‟s side at the battle of Castle Freka, he did not
fully believe and embrace Sardon on the reasons for war.
        It took nearly three weeks after the army had left the castle to get the Falcon
Knights to take her hunting. Hannah dropped a few subtle hints that resulted in the
company heading for the hunting grounds in the woods to the north. Once there Hannah
began to try and end up with the least amount of Knights around her as possible, before
she attempted to escape. Finally after almost three hours of spotting game and sending off
a knight after it, there remained only Walter with her. She said she saw something up a
head and spurred her horse towards it. Walter followed close behind.
         Her chance came when she began adjusting her scarf in mid-run. It fell off and
fell behind. She turned back for it instantly and as soon as she was next to Walter she
suddenly struck with her elbow and hit him on the neck. He fell from his horse,
unconscious. Without wasting any more time, she once again spurred her horse, this time
in a northwesterly direction, towards the Northern Fords of the Ellsia River.
         As far as she knew, none of the Knights would know she was missing until it
came time for them to regroup at the clearing. So Hannah rode hard and fast until
nightfall. Then she stopped in a small clearing near the edge of the woods. Although she
was far away from any settlement of which she knew, she was still on Sardon‟s lands. So
she could not stay in one place long. It was just after dawn when she awoke after a fitful
sleep on the hard ground. Hannah mounted her horse quickly and began making for the
northern fords once again. She had not been riding long when suddenly an invisible hand
picked her up off her horse and flung her to the ground.
         The shock of the fall, plus the terror of some unknown power able to move her at
will, finally made her lose her composure after all she had gone through during her
imprisonment. She began to sob quietly, not caring what enemy heard her. After a few
minutes her tears ceased to flow and she was about to get back on here horse, which had
returned to her. Then she heard rapid hoof beats behind her. Turning, she saw two
horsemen who made her blood turn cold. They were the same two men who had
kidnapped her, the ones who had used magic during her capture and had obviously been
the ones who flung her from her horse from afar.
         Behind the two magicians was the Falcon Company of Knights, with a distraught
Walter in the lead. Hannah did not dare mount her horse now for fear of what the
magicians might do this time. While she was still contemplating what to do, the
magicians dismounted and grabbed her roughly. They began to drag her but Walter
shouted for them to let her walk in front of them, or he would put Sardon after their
heads. What little she could see of the magician‟s faces revealed fear at the mention of
Sardon‟s name. Why they would be afraid of a man, even one with power over other
men, was beyond her current comprehension.
         The return ride to the castle was done at a brisk trot, although no one spoke during
the entire time, which made Hannah very uncomfortable. The Falcon Knights had trusted
her and she had betrayed them; but that did not worry her, they were still knights of
Varkoe. On the way Hannah contemplated the magicians, they had taken her from Castle
Freka with spells that were difficult to master and the rest of the Varkoe army seemed to
fear them. Yet despite the power she assumed they had, they were completely obedient
and even afraid of their master Sardon. Since they had powerful magic, it seemed logical
that either Sardon was immune to their magic, doubtful but possible, or he had far more
powerful magic. Both options were doubtful, it seemed more likely Sardon held captive a
dear friend or relative of theirs; or it could just be that despite their magic, the army
would slay the magicians with a word from Sardon.
         Thinking of the magician‟s possible plight reminded Hannah of another person‟s
captivity; not her own, but of Jared‟s missing sister. Jared had spoken of her, saying that
the only person in these lands who knew where she was was Sardon. Jared was in a type
of captivity, one that did not keep him in a certain place, but out. He could not enter
Barondom Varkoe for fear of his sister‟s death. Thinking of Jared‟s sister, of whom he
had never given a name, for some reason reminded Hannah of a lady she had met years
before. It was the lady that had given Juliet and her the locket. Now she dearly wished for
that locket.

         Five days had passed since Kurt and Faladron‟s arrival in Cho. They had gone on
two forays a day against Sardon‟s army. While they accomplished much, eliminating
troops, siege weapons and supplies, the sheer size of the army made it seem pointless.
Faladron had taken multiple wounds from well-aimed arrows and Kurt had many bruises
from the fighting. They had been forced to stay low to the ground and with the Cho
cavalry; else the thousands of archers would have shot them down. Already the stress of
the siege was wearing on the duo. Kurt had not had time to pursue the mystery of the
Elves further, as he had been busy talking, training, and planning with the men of Cho.
That, added to the forays against the surrounding black-clad army, made for very full
days.
         Before dawn broke on the sixth day of their stay, the duo flew away from the city
in darkness. They flew over the Cho fleet and directly for the Varkoe blockade on the
horizon. Despite Faladron‟s size he could fly very silently when he desired. And so he
did, not five feet above the water. Many assume that ships were rather immune to fire,
because there was always a ready supply of water for them. Such was not the case, made
of old wood, sealed with tar, and with materials for shooting flaming bolts on-board, they
were greatly susceptible to fire. Upon reaching the first sleeping ship ,Faladron unleashed
the famed dragon breath. The ship was burnt to the waterline within minutes. The duo did
not stop there. They continued all the way around the horizon, burning close to a hundred
ships, utterly destroying the blockade and decimating the Varkoe fleet. The last few ships
set sail before Faladron could reach them and Kurt told him to let the ships flee. Not more
than five of their original two hundred escaped the waters of Cho. Almost one hundred
had been lost in the battle with the Cho fleet and the rest fell to dragon fire. The Cho fleet
suffered little from the battle, losing only eleven ships. The Cho truly were masters of the
sea.
         The burning of the Varkoe fleet took most of the day, and Faladron was badly
worn from the full day of flying. Kurt allowed him to rest the next day and rode a horse
with the Cho cavalry on the forays. Doing so made him realize just how tremendously
powerful his dragon was and how much he relied upon him. Kurt and the cavalry made
four attacks that day and it was late night when they returned, tired and worn. It came as
no small surprise to Kurt when he entered the gardens to find not only Faladron, but also
a green dragon and a blue dragon speaking with him. No less surprising was a character
that was no stranger to dragon powers. Jared, dragon slayer turned dragon friend awaited
the dragon knight.
         The two embraced immediately and Kurt asked him where he had been. Jared
launched into the tale of where exactly he had ventured. It was a very surprising tale and
not for the faint of heart.

       The night after Kurt returned from the IFD and subsequently left to rescue the
princess, Jared escaped secretly out of Castle Freka. He took only his dragon hide armor,
his sword, bow and quiver of arrows, and a few pieces of food. He traveled by the main
road until he reached the Frekan woods, west of Castle Freka. There he turned off and
headed down a small path until he reached a small cottage. It took only two days to make
the journey there on foot, although a lesser person might have taken longer.
Unbeknownst to him, he spent the night in Derrick and Kurt‟s old home that night.
        The third day of Jared‟s journey took him through the Frekan woods and in sight
of the Kendar highway. On the way he had contemplated just why he was on his journey.
Mainly it was because Kurt would need reinforcements against the SA dragons under
Sardon. It was Faladron who had given Jared the idea, saying he had spoken with a
dragon beyond Freleka‟s western border in the wild western woods as they were called.
That dragon Jared was hoping to recruit into helping Frelaka against Sardon.
        Few people frequented the far western plains of Freleka beyond Kendar, and
Jared saw no one on his two-day walk through the area. The border of Freleka ended
right where the Wild western woods began. In that foreboding forest, no one was the
master. Untamed and unclaimed it was, and so it was not called wild for nothing. Inside,
Jared knew he was taking his life into his own hands, for fever spiders, leeches, and evil
men haunted those woods, not to mention a former Shadow Alliance dragon.
        Jared though had been to many terrifying places in his time as a dragon slayer;
being one required him to face all the terrors with which dragons liked to surround
themselves. The only thing in these woods he did fear were the fever spiders. They were
exclusive to these forests and the fever, it was said, was always fatal. A single bite would
kill you, even though it could drag out for several weeks. What made matters worse was
there was no known cure for the fever among the free peoples of Freleka.
        Despite this, Jared pressed into the forest without pause when he arrived a week
after beginning his journey. The air inside seemed thick, the trees expectant, and animal
life scarce. So far, he had seen no sentient life inside this seeming forest of death and he
was afraid it would stay that way. It might have been a good thing for that to continue,
but it was not to be the case. Several shadowy beings had been tracking Jared since his
entrance into the forest and so far he had been unaware of them.
        Jared dared not cut a tree for firewood, so he made do with what little dead wood
was on the ground. Why he feared to cut a tree he did not know but some inner sense told
him not to, and so he did not. Sleep came fitfully and not until the fire had burned low. It
was just before dawn, when the embers were in their death throes, that two men in
tattered dark red robes entered the small clearing where Jared lay sleeping. They stopped
short at the sight of a stranger in this ill-natured forest. One of them recognized the armor
he wore as dragon hide, so they knew this was no fool.
        Jared awoke upon their coming and leapt to his feet, grasping the dagger at his
belt. One of the men held out his hand in a gesture of peace and spoke some words in a
language that Jared never thought he would hear on this continent. It was the language of
his youth, far away and long disused in his memory. His mind took a moment to interpret
and then he realized the men where asking his name. He said he was Jared, former dragon
slayer now seeking the help of a dragon rumored to haunt these woods. The men‟s
expressions grew dark at this and eyeing his armor asked why he was not coming to kill
the dragon.
        Jared outlined that the dragon he sought was no longer his enemy and he needed
him to fight a great enemy to the east. The men asked if he needed the dragon to fight the
over-sea mages. Surprised, Jared said no and asked what mages they spoke of. They
chuckled and said they of course meant the Elven mages rumored to still live beyond the
eastern sea. He said the enemy he needed to fight was the Shadow Alliance of Dragons, a
despicable group of fire-breathers who used dark sorcery to blacken their scales and who
sought to destroy good people in general.
         The mention of the SA startled the men and they whispered for a minute before
replying. They said their druidic order that lived in the woods had encountered dealings
with the SA before, when seven of the last surviving members had fled to these once
peaceful woods. They had come, set up new homes, and destroyed the birds and monkeys
that preyed upon the fever spiders, thus allowing that terrible species to multiply and
infest the entire forest, turning it into a nightmare deathbed. Jared knew he would get no
more information out of the two men for the time being, having darkened the
conversation too fast and too much.
         The Druids said that they must be going, or they would be late for a ritual. They
bid Jared farewell and disappeared into the shadows of the forest. Jared quickly gathered
his things and was on the trail again only a few minutes after the Druids left. Although he
followed the same path the he thought the Druids did, he never saw their mysterious
ritual, nor any further sign of them. Several times during the day Jared thought he heard
rustlings in the trees above him, a quick look afforded him only a view of leaves and
branches. When nightfall came Jared had found none of the telltale dragon signs he was
looking for. So he wearily made camp in a small clearing in the middle of this wilderness.
         It was deep in the night, with only a sliver of a moon shining down, that a dozen
shadowy beings descended on Jared‟s makeshift camp from the trees above. They hung
on thin threads, which they made themselves, and their legs eagerly reached for the
ground as they neared it. They were fever spiders, terrible beasts that would kill other life
for sport. They made no sound, and avoided the dying light of the fire.
         Jared was dreaming, once again he was on his island home, far away from the
troubles of Freleka, not yet knowing of dragons, wars or evil things. His older sister was
tucking him into bed and as she did, she cast a spell over him. A spell much like the one
Kurt cast over Hannah, one that would make him awake should an enemy approach him
while sleeping. She smiled and left the room after that. Jared dreamed he was drifting off
to sleep when he heard scuffling, and his sister’s cry for help. He leapt from his bed and
cried his sister’s name. “Arissa!” His then tiny frame burst into the room, four black-
cloaked figures had Arissa bound hand and foot. He heard words that for years he had
tried to remember, but still he could not. The men spoke evil thing, and Jared collapsed
into a heap.
         The spell, which Arissa had cast over him that night, activated suddenly, blasting
him into wakefulness. He instinctively kicked the fire and made it flare up. The fire
revealed the brown fever spiders in their horridness. He grasped his sword from beside
his bed and jumped to his feet. The twelve spiders surrounded him and were closing in
fast. Jared grabbed up a log from the fire for a torch and attacked one suddenly with his
sword. Several quick swipes killed it, but more were quickly moving in to poison him. He
swung with both sword and torch, killing two more. With the new amount of light
dissipating the darkness, he could see dozens more spiders in all directions around him
and more coming down from above.
         A hot anger swelled up inside Jared; anger that these things might cause him to
fail Kurt in his time of need, that they would cause Hannah to forever remain imprisoned,
and worst of all, cause him to never see his sister for all eternity. No! He would not let
that happen. Jared suddenly burst into ferociousness, lunging out in every direction; then
the next, then the next, swinging both his weapons everywhere. Dozens of the physically
frail spiders fell before his blade and fire, when suddenly Jared felt a sharp prick on the
back of his neck. The bite swelled instantly and nausea overcame him. Jared collapsed to
ground in the same way that he had done when he failed his sister so many years
before…

        When Jared awoke he was burning up. There were bites and scratches all over his
body and he felt weaker than he had ever felt. His black dragon hide armor was still about
him, having kept the spiders away from his vital spot over the heart, which would have
caused an instantly fatal bite. Through his hazy vision he discerned that he was still in his
camp and no spiders were about. His small supply of meat was gone, the wrappings torn
to shreds. It had fallen prey to the fever spider‟s hunger. The water in his water skins had
taken on a brown sickly color, so the spiders no doubt had poisoned it. Jared felt
weariness overcoming him and he wished he could have died still able to fight…

         Jared‟s awakening came nigh on a week later. He was a in a dark cave. A torch
was burning a few feet away, but it cast little light. His armor and weapons lay near the
torch, all piled into a heap. A voice suddenly called his name, one that spelled terror upon
his mind. It was the voice of a dragon and Jared knew instantly he was in its lair. Only a
loose brown robe was about him, so he felt defenseless indeed. A light blue dragon strode
into the torchlight and said his name again. Jared answered groggily that yes, Jared was
his name. The dragon laughed at that, saying he knew it already and was only calling to
awaken him.
         The dragon asked how he was feeling. Jared replied that he felt awful. The dragon
said feeling awful was to be expected, as the fever spider‟s bite was the most poisonous
bite in the lands. Jared asked how he was still among the living. The dragon said that the
owner of this lair had found Jared and taken him to the druids, who administered a
special counteractive potion. Jared asked the name of dragon he was speaking of, if he
was not the owner of this lair. The dragon replied that he was not a he, but a she, and an
emissary of the IFD. She had come to these lands looking for the single remaining former
Shadow Alliance dragon and to scout the situation of the current SA members.
         The IFD it seemed had learned that the situation was worse than they had thought
when Kurt came and asked them for help before. So they had sent the blue dragon, who
was named Karrie to scout the lands and report back on the situation with the SA and on
any change with the dragon‟s two true enemies. Who those enemies were, Karrie did not
say. Just then Jared heard a distinctive sound that he recognized as a dragon coming in to
land: several rapid flaps and then the sound of the dragon settling to the ground. A dark
green dragon strode in behind Karrie and introduced himself as Darrok, former SA
dragon, and now newly dedicated to destroying the Shadow Alliance once and for all.
                                              Part Four
         The dungeon of Castle Varkoe was mainly empty. Of all the alcoves, which could
hold prisoners; only four of the fifty were in use. Three were at one end of the long
dungeon, the other one at the opposite end. The lone one was Princess Hannah Freka,
despairing, tired and in pain from the shackles that held her up standing. Several walls
separated her from the three knights who had been her first rescue attempt. They had not
been killed as Sardon had said, only captured and kept in the dungeon. No
communications could be made between them due to the stone walls.
         A number of days had passed, possibly five or six, since Hannah had been
brought here after her escape attempt. She couldn‟t say for sure, as no daylight reached
the dungeon and the men who would bring her food and drink did not come regularly.
Hannah‟s spirit was cracked, not broken entirely, but wavering and wishing for a way to
end all this. Hannah did not know that the knights were held captive in her same
dungeon. For all she knew, they were enjoying a feast at King Andrew‟s table.
         Sardon had not imprisoned her here frivolously; it had taken much persuasion by
the dark mages and even then, he had taken some time to give the order.
         The room in which Hannah was held was lit with four torches, one at each corner
of the room. Two walls had prisoner alcoves; only Hannah‟s was in use. One wall she
guessed separated this room from a torture chamber and the other wall was taken up by a
stone staircase, which led out of the dungeon. From the sounds she had heard, there had
to be a thick metal door at the top, locked with a chain and several deadbolts.
         Nothing had been done to Hannah in the dungeon, but she knew that there was
little chance of her ever seeing the light of day again. Several times she thought she had
heard screams of pain coming from further inside the dungeon, but she couldn‟t be sure
of anything anymore. The food that she was fed was awful and she knew that the best she
could hope for was burnt bread. Anything would be better than the leftover gruel she got,
plus the water tasted unclean also. She feared Kurt‟s wrath on the ones who were doing
this, for his wrath would be deadly, powerful, and lasting.
         After what she believed to be ten days, her captors brought her some food at what
she assumed was mid-day, the usual time. Two men brought hers and six men went
through the door in the far wall to go feed what she assumed were other prisoners.
Hannah was too tired to even raise her head much as they unshackled her. Less than an
hour of sleep each night was going to kill her soon and she wished there was at least a
more noble way she could have died. They guided her to the bench, upon which she
promptly collapsed.

       Although Hannah was pretty sure she had eaten and then been led back to her
holding alcove, she remembered nothing from the time she had collapsed onto the bench
and eventually awoke revitalized, albeit still in the same position of captivity. Hannah
had finally given up trying to keep track of the time, because there was nothing that gave
any indication of time, not how long she slept, not the guards coming to feed her, not the
constant sound of booted feet above her. Hannah was miserable, the dank and dark
dungeon‟s constant presence only served to drive that home further.

        Jared‟s story vastly interested Kurt, and he loved listening to it, but when it was
finished he grew serious again. The Varkoe army was closing in and the men of Cho
could not hold out forever. Kurt was then introduced to Karrie and Darrok, who greeted
him warmly. Jared then showed Kurt his latest addition to his arsenal. It had been a gift
from the Druids whose potion had saved Jared. It was a vial containing the poison of the
fever spider, a deadly coating for arrow-tips.
        It was when Kurt was examining the vial that Jared uttered a cry of joy and
grasped the locket around Kurt‟s neck, tearing it from him and looking more closely at it.
Kurt was startled and angered by this and nearly grabbed it back when he saw the wonder
on Jared‟s face. Jared asked in a choked voice where Kurt had gotten the locket. Kurt told
him it was gift from Juliet, to whom it had been a gift from the woman she and Hannah
met years before. Jared muttered something about the first tangible clue in his life search.
Then he met eyes with Kurt and declared that this locket belonged to none other than his
sister Arissa.
        Jared confirmed that the locket did indeed contain a spell, that if activated would
bring help, although no one was sure what help; it might be nothing more than a gifted
page boy, or it might be an army of Knights on horseback. He said it was the first
physical piece of evidence he had found in his life-long year search that his sister still
existed. Kurt asked how he knew that it was Arissa who had given the locket to Juliet and
Hannah. Jared said a secondary spell had been cast on it so that no amount of force could
take the locket from the one whom it was made for. That almost guaranteed that Arissa
was indeed alive and had freely given the two princesses the locket.
        A new fiery hope suddenly burned in Jared‟s eyes and he straightened up and met
Kurt‟s eyes. He said he was going to find his sister within the next two weeks, or he
would die trying. Kurt shook his hand and renewed his promise to help Jared find her.
That finished, a cry came from the central watchtower that chilled Kurt to the bone. The
watchman was screaming maniacally that Varkoe mages had come.
        Kurt ran to Faladron and jumped onto his back; the duo then lifted off and headed
for the wall. Jared climbed onto Darrok‟s back, those two followed the first duo and
Karrie followed the others as well. Kurt could see up ahead four men in blood red robes.
They were tall, standing atop a Varkoe siege tower and they were sending shockwave
spells at the Cho walls. Suddenly the sky built a storm cloud within seconds and lightning
began blasting down on the city. Kurt pulled out his sword and summoned the blade-fire.
Jared followed suit, although he pulled out his bow and newly fever poison tipped arrows
and skipped the fire.
        The mages spotted the three dragons flying at them and the four stopped blasting
the city. They joined hands and suddenly three magic bolts flew at the dragons. The first
bolt came just as fast as a bolt of lightning and blasted Kurt from his seat. He knew no
more from there on. The second bolt did the same to Jared but not before he had loosed a
single arrow at the mages. The third bolt struck Karrie, sending her spinning to the
ground. It seemed the first two bolts had bypassed Faladron and Darrok, who continued
on at the mages.

          When Kurt awoke he did not know where he was. His armor was gone as were his
weapons, only a robe covered him. They were in a field, somewhere in Eastern Freleka
Kurt guessed. Jared was lying next to him still unconscious; he was similarly attired. Kurt
sat up and saw Karrie lying asleep with what looked like blast marks on her scales.
Faladron was up flying a patrol and Darrok was talking with a young knight a few dozen
yards away. Darrok also had blast marks on his scales, so Kurt assumed Faladron had the
same.
          Faladron angled down from his patrol and landed next to Kurt. He asked if Kurt
felt all right. He replied that he felt like someone had stomped on him for an hour.
Faladron said that was a common symptom of getting blasted by elemental mage
lightning. Faladron then recounted all that had happened since Kurt was knocked from
his mount. Both Kurt and Jared had fallen almost fifty feet, landing on the newly muddy
ground. Faladron and Darrok had battled the mages for an hour, taking lightning blasts all
the while. Jared‟s arrow had flown true, sticking one of the mages in the shoulder,
effectively poisoning him.
         Karrie had taken a blast just like Kurt and Jared, which had nearly killed her and
had been put out of action of immediately. She had still not awoken from the hit. When
the battle turned ill the Duke of Cho managed to get a message to Faladron, telling him to
retreat and leave Cho to its fate. Faladron and Darrok had reluctantly complied carrying
the still unconscious Kurt and Jared on their backs and toting Karrie between them.
         Faladron said Cho had fallen by now to the three remaining Elven mages, who
apparently were under Sardon‟s control. The armor and weapons of Kurt and Jared had
been no match for the lightning and had all disintegrated. Most of the population of Cho
had left in their remaining ships, so the general people were safe; although the Duke and
a portion of the army had remained behind to be slaughtered by the mages after they
gained control of the battle.
         Jared was awake by then, through bleary eyes he asked what had happened.
Faladron quickly recounted the events again to the dismay of Jared. Darrok came over
then with the Knight he had been talking to trailing behind. The Knight was young with a
Falcon emblazoned on his shield, a long sword at his side, and a fine warhorse as his
mount. He introduced himself as Walter and said he was the youngest member of the
Falcon company and he sought help the rescue the Princess Hannah Freka from his
former master Sardon.
         Kurt said nothing but Jared saw the new spark in his eyes. Faladron asked in a
rather menacing voice why Sir Walter had betrayed Sardon. The tone of the dragon
insinuated that Walter was the bait for a trap and that made him very nervous. He quickly
answered that after Sardon imprisoned the princess in the dungeon, he could no longer
have allegiance to Sardon. The news of the dungeon made Kurt‟s blood boil but still he
said nothing. Walter explained how the princess was imprisoned as result of her trying to
escape. He had managed to enter the dungeon ten days afterward.

         Hannah heard faint words coming from the stairway, then a thump, and quick
movements outside the door. She heard the lock coming unlocked and the chain sliding
aside. Several sets of booted feet hurried down the steps and connected to those feet were
four members of the Falcon knights. One was Walter carrying the dungeon keys, he came
to her after handing off the keys to the others who went further into the dungeon. He
kept the key to her chains and quickly unlocked them and guided her to the bench nearby.
He said that he could not get her out, as there was no way out where she would not be
discovered. He could however flee and return after seeking out more powerful help.
         Hannah poured out that Kurt and his dragon was his only chance for help and if
she guessed correctly then he would be at Cho, where the Varkoe army was as well
laying it to siege, or so she guessed. Walter gave her some good food then and clean
water. She ate them quickly and then Walter sorrowfully chained her up again, albeit with
a little more room. He left then, the other three knights meeting up with him and they
slipped out.
         Walter‟s three companions had been caught, and he had barely escaped the patrol
of Varkoe crossbowmen that had killed the others. He had ridden to Cho quickly, only to
find it under the control of Sardon. He had then ridden north in and effort to find
someone to help. Fate had him stumble upon the dragon camp and here he was. Walter
also informed them of the existence of Castle Varkoe and its location.
         Kurt asked if the crossbowmen would recognize him if he went back to Castle
Varkoe. Walter said no, as his facemask had been down and their shields had been
covered in black cloth keeping their Falcon identity secret. Kurt glanced at Jared and the
latter nodded and undid the locket chain from his neck. He handed it to Walter and told
him to take it to Princess Hannah. Jared also warned him that if he failed, Jarod would
personally stick Walter with a very deadly poison.
         Walter accepted the locket, put it around his neck, then bid them farewell and
rode off in the direction of Castle Varkoe. Kurt asked Jared just where he was going to
get fever poison again. It turned out that the vial of poison had been unaffected by the
mage lightning and had somehow survived intact through everything. Faladron spoke up
then and said that there were only two groups that would be able to fully defeat Sardon
now: the IFD or the SA. Dragons had been the bane of Elven mages before and they
could be again. As no one wanted to take their chances with the Shadow Alliance, it was
agreed that they would all head for IFD territory as soon as Karrie was able to travel
again. Kurt had to wonder how the Imperial Federation of Dragons would receive them
this time.

        The return of Walter three days later made Hannah wonder what had happened.
He came in this time by showing the guard he had a key and therefore must have a good
reason for being there. Such was not the case but the guard did not know that and let him
enter the dungeon. He came down and immediately took Hannah down from the chains.
Once she was sitting he pulled out the locket, which nearly made the Princess faint.
Walter said that he had been sent back by Kurt Karcelow to give her this locket. Hannah
nodded and put it in her only pocket.
        Walter opened his mouth to say more when suddenly an invisible force picked
him up and slammed him against the far wall. The door at the top of the stairs slammed
open and three tall terrible looking men came down the steps looking very angry. With
their hoods back, their pointed ears were visible and Hannah suddenly realized just why
they were such powerful wizards. They were Elves and magic came easy to them. Two of
them were her original kidnappers but she did not recognize the third. One of the trio
went over and picked Walter up by the scruff of the neck and held him up off the ground
at arm‟s length. The Elves said nothing and Walter was smart enough to do the same. The
grim trio marched him upstairs without glancing at Hannah.
        They gave quiet orders for the guard to lock Hannah up again, which he set about
doing. Before he could stop her, Hannah pulled out the locket and opened it, releasing the
spell contained ere then.

       In the great southern woods, beyond the southern border of Freleka, and east of
the Black Mountains, a tall woman suddenly snapped awake from a spell she never
thought would be used. She got out of bed quickly and gathered her things, then left her
cottage and headed north with a purposeful stride.
        The journey north to the White Mountains had taken three days and the crossing
of the mountains took a week. The dragon group could have done it all in three days, but
Karrie‟s inability to fly slowed them greatly. It seemed the mage lightning had damaged
her wings badly and they would take several weeks to heal. The border of the IFD
territory was unguarded when they reached it and even after two days of traveling north-
west they encountered no dragons; the only living thing they saw were some ground
hogs. They all knew something was wrong, although no one dared say it to the others.
Finally, three days after entering IFD territory they reached the Imperial Mountain, to
find it war torn and deserted.
        Faladron and Darrok examined the blast marks that seemed to be everywhere and
grimly concluded that an Elven army had attacked here, blasting the area with all sorts of
elemental magic. Lightning it seemed was their most prominent weapon, although magic
arrows, fire bolts, and tornado blasts were plentiful too. No life was anywhere as far as
the eye could see. It was late and the group made camp in the upper reaches of the
mountain, deciding it was the most defensible if attacked.
        It was early the next morning, while Faladron was nosing around that he came
upon a chest. Unlike all the other chests he had encountered throughout the city, this
one‟s lock still held. It was no ordinary lock, it was locked by magic and no amount of
strength or even magic could break it. Inscribed on the top of the chest was a message. It
read: „Inside this chest is armor and weapons for two. I have put these things in here for
my son and his companion, who I am told will someday have great need of them. Only
my son can open this chest.‟ It was signed with two symbols, both of which made
Faladron‟s blood run cold. One was the symbol of the 6th Dragon Knight, who had
disappeared twenty-one years before. The other symbol was the insignia of Sir Eric
Karcelow.

         “This is silly you know.” Eric said.
         “I know that full well, but Arissa already explained to you why this is necessary.”
Falcor replied. “Besides, what harm could come of it?”
         “Great harm, my son will be just a normal Knight under King Andrew.” Eric
sourly replied. “He will have no idea how to utilize the potential of this armor and trying
to use it like normal armor could kill him. And how do we have any idea that he will ever
come here? And what if I never have a son?”
         “You will.” Arissa said as she stepped into the room. “Your fiancé is sure, as am
I, that once you‟re married her firstborn will be a son. So is that not enough?”
         “Oh true, but remember what happened the last time you were sure of something,
I ended up having to defeat Giffon and his Ancient Elemental Dragon Magics. And after
that put a curse on him, not to mention having to hunt down the rest of the Shadow
Alliance. I had to kill all but the seven who escaped.” Eric retorted.
         “You had Arissa and me to help, plus Prince Karl got us all out of there after it
was over.” Falcor replied in his maddeningly serious voice.
         “I know all that, but it‟s still a waste to put my all my Dragon armor and weapons
in here and cast a spell on them that won‟t let even me retrieve them.” Eric said quickly.
         “Your days as the 6th Knight of the Dragon are over.” Arissa replied. “Let
someone else take up the banner. You need to pay attention to your ties at Castle Freka.
There is nothing more important in Wanvaria than a family, not even watching out for
Giffon‟s return. Falcor will do that and I will check in with you every once in a while so
you can at least talk about these times again.”
       Eric finished packing everything into the chest and closed it. He put the spell on it
and then turned to face the other two. “I know, just keep your hood on when you come. It
wouldn‟t do for the whole Castle to know you‟re an Elf and I‟m a Dragon Knight.”
       Falcor laughed, “You don‟t need to worry, Arissa has perfected her illusion spells.
Even if her hood fell down in public, no would see her pointed ears.”

        Faladron snapped back to reality, he had seen that entire vision just like he had
been in the room and multiple things had become at once clear to him. He picked up the
chest and bore it quickly to the others, where he showed it to them and recounted the
vision he had seen. Everyone was silent for a minute, then all eyes turned to Jared. He
glanced around, sighed and said that he was indeed an Elf. He then began explaining just
why he had been a dragon slayer for Sardon.
        He had come to Freleka almost fifty years before, when he was nineteen years
old. From what he knew, he was the youngest Elf in existence, still in his human years.
He had first innocently asked in Cho where he first arrived if anyone had seen a woman
answering Arissa‟s description. No one could remember seeing her exactly as Jared knew
her, for when the sailors had seen her the illusion spell had been in place. What he did
find out from an old grizzled sailor was that over a dozen years before a small ship had
arrived in Cho, on board were four men and a woman. From the looks of things the
woman was the prisoner of the black-cloaked men. Jared had followed a trail of clues
from there over the next thirty years, some obscure and some more definite. The trail had
taken him throughout Freleka, beyond it‟s borders into Jornia, and beyond there into
other kingdoms in the west.
        The clues had led him to a lot of places outside kingdoms too,; the most
frightening had been his encounter with a black dragon in the Black Mountains. All the
people said that the woman had been in the company of the four men; even the dragon
had said that, although only after he had nearly killed Jared in his initial hostility. At last
he had wound up meeting Sardon, who said he had control of Arissa and would tell Jared
where she was if he would perform a job for him. Jared had foolishly agreed and ended
up having to become a dragon slayer in the service of Sardon. The Baron it seemed, after
he had risen to power from his humble beginnings at Derrick‟s field commander position,
had a deep grudge against dragons.
        He had sent out Jared on missions to find various dragons and Jared had traveled
far through the lands and kingdoms seeking them out. One of his kills had been Falcor
and his wife, at which Faladron stirred but did not interrupt. Jared said he had also been
the one who had assassinated Sir Eric Karcelow and his wife. At this Kurt grew very
grim but followed Faladron‟s example and did not interrupt. All the while as Sardon rose
to the position of Baron he grew happier with Jared‟s service, until at last he said if he
killed Faladron he would send Jared on his way to be reunited with his sister. From there
he had gone and met with Princess Hannah and Princess Juliet and everyone already
knew where he had gone from there. From what he had deduced in the past year, Sardon
had lost control of Arissa only fifteen years after bringing her to Freleka, so all the while
he had lied to Jared. Jared knew her to be alive because of the locket and was re-
committed to finding her.
        Kurt and Faladron said nothing of their grievances against Jared; they went
instead to open the chest. Kurt looked at the lock and realized he would still need a key to
open the lock. He grabbed the lock for a closer look and to his amazement it came
unlocked at his touch. With a bit of excitement he unhooked the lock, flipped up the flap,
and pushed up the lid. Everyone gasped at the sight inside. It was armor like none of
them had ever seen. It was a fiery red and upon examination it proved to be made of
dragon scales, mithril, and a bit of magic. There were two full sets of full-body chain
mail, two swords, two daggers made of the same material, two bows that set your hands
tingling from the magic cast upon them, and one hundred arrows were the last thing in
the chest, made of the same magic wood of the bows, and tipped with the dragon metal of
the armor.
        Kurt picked up one of the daggers and scratched it against one of Faladron‟s
scales experimentally. To his surprise it cut right through the scale without a sound and
pierced the skin beneath. Faladron jerked away at the pain and looked with renewed
wonder at the chest items. Kurt and Jared quickly arrayed themselves in the glittering
armor, belted the swords and daggers at there waists, and put bows and arrows on their
backs. The lack of shields bothered Kurt, but nothing could be done about it at the
moment, so he put the thought aside.
        The group talked for a while about what to do next. One idea was to search the
surrounding plains and hills for the IFD. Another was to return to Cho and attempt to take
it back. The third idea was to head straight for Castle Varkoe and rescue Princess
Hannah. The last idea everyone finally agreed upon.

        All of Freleka east of the Ellsia River Sardon now controlled but his Shadow
Dragons could not be everywhere at once, and thus the northern border of his realm was
breached. The three-dragon juggernaught utterly destroyed the watch camp they
encountered and then moved on. Any stray Varkoe patrols met similar fates, for the five
attackers had had enough of being cordial; they were finally beginning to wreak their
revenge upon Sardon.
        The flight from the northern border of what was formerly Freleka‟s northern
border to Varkoe manor took only nine hours at the pace the three dragons were flying.
At Varkoe Manor, while well guarded against a conventional attack, was left in burning
ruins after only a quarter hour of fighting. Dragonfire flowed like rivers through the air
that day, destroying everything that had any connection with Sardon. The one black
dragon stationed at Varkoe Manor fell quickly to the combined attack of the three good
dragons. No black-clad soldier escaped and the five left quickly, leaving the area burning.
        From the neckline to the gauntlets to the boots, Kurt and Jared were protected; no
arrow that hit them pierced their armor. The few times swords or axes hit their armor, the
weapons would snap in two. It seemed this armor was even more resilient than dragon
scales. It also turned out the arrows they carried were imbued with a spell so that they
would not break. The one hundred fever poisoned dragon arrows were useful indeed.
        The group made camp in the middle of Barondom Varkoe that night, well away
from the manor, the castle, or any troop camps. During his turn at the watch, Kurt spotted
a black dragon on the eastern horizon; but it did not spot their camp and the night passed
uneventfully. The five left before dawn, ready to assault Castle Varkoe.
         An alert watchman on the castle keep spotted the three flying dragons, but since
they were coming out of the sun they looked black, so he thought nothing of it. Had he
sounded an alarm, things might have turned ill. As it was, the five made it over the walls
before someone realized they were not friendly. Actually, it was when Faladron swooped
down and blasted two guards off the wall with his dragonfire that the alarm first sounded.
         Kurt and Jared dismounted off their mounts on the castle grounds as quickly as
possible and then attacked the few Varkoe soldiers near them who were awake and at
arms. Their dragon blades cut right through the standard steel swords and armor of the
Varkoe soldiers. Kurt summoned his magic fire to his blade and that only served to
further terrorize the soldiers. As the duo battled up the path to the keep, their armor began
to feel warm. Then without warning, their every piece of the dragon metal burst into
magic flames. The flames did them no harm, but the Varkoe soldiers last resolve melted
at the sight of the walking and burning swordsmen and they fled.
         Finally, the duo reached the keep gates. By then all resistance had been eliminated
and the five rendezvoused there. The steel gates fell quickly to their burning dragon
blades. Inside, a lone figure awaited them, fortunately it was Walter walking quickly and
telling them to follow him. The doorway was too small for the dragons, so they stayed
outside to keep watch. Walter was a bit taken back by the burning armor of Kurt and
Jared but he kept his resolve. Kurt and Jared glanced at each other and thought about
extinguishing the fire on their armor. The flames vanished with a puff of smoke, leaving
the armor steaming. They kept their swords burning for the ominous and menacing effect.
         There was no one to be seen inside the keep and this worried Kurt, for they should
have seen at least someone. It could mean two things, either Sardon had left for a new
place, or else everyone was just too scared to show their faces to them. Kurt hoped it was
the latter and did not voice his concerns. They reached the dungeon door quickly; Walter
unlocked it and led them through. Walter froze at the bottom; an expression of horror
covering his face, Kurt and Jared reacted similarly at the bottom. Hannah was no longer
there.
         Without a word he turned and opened the door into the deeper dungeon and
walked through after taking a torch from the wall. Inside was a torture chamber, with all
the usual torture devices, and also round cages dotted around the room. Inside those were
blast marks similar to the ones they had found at the IFD Mountain. Kurt felt for the ones
who had to endure the torture of the mages in those cages. Further on was another cell
room and after that another torture chamber. Finally, there was what Walter said would
be an empty room that bore blast marks and then the final cell room. Walter unlocked the
door and moved to open it, but never made it. The door blew back at him, a stream of fire
blasting him against the wall.
         Kurt muttered a quick spell, and the barely visible sphere of energy appeared
around him and Jared. They strode in, the fire deflecting off Kurt‟s magic shield. The
flames stopped after a momnet and they were given the sight of a massive black dragon
awaiting them. He growled and without warning let loose with another blast of fire. Kurt
calmly stood his ground and waited for the dragon to run out of breath. When the flames
abated, Jared had vanished, much to Kurt‟s dismay. Suddenly the dragon shrieked and
fell to the ground, blood gushing from a wound in his neck. Jared stood up and walked
away as he muttered something about skill as a dragon slayer.
         The duo went back to Walter, who was unconscious and near death. The duo
glanced at each other and left him, striding further into the dungeon. Past the dragon
room was the last cell room as Walter had described. Inside were three knights, the three
original rescuers of Hannah who had failed in their attempt. But they were too late; the
trio had passed on to the next life and recently by the looks of it. Kurt and Jared cut them
down and laid them in a posture befitting their knightly position. They returned to Walter
to find that he had suffered the same fate, although with a smile on his face. Jared cursed
that this dungeon had brought them nothing but death. Kurt grimly said nothing and led
the way out.
         They came out of the dungeon and set about exploring the keep to see if anything
useful could be found. The first floor levels yielded nothing extraordinary. The fifth level
contained Hannah‟s former chambers. Kurt looked around in the rooms, recognizing the
way Hannah had left things and was about to leave when he spotted the tapestry. It was a
picture of him in his mithril armor on Faladron during the battle for Castle Freka. He
smiled at it and then grew grim at the knowledge that Hannah was still missing. He strode
out and met Jared coming down the hall. He reported that the keep was empty of life; the
only place left to search was the roof. They walked quickly to the spiral staircase at the
end of the hall.
         Suddenly they heard a roar from the roof and the familiar sound of dragons
breathing fire. They rushed up the stairs to be met by sight of Sardon standing next to a
bound Hannah, his dog at his side. Hannah was not bound by ropes, but by magic and she
was held unmoving several inches above the roof. Kurt sheathed his sword and drew his
bow and fitted an arrow. He fired the arrow instantly and it flew straight for Sardon‟s
heart. Much to his surprise the arrow collided with an invisible wall a few feet from
Sardon and even more surprising, the arrow shattered. Sardon laughed and said their
weapons were useless against him. By the looks of things, he was right.
         He looked at Kurt with an evil pleasure in his eyes. “Come, young Knight of the
Dragon, it is time to pay the ransom for the one you love.” Kurt said nothing for a minute
and only then noticed the three dragons that had been with them were fighting a dozen
black dragons and losing.
         Kurt nodded silently and began walking towards him. Jared caught his arm and
pulled him back. Jared spoke, “The blood of all the dragons you sent me to kill is on my
hands. I know what you want, you want someone with dragon blood, and so I will do
because of your evil missions.”
         Sardon laughed, “Indeed, you remember the note my mages left behind. You are
right; I don‟t need anyone in particular, only someone with dragon blood. Come, and it
will be a fitting end for your betrayal of me.” Jared nodded and unbuckled his weapons;
he next undid the straps on his armor and slid it off, piling it next to Kurt.
         “Take good care of this armor.” Jared said, and then looked at Sardon. “I am
ready, release the Princess now or your honor is forever destroyed.” Sardon flicked his
hand and Hannah‟s bindings came undone. She fell to the ground and then ran to Kurt‟s
arms.
         There was a noise of footsteps and everyone turned to see the person climbing the
staircase. Jared‟s blood drained away as the tall woman mounted the last steps. It was
Arissa, long lost sister of a now doomed Elf. Jared started to run towards her when an
invisible hand picked him up and brought him back to hover next to Sardon, unable to
move. Jared called back to her, “Arissa! I have found you at last; my life is now
complete.” Sardon walked across the roof and descended the steps at the far end, Jared
unwillingly followed hovering a few inches behind. He called for his dragons, and they
broke off from the battle. Arissa‟s eyes glistened at seeing her brother held in such a
state, but she showed it not in the rest of her face. Kurt gathered Jared‟s things and
mounted Faladron who was landing to pick them up. Karrie took Hannah and Darrok
took Arissa. The black dragons circled but did not attack, as they now were intent on
following Sardon to Jared‟s execution. Kurt silently vowed his revenge for Jared‟s death
as he heard a cry from below them in the keep. The six then flew away towards Castle
Freka, having lost so many and gained so few.
                                               Epilogue
        “And the six of them flew away, leaving Jared behind.” The storyteller finished.
        “So Jared was killed there by Sardon?” One of the boys asked.
        The storyteller grimaced and nodded, “Yes, his sacrifice earned Hannah‟s
freedom, but it also unleashed a terrible evil back into the world.”
        “That‟s a terrible way to end part of the story!” Another of the boys said.
        “Indeed, but alas! I cannot deviate from the truth. Now off with you all, come and
see me tomorrow night.”
                                            End of Book II


                               Slayer      Prologue
        “You are all early again.” The storyteller said smugly. The waiting boys looked at
each other guiltily. The storyteller laughed, “I am just jesting with you!” He chuckled a
bit more. “Anyway, since you are all here, I will plunge right in to the third part of the
tale. Only a few hours have passed since the last part of the story…”
                                           Part One
        Dawn on a fall day came with a distinct chill. The sun peeked over the horizon to
find six travelers asleep on the banks of the river. One was a young man in armor that
glittered red like dragon scales. Another was a young lady in a white dress with marks on
her wrists and ankles. The third was a tall woman with long blonde hair and pointed ears.
Three dragons surrounded them: a red dragon, a green dragon, and a blue dragon. The
sun was soon to lose sight of the travelers however, as a dark cloud began creeping over
the horizon from the south.
        Kurt awoke slowly. The cold air had penetrated his blanket and made him shiver,
thus bringing him out of his fitful rest. He stood and stretched and his armor suddenly
warmed, driving out the cold. From what Kurt had gathered so far he could not make the
armor warm itself or burst into flames on command, it would only do that when needed.
However, he could shut off its flames or heat with just a thought. His movement
awakened Faladron, who shook himself and stretched. Darrok and Karrie were awakened
by Faladron and followed his actions a few moments later.
        The last two of the group were awakened a few minutes later by a touch from
Kurt. After eating a quick breakfast of some dried meat, the group took off again and
flew for Castle Freka. The flight that day was cold but brought them a long way toward
the castle; the next morning‟s flight took them the rest of the way. When the group
arrived the castle guard sounded an alarm at their approach, perceiving them as enemies.
The alarm was quickly canceled upon recognition and a delighted court greeted them and
embraced Hannah.
        Since Hannah was still tired and bruised from her imprisonment, she was taken
quickly to her chambers to rest. Kurt and Arissa followed a different path and met with
Prince Karl in the throne room. The news that greeted them there was a shock to Kurt. It
seemed a yet un-caught assassin had killed King Andrew two nights before. Prince Karl
had now assumed the throne in his father‟s place.
        King Karl did not talk with them in the throne room where the guard‟s could
overhear, but instead brought Kurt and Arissa to his private chambers. Once there he
began telling Kurt about his father and Dragon Knight predecessor. Arissa commented
from time to time when Karl left something out.
        It had started long before, when the Elves, Humans, Dragons, and Dwarves all
lived in harmony. A young power hungry dragon had teamed up with an aging magician
and another dragon his age. The dragon‟s name was Giffon. He learned all he could from
the elven magician, who taught him many spells that were thought to be impossible for
dragons to cast. Giffon had taken those spells and enhanced them with his natural
resistance to magic to become much more powerful. He had developed his arts
throughout the elven mage wars, the original dragon alliance formation, the elf
banishment, the dwarven annihilation, and where ever else magic was used. He saw and
copied all spells he ran into and gained power everyday.
        Giffon‟s magic included basic elemental battle spells, useful spells like fire-
making or healing, dominion powers, illusion spells, form changing, and necromancy; the
last being his most potent and most dangerous. He had accumulated almost every spell in
the land throughout his years and was now considered to be an enemy of all living things.
When he first began rising to power, the original dragon alliance had formed the order of
the dragon knights to attempt to put him down. Each knight rose to power and fought
Giffon in one of his forms. All stopped him during their lives but they never managed to
kill him. Giffon always rose in power again after their deaths.
        Giffon‟s magic became known as the Ancient Elemental Dragon Magics, for they
combined all the ancient power of the elves, all the power of the elements, and the dark
dragon magic, which only the Giffon himself knew how to cast anymore.
        Giffon had been marshalling armies throughout the lands and setting them against
each other when Falcor first put a kink in his plans. He destroyed two armies at modern
day Narkaya, and soon sought out the help of the IFD and the Dragon Knight order. Sir
Eric Karcelow came onto the scene shortly after and was soon recruited by the IFD to
become a Dragon Knight. He was given the armor of the first Knight of the Dragon and
was empowered with all their magic and ability.
        Giffon countered this move by sending some of his minions to capture a young
elf, which he would use to defeat Sir Eric. The plan soon turned against Giffon when
Arissa escaped at the age of twelve. She teamed up with Sir Eric and together they
banded with Falcor and went on a campaign against Giffon. Sir Eric ended up
slaughtering his newly reformed Shadow Alliance and cursing him and his dragon
companion into a human and a dog. Thus, Sardon and his black dog came into being. The
only way for Sardon and his servant to return to their former dragon forms was to
sacrifice either one of the three or a blood relative. Any good dragon would also do,
although they were much harder to capture and kill, plus it took a few extra incantations.
That was why Sardon had wanted Kurt or Faladron, but had accepted Jared as a workable
alternative.
         Kurt knew Karl and Arissa had greatly condensed the story and left out much, but
at least the mystery surrounding himself and Sardon was being solved in Kurt‟s mind.
King Karl escorted them out and then went to talk with his advisors, who were
investigating King Andrew‟s assassination. Kurt and Arissa returned to the courtyard to
find Karrie had gone. She had left soon after they arrival, Darrok told them, to search for
the IFD up north. He said she would be back to tell them what happened, but until then,
they were short a dragon.
         While they were talking, Kurt suddenly remembered the words of Cho before the
battle of Castle Freka. They said they were sending a fleet of riverboats from their own
port to as far north on the Ellsia River as the Northern Fords. The fleet had indeed left
Cho, but had vanished between Cho and the mouth of the river where it met the ocean.
With the problem of the now returned Giffon, Kurt put the fleet out of his mind.
         So far since their arrival, the group had kept Arissa‟s Elven identity secret. Kurt
wanted to keep it that way; for the castle had enough to worry about with dragons in their
courtyard and their greatest enemy returned to power.
         Kurt and Arissa were taken to their chambers for the night, for the day had drawn
to a close. Kurt wasn‟t alone for long. Hannah‟s father, King Karl, came to talk with him
soon after he had closed the door on the guards. The Frelekan King seemed uneasy, as
well as he should be, for he knew better than most the true extent of Giffon‟s power. Kurt
talked with him for hours, discussing all that had happened since Kurt had left the castle
to raid the northern border of Barondom Varkoe. Once Kurt was finished with his story,
the King told him as much as he could as to what he had gone through.
         Only days after Kurt left, black dragons were seen flying north from the black
mountains, disappearing over the northern horizon. They had stayed well clear of the
Castle but alert sentries in the upper works of the keep had spotted them. They had
numbered well over thirty and probably could have destroyed the castle with ease;
however something else more pressing had drawn their attention and Karl wondered what
it was.
         The rebuilding of Castle Freka had gone well, but if another army attacked, the
castle was not yet ready. Karl worried that these defenses were in vain; for walls, towers
and archers would not stop the new armies Giffon would marshal.
         Kurt asked why this new army would be so unstoppable. He expected the King to
say something like Elven mages or a hundred thousand troops, or a great horde of
dragons. All those things could be defended against, although in great numbers any of
them would breach and destroy the castle. Karl‟s reply chilled Kurt to the bone and left
him shivering. Karl said that Giffon no longer needed the Shadow Alliance or the Elves
or even his Barondom‟s army to complete his goals. No, now he could use the power of
all the entities he had ever caused to be killed.
         Giffon‟s necromancy would feed off the souls of the men who had fallen against
him in battle. The souls of his fallen troops, the dragons Jared had slain for him, anyone
who Sardon had personally killed or ordered to be killed, he would be able to bring back
as an undead army. And that wasn‟t all, he would be able to summon great monsters now;
an art he had been working on when Sir Eric had cursed him. These monsters would be
living and killable, but they would be incredibly powerful to make up for it. They could
range from the giants of the southern wastes to the trolls of the mountains to the titans of
the sea.
         But while all those enemies would be the most frightening, the most dangerous
ones would be powerful former allies of Kurt‟s. Dragons who had died fighting for the
IFD against Giffon‟s Elven army, great knights of the court, and worst of all, Sir Eric
Karcelow and Jared the Dragon Slayer. Kurt was quite taken aback by those words, he
had never considered his father or his friend could come back to fight him. With those
things haunting his mind, Karl went on to more recent events.
         Before he went on to tell Kurt more of the assassination, he divulged a secret that
very few people knew. The Royalty of Freleka had long been in contact with the Elves;
indeed the king‟s own Bodyguard Company was composed of Elven warriors. That made
sense immediately to Kurt, for the king‟s guards were all tall and imposing, and they all
wore either hoods or intricate helmets that were reserved exclusively for their use. That
was why King Andrew‟s death had caused an even more eventful stir than normal. Karl
said that the general people thought King Andrew had died in his sleep from a heart
attack or illness or just old age. Only Karl, his brother, a select few of the nobles and the
guards knew of the true nature of his death.
         The Elf guards had long used powerful magic to protect the Kings of Freleka; so
it was no small thing to get past them and assassinate the king. The guards were using
their magic to try and find the assassin, but so far he had eluded them. The King bid Kurt
good night and left, leaving Kurt in a troubled state of mind. The most bothering question
was why he had left Arissa out the conversation, the answer he assumed was that she
already knew all this or did not need to know.

         The new day brought a glorious sunrise, but no one took the time to notice while
it lasted. The black cloud that was ever so slowly creeping northward from the Black
Mountains soon dampened the sunrise and blew away any chance to notice.
         Hannah did not awake at the break of dawn, as was her custom, for she was still
greatly worn from her imprisonment. She was rather awakened by a maid several hours
later. Hannah asked the time and was much surprised to find she had slept so late. The
maid said that the castle was disorganized since the appearance of the army during the
night. Hannah feared the worst and rushed to the window. As the maid had said, a great
army was arrayed around the castle‟s north and east sides. Underneath a tent, two men in
Frelakan armor were talking with two generals of the Varkoe army. Four dragons
watched the proceedings: a red dragon, a green dragon, and two black dragons.
         King Karl and the new Knight of Freleka Sir Kurt were the ones under the tent;
the generals were Sardon‟s second in command and the Commander of the Falcon
Knights. Faladron and Darrok glowered at the two black dragons as they watched the
men talk. Kurt had on his dragon armor and laid over it was a tunic with the coat of arms
of Freleka and a cape bearing his father‟s seal was on his back.
         The Varkoe army had come not as enemies, but as men looking for a new
commander. The army it appeared had begun to fall apart right after the taking of Cho.
Once Sardon‟s true nature as Giffon was revealed, the generals had moved the army en
masse away from the holding of the former Baron and had taken them to renew their
allegiance to the King of Freleka. The army had already begun burning the markings of
Varkoe and was receiving as many Frelekan tunics and banners as were available.
         The two black dragons were so far the only black dragons to desert the Shadow
Alliance and try and turn they prowess over to the powers of good. Already their scales
were losing their blackness and one was becoming a golden color, the other a deep
scarlet.
         But the news of the army was not all good, for Giffon had already began putting
his re-found arts into practice. A lightning storm had pursued the army for a good while,
killing a number of good men. Fires had appeared spontaneously in the grasses amongst
the army, spooking horses and burning men. The waters of the river Ellsia had changed
from their normal slow movement to a raging torrent, making the crossing difficult and
costing several lives. Some of the men‟s minds had become possessed by Giffon‟s
dominion spells and they had turned against their fellow soldiers, causing many deaths
before they had to be slain. And whatever men died did not stay to rot, rather their bodies
dissolved and hazy undead warriors were seen floating back to the realm of Giffon. The
worst was the undead company of former Frelekan Knights, who attacked the army at the
river and after causing much death, were driven off by an apparent fear of fire and water.
         Kurt and the King took in all of this news without batting an eye, for they already
knew of what Giffon was capable. The news of the undead minion‟s fear of fire and
water was good news but Kurt feared it would not last. He knew that these undead
warriors would be unstoppable once Giffon brought them to full strength and he knew his
weapons and powers would be useless against them then.
         Finally it was found amongst the former Varkoe army‟s many soldiers and
civilians of Cho, which the army had hidden in their own ranks from the eyes of the
mages. When Kurt asked what had become of the three remaining mages, the generals
glanced at each other and winked. They said the mages had departed this world by the
swords of their men. It seemed they were not as invincible as they had thought and
enough men had finally overpowered them.
         For the moment Kurt did not share his knowledge of the Elven army to the north,
for it would only demoralize them for no reason. With all the news of new armies going
to attack, Kurt knew that the arts of the people on this continent would not be enough.
The only ones with that knowledge were the Elves, who were the ones who had cast the
first spells and still weaved the most powerful. The only problem was that the Elven army
was against the allies of Kurt; so gaining their knowledge of magic was a path fraught
with peril.
         For the moment, Kurt put the notion aside; Freleka needed him more than he
needed to gain some magical experience for himself. With the army that regularly
garrisoned Castle Freka, the still marshaled armies of Kendar and Grasha, plus the new
allied army that had come from Sardon, the military might of Freleka was powerful
indeed.
         With few of his undead minions possessing the capability of fly, the Ellsia River
would delay Giffon‟s new army for a while. Though once they formed at the southern
bridge they could cross easily, or they could simply detour around into the White
Mountains above the source of the river to the north. So that security factor was very
fleeting, but it just might give them enough time to come up with a way to fight this army
of walking dead.

         Kurt’s sleep was troubled that night, first he dreamed of riding on a ship, and the
shore in the distance was dark and stormy. Then he saw monsters attacking the ship, but
he was spirited away to land, where he had no weapons. Giant hazy enemies attacked
him, but their weapons passed through without harm. He saw a lady lying in the grass in
front of him, her face hidden by her hair. Despite his dreaming Kurt knew the lady was
dead. Suddenly enemies appeared around him, former friends, but these undead ones
were solid, and they raised their weapons to strike.
         Kurt snapped awake, taking stock of his room. The candle at the far wall had
burned low, but it provided light to see. More nightmares would chase him if he went
back to sleep, so he threw off the blankets and got up. The window was dark, signaling it
was far too early to awaken, but Kurt didn‟t care about that. He pulled his tinderbox from
a cubbyhole and lit his lantern.
         A voice suddenly spoke to Kurt, a male voice that carried strength, wisdom and a
chill upon itself. Kurt spun around towards his bed to see a hazy person sitting on it.
Without having to guess he already knew who it was. Sir Eric Karcelow had returned at
last. The voice of Sir Eric was strange to Kurt‟s ears, both because he had never heard it
before and because it spoke an unintelligible language. Sir Eric spoke again in another
language, but that didn‟t work either.
         Sir Eric‟s third try brought him to the common language of Freleka, which Kurt
understood with ease. Sir Eric said he had come to Kurt through Giffon‟s powers, but not
in the way Kurt expected. When Giffon tried to summon the former Dragon Knight to do
his bidding Sir Eric had turned the magic against Giffon and escaped his holdings as a
free undead spirit. He had come to aid Kurt in whatever way possible.
         Through his father‟s speech Kurt had said nothing, too shocked to speak.
Uncleaving his tongue from the roof his mouth, he asked how he could be sure Giffon
wasn‟t trying to trick him through Sir Eric. The reply was that Kurt would already be
dead if that was the case. That made sense to Kurt, so he convinced himself to trust this
undead father of his.
         Sir Eric went on to ask Kurt all that had happened since his death, which was
going to make for a long story, but since Kurt didn‟t want to sleep anyway, he began to
explain everything as best as he knew it. He began with Derrick‟s complete story, filling
in the parts Sir Eric did not know. He then told him of his life while he lived with the
woodcutter, then of the death of Derrick, and the meeting of the princesses, and union
with Faladron.
         The story wound on through the night, and dawn was beginning to break when
Kurt finished with re-telling what King Karl had told him the night before. A Castle
Guardsman knocked on Kurt‟s door at precisely six. Sir Eric stood, ready to confront all
he met, but when the guard came in he appeared not to notice the undead warrior, and left
after telling Kurt that the King was expecting him for breakfast.
         After the guard had gone Sir Eric concluded that he must only be visible to Kurt.
He had focused solely on escaping Giffon and helping Kurt when he had been
summoned, so he had apparently made a mistake. This would be both good and bad, for
he would not frighten people, but he would have to communicate through Kurt. Before
Kurt left Sir Eric said two things, first that there was an imposter in the castle, and that he
was going to search now for the assassin of King Andrew. He left before explaining those
things.

         The meal with the King included the King‟s brother Sir Fiske, heir to Dukedom
Jorrain, his two sons, and Hannah‟s older brother who had just recently returned to
Freleka after a long stay as ambassador to Jornia. Kurt was the last to arrive, and the only
seat remaining was rather pointedly as far away from Hannah as her brother and cousins
could contrive. Kurt noticed all that but said nothing and sat down at the table.
         The conversation was difficult as everyone‟s mind weighed heavily with the
concerns of Giffon. The meal fortunately did not last long, and the company broke up and
some left for various places. Hannah left the table when news came that Juliet arrived and
she went to greet her. King Karl and Sir Fiske went to discuss defense strategies with
their advisors, leaving the four boys at the table. No one said anything for a minute, and
Kurt wondered what the rest of the boys were thinking. The thought crossed Kurt‟s mind
that none at the table were boys any longer, for they had all been knighted.
         The question didn‟t take long, and it came from Hannah‟s brother, Sir Dirk. He
asked straight out whether Kurt was interested in Hannah as more than just a friend. Kurt
opened his mouth to reply but shut it before he said anything. With the three looking at
him he knew his answer was going to affect a lot of things in the castle, mainly his
relationship to Hannah‟s relatives.
         Kurt finally answered that yes, he was. That seemed to trigger a lot of action. The
four of them stood as if on command and the three bade Kurt to come with them to the
jousting area. They walked to it quickly and began arming themselves. Kurt asked to go
for his armor but they said no, he must fight them on equal ground. Kurt asked why in the
world they had to fight. The answer was simple, he wanted Hannah, and he had to prove
to her brother and cousins that he was able to take care of her.
         Kurt agreed to this slowly and undid the only piece of dragon weaponry he had on
him, his dagger, and put it on a table. Some squires came and helped the four of them into
their plate armor, and then handed them swords. The four of them went to the center of
the training area and prepared to fight. This arena was indoors, so no one would know of
this battle. Sir Dirk instructed the squires to bar the doors until the fight was over. The
rules would be simple, Kurt would take on all three at once, there was to be no lethal
strikes, and no magic. Kurt nodded and the three of them attacked at once.
         Unable to rely on his usual impenetrable armor and blade fire spells, he had to
resort to a more classical mode of battle. Armed with only a sword Kurt had to move
quickly and block three swords at once. The tactics and stamina drilled into him by the
dragon trainers became very useful here. His opponents did not tire quickly because they
only had to do a third of the work of Kurt. Kurt‟s slashing blade finally managed to
knock one of his opponents back and force him to yield out of the battle.
         Kurt jumped away from his fallen enemy and brought his sword back to the ready
as his two remaining enemies attacked all the more vigorously. Kurt fought quickly and
finally bashed the sword out of one of his enemy‟s hands. With now only one enemy to
contend with, the battle was becoming easier every second. Kurt slashed his enemy‟s
blade aside and was preparing to knock him to the ground when the knight brought his
blade back under and swiped Kurt‟s feet from under him.
        Unaccustomed to the heavy plate armor and used to the lightness of his dragon
mail, Kurt slammed to the floor and his blade fell from his gauntleted hand. Kurt yielded
the fight to his enemy. The victor raised his visor and he saw that it was Sir Dirk. Kurt
feared he had failed the trio‟s test, but instead they shook his hand and said they would be
proud to be related to Kurt. Now only two obstacles remained between the Knight of the
Dragon and that goal, King Karl and Princess Hannah herself.
                                               Part Two
        The candles burned low as two Elf Guards admitted Sir Kurt to an audience with
the King. The doors behind him boomed a deep quiet note as they shut with an air of
finality. The two guards walked with him and in alcoves along the walls of the throne
room, standing like rocks, were eight more guards. A single knight stood by the King,
with Sir Dirk speaking in low tones.
        Sir Kurt‟s dragon armor made no sound as he walked the distance to the throne.
He bowed quickly, in accordance with his recent allegiance to the new King. King Karl
bade him to stand and state his desire.
        “I have come to ask for your permission for you daughter‟s hand in marriage.” Sir
Kurt said.
        “Indeed,” the King replied, “Sir Dirk has told me of your desire and of his and his
cousin‟s acceptance. However, I require more than skill at arms, for Princess Hannah is
dear to me. Dear to all of us, especially for her, was her grandfather, the late King
Andrew.” The King stopped and bowed his head for a second; Kurt and Dirk followed
suit. The King cleared his throat and continued. “Her hand will not be available until
several things have happened. First, you must deliver my father‟s assassin, alive and
ready to be tried. Secondly, Giffon must be defeated before I can allow Hannah to pass
from my protection. Thirdly, your barely seventeen years are not enough to let you, even
as a Knight of this realm, take on the burden of a wife. Nor is Hannah ready, so until I
have deemed you both ready, you cannot even tell her of your request Lastly, you must of
course have her permission, without it, this is all moot and academic. With those
conditions fulfilled, then you may marry my daughter.” Kurt opened his mouth to speak
but King Karl cut him off. “Don‟t speak, your words would be useless acceptance of my
terms. Now both of you are dismissed; I must speak with my brother and our generals.”
Sir Kurt and Sir Dirk bowed quickly and strode side by side from the room.

       It took Sir Eric only a few minutes to come into Sir Kurt‟s room after he himself
entered. He said he had discovered the identity of the assassin and that he had followed
Kurt invisibly through much of the day. So, he knew of the troubles with the Princess.
Kurt asked right off about the identity of the assassin, but Sir Eric avoided the question
and said for Kurt to put his armor back on and come with him.
       Since Kurt had only undone his weapons and tunic, it was just half a minute‟s
work to make himself ready. Sir Eric then said to gather his things for traveling, as he
would not be returning to this room. Kurt grabbed his tinderbox, his blanket, his
saddlebags, and all the rest of his supplies such as his waterskins and dried meat.
       Sir Eric strode out the door with Kurt hurrying to catch up. His undead father
walked quickly to the end of the hallway and made his way up the spiral staircase. He
went up two levels before entering another hallway and going halfway down it to a door.
Kurt caught up several seconds later. Sir Eric put his hand out and the door opened
silently without his touching it. He strode in with Kurt following. Inside was a bed
against the far wall, with a sleeping Arissa. Sir Eric whispered fiercely for Kurt to draw
his blade and summon his fire. He did so, but the blade scraped against the scabbard and
Arissa awoke. Sir Eric shouted for Kurt to strike to kill now, before it was too late.
        He hesitated, wondering why he should kill the one who had helped his father and
for whom Jared had long searched. Sir Eric shoved Kurt forward and told him sternly to
attack before his enemy could strike back. As this was happening, the Elf jumped from
the bed with unnatural speed and grabbed her mini-crossbow. Kurt waited no longer and
jumped forward and cut the lady down. Kurt‟s honor was ruined and he knew not why.
        Suddenly a strange thing happened, Arissa‟s features seemed to melt and her
whole body shook. As the changes subsided, Sir Kurt realized he had been fooled. This
was not Arissa; this was the fourth mage that they had thought was dead. Now he looked
with wonder at his father, who looked on in silence. The sounds of scuffling had brought
two guards to the door. They were taken aback by Kurt‟s burning blade and even more so
by the one whom they had thought was a lady. Kurt said to them that the mage‟s illusion
spells could not fake death and told them to inform the King.
        Sir Eric led Kurt away from the stunned guards. The duo went down the courtyard
where the two sleeping dragons lay. Faladron awoke at Kurt‟s approach but when Sir
Eric came into view he launched himself into the air and blasted a stream of fire at him.
Kurt dove away while Sir Eric walked on unmoved. The fire passed through him without
harm. Darrok snapped awake and reacted similarly to Faladron, although without taking
flight. Kurt shouted for them to stop and the rivers of flame ended, leaving burning
embers on the ground. Kurt waved his hand at the embers and muttered some strange
words. The embers extinguished with a puff of smoke.
        Sir Kurt quickly explained Sir Eric‟s presence and as he did so the dragons slowly
relaxed. They eyed the undead Knight of the Dragon warily as Kurt asked where the
other two dragons were. Darrok said they were sleeping amongst the army outside the
castle walls. Sir Eric then began to speak. He said that Kurt must fly now, alone with
Faladron. Sir Eric would go with Darrok to somewhere else. He said to find Arissa for
she was crucial to defeating Giffon and after that, he must find Jared, for he was the
King‟s assassin.
        Kurt paled at that news; he had feared Giffon would bring Jared back quickly, but
not instantly. It seemed his fears were well founded. Jared was already back to his old
ways and so would be a great threat. A door at the far end of the castle opened and King
Karl, Sir Dirk, and the Duke Jorrain with his sons strode out. Several Knights followed
close behind, all of the company had weapons drawn. Sir Eric shouted Kurt to fly, or he
would be slain. Kurt hesitated, wondering why he was the target of his friends. Faladron
wasted no more time and grabbed Sir Kurt in his teeth. Faladron flew away to the South,
as Sir Eric mounted Darrok and rode to the East. As they flew away arrows flew by and
some clinked against Faladron‟s scales. The red dragon set Kurt on his back and they
flew, neither knowing why their friends had turned against them and neither knowing
where to begin looking for the siblings: Jared and Arissa, one a still missing Elf woman,
the other a powerful undead dragon slayer and assassin.

       Morning over Castle Freka brought only the change of the guard, for a black
cloud now covered the sky. No light filtered down through the cloud, only the occasional
drizzle of rain. The Princess of the castle was awoken by the reveille horns and she noted
the lack of light as she walked to the window and opened it. A cold breeze wafted in and
Hannah shivered at the stark change from the warmth of her room. The courtyard below
was bereft of dragons, but that was not unexpected, as Faladron and Darrok had to eat
and would only eat their own hunted prey out of the sight of humans.
        When Princess Hannah arrived at the breakfast table Juliet took Kurt‟s spot and
Kurt himself was nowhere to be seen. Hannah sat down to eat but didn‟t mention Kurt‟s
absence, as she assumed he was just late or off somewhere doing something important.
When at the end of the meal he had not come, Hannah finally asked where Kurt was.
Silence fell on the room like a rock and the men glanced at each other. Juliet stopped
talking and her smile slowly faded as she saw the grim expressions of her relatives.
Finally King Karl spoke, he said Kurt was gone and then strode from the room.
        Hannah was taken aback by her father‟s words and she looked at her brother for
clarification. Sir Dirk was not interested it seemed in that and followed his father‟s
example by leaving. Sir Fiske and his sons, Juliet‟s brothers, left also. The two young
royal ladies were left standing in shock. Hannah asked her cousin if she knew what was
going on. Juliet replied that no, she had no idea what all that was about. Hannah said no
more and walked out of the room, headed for Kurt‟s chambers, followed by Juliet.
        Two tall members of the King‟s Guard safeguarded Kurt‟s door. They were part
of the Elven guard, but Hannah and Juliet didn‟t even know the King‟s Elf Guard existed,
and they walked by the two immobile guards unhindered. The Guard‟s did nothing more
than follow the ladies with their eyes as Hannah opened the door and went inside.
        The room was stripped clean of traveling gear; Kurt‟s blanket, tinderbox, food,
lantern, waterskins and pack were gone. A single torch still smoldered in the corner and
the only sign of recent habitation was Kurt‟s chest, apparently unlocked. Juliet walked
over to open it but it wouldn‟t budge. After a few seconds of tugging, her hand began to
sting and she jerked it away. Hannah rushed over when she saw what happened. Juliet‟s
hand was red and something had begun to cut into her skin, but hadn‟t got far enough to
make her bleed. Hannah looked at the chest warily; now assuming it was magically
locked.
        With a cautious hand, Hannah tapped the chest, nothing happened. She glanced at
her finger, it was fine. She tapped it again, this time with her whole hand, still nothing
hurt her. Juliet tapped the chest with her other hand and immediately the spell began to
attack her. She jerked her fingers away and the pain ceased instantly. The two girls
glanced at each other, neither knowing what was happening, nor what to say. Hannah laid
her hand on the chest, nothing hurt her and the lid shifted slightly when she touched it.
She pulled on the handle and unlike with Juliet, it opened easily. Inside were some cloths,
covering something underneath. Hannah pulled one away to reveal a glittering red
dagger.

        Dawn at the base of the Black Mountains brought little extra light, mainly more
cold as an icy breeze swept off the freezing slopes and roughly awoke Kurt from his fitful
slumber. Kurt‟s dragon did not warm to drive out the cold, so he pulled his blanket tighter
around him to try and keep out the cold. His tiny movement awakened Faladron, who
stood and stretched. Spying Kurt trying to keep under the covers, he took a corner in his
teeth and yanked the blanket away, tumbling Kurt into wakefulness.
         With a groan Kurt picked himself up off the ground and began strapping on his
weapons. The sword came first, the plain leather belt and scabbard belying the powerful
sword inside. His quiver of arrows came next, once again the plain leather giving the
impression of regular arrows. The quiver was far from ordinary Kurt had discovered, for
he could put all ninety-nine of his arrows inside and they would magically take the room
of ten. Eighty-nine would apparently go invisible, and one by one reappear as he shot
them away. Kurt didn‟t have all one hundred arrows; for he had left half back in his
locked chest and one had shattered against Sardon‟s shield. The remainders left behind
were safe, as he had cast a spell on their chest so that none could open it. His magical
bow came last; to the average eye it appeared to be a regular bow made of yew wood.
Such was not the case, inside was a thin strip of the same mysterious dragon metal as
Kurt‟s armor. Spells were upon it so that the bow would not split and that it would shoot
accurately even in the hands of a beginner.
         Armoring up completed, Kurt gathered his things: first his tinderbox, then lantern,
next rationed meat, and lastly his waterskins were all placed on his blanket and rolled up
into a bundle. Faladron asked him as he was shouldering the pack why he carried a
tinderbox when he not only could light fires and lanterns with magic but was also in the
presence of a dragon. Kurt said he had no wish to constantly exploit his magical ability
and dragonfire was not only undesirable for lantern lighting but also a trained magician
could sense it miles away. Faladron said nothing, as Kurt‟s reasons were quite valid.
         With nothing else needed to make a tidy camp, Kurt mounted Faladron and the
two flew west. Their path took them along the northern base of the Black Mountains
towards the Great Southern Woods. When Kurt asked why they were going this way
Faladron said that Sir Eric had instructed them to find the Elven lady and as all directions
were equally good, he had chosen this one. Although now that he thought about it Elves
did tend to live in wooded areas and as neither of the Western forests contained Jared‟s
sister, then the Great Southern Woods were the best place to start.

        Three days flight took the duo across the base of the mountains and halfway
across the northern border of the woods. Knowing that Arissa would be a magical person,
Kurt had used all of his own magic enhanced senses to search for telltale signs of magic.
Only one had arisen, a faint line of magic that seemed to draw him towards one end of it.
Kurt had pondered this line for hours as Faladron circled and flew up and down it.
Nothing in his training had ever mentioned lines of magic that called a person to one end.
Suddenly it dawned on him like a slap to the head. At one end was Hannah‟s locket,
which was the calling end; on the other was Arissa, the called end. All they had to do was
follow the line in the reverse of the direction it beckoned.
        This turned out to be easier said than done. As they flew backward down the line,
not only did it move with what they assumed was Arissa‟s movement, but it also grew
fainter and fainter, until at last they had to walk in order to keep a clear enough head to
follow the line.
        With seven days since their departure from Castle Freka moving on to the eighth,
Kurt was beginning to doubt his hunch about the line. After all, it could perhaps be some
ancient messenger line used long ago or a calling spell that had long been fulfilled. Kurt
would have turned back after ten days had not his dragon suddenly sensed another
sentient presence close by. Kurt immediately reached for his sword, fearing an enemy,
but a growl from Faladron stayed his hand.
         For a minute nothing happened as the duo stayed deathly still. Finally the brush in
front of them parted and a tall Elven lady who looked exactly like the false Arissa, which
Kurt had slain before, ran toward them. She was gasping for breath, as she cried out for
them to fly or she would bring their doom upon them. Kurt straightened from his slightly
crouched position and the brown over tunic he was wearing slipped a little, revealing for
a second a sliver of glittering red armor. That stopped Arissa cold, and then an
acknowledging smile came to her face. She said that she was glad that at long last the son
of Dragon Knight VI had come for her, wearing his father‟s armor.
         Kurt wasn‟t surprised at this, but he asked why their doom was on her heels. Her
smiled vanished and her terrified expression returned. She said that seven black dragons
were following her. She had slain the eighth but the seven still gave chase, fueled now by
a thirst for revenge. Kurt grinned at that. With a quick movement, he threw off his over
tunic and revealed his Frelekan tunic, Karcelow cape, and dragon mail. He pulled on his
gauntlets and then drew his sword, the blade bursting into flame at his mind‟s call. He
nodded to Faladron, who proceeded to blow a stream of fire in a circle around them,
setting the trees aflame. With a complete circle of fire around them, the dragons would
only attack from the one direction: up. Kurt and Faladron had no intention of being
attacked in the trap of their own making; instead Kurt grabbed Arissa and put her on
Faladron‟s back, and then mounted in front of her.
         Faladron took to the skies and flew northwest, directly away from the incoming
dragons. With now a smoke shield in between them and their enemies, the black dragons
did not see them and instead flew down into the circle of flame, which was now devoid of
life. Kurt doused the flame on his sword and sheathed it, changing his mind and opting
for a ranged attack. He pulled his magic bow and seven arrows from his back, nocking
one and holding the rest in his other hand. Kurt tapped his dragon with his foot and
Faladron dove down through the smoke to attack the enemies below.

        Hannah and Juliet closed the chest quickly after they had searched it and revealed
the entire second set of dragon armor. Hannah did not know how to relock it with the
magic spell, so she put on a standard metal key lock that was handily lying in a
cubbyhole nearby. Removing the key, the two Princesses left the room trying to act as if
their going into the room had yielded nothing. The Elf guards merely watched them and
took stock of their deliberately slow pace and lit up eyes.
        The two girls retreated to Hannah‟s room to discuss all that had happened. They
both talked for hours, filling each other in on everything the other did not know and
trying to figure out why Kurt had been driven by force from the castle. They could not
come up with an answer that satisfied either of them. The knowledge of the happenings
amongst the men concerning Hannah would have shed a great deal of light on the puzzle,
but even that would not have solved it. For there were more pieces missing, that only a
few knew how to find, much less piece together.
        The next morning brought the two girls once again to a quiet breakfast table.
Lunch and dinner the day before had been strained affairs, with none of the men seeming
to want to talk with the ladies. With only the two ladies at the table, that posed little
problem for the rest of the conversation to continue. This time of relative social solitude
gave Hannah a few minutes to think back to years past when her mother and two aunts
had still been alive. All the ladies of the Frelekan line had seemed to run into
extraordinarily bad luck soon after marriage. Hannah‟s mother had died within several
years after having Hannah. The doctors had said leftover trauma from childbirth had left
her open to disease and she had died of a terrible fever. Juliet‟s mother had died a few
months later from a poisonous snakebite. Her other aunt, she was told, died from
suffocation in her bedchamber, along with her husband. The guards who found them said
the chimney had become stopped up and smoke had killed them while they slept.
        Hannah‟s reflection was cut short when one of her father‟s guards came in and
asked to speak to the king. Karl said that all at the table were trusted, so he said to speak.
Reluctantly, the tall guard said that they had discovered the chest in Kurt‟s room had
been broken into during the night. Hannah and Juliet paled, fearing they had been found
out. The guard continued to say that the key lock had been cut in two and the remains of a
shattered locking spell had been found. This caused the two girls no small wonder, for
how could mere guards detect spells, much less shattered ones, which were said to be ten
times harder to find. The guard said that they did not know what was in the chest, for they
had not searched it before and now the contents had vanished, leaving only a few cloth
rags.
        Before Hannah could stop her Juliet spoke up, quietly saying they had opened the
chest the morning before and discovered Kurt‟s other pair of dragon armor and weapons.
The King asked if they had been back and both girls quickly said no, for they had not. Sir
Dirk wasted no more time sitting at the table; he stood and strode from the room. King
Karl looked after him with a twinge of anger but did not stop him. The King asked who
could have entered the room under the guard‟s watchful eyes and broken not only a steel
lock but also a spell weaved by the powerful seventh dragon knight. The guard said that
the only one they could conclude was the assassin of King Andrew, who was still
unknown.
        Those words suddenly made it clear to Hannah who the assassin could be. She
wasn‟t sure why, but for some reason she thought that Jared was back to his old ways.
She decided not to share this knowledge because it seemed ridiculous; after all, Jared was
dead wasn‟t he? How could he have come and done all that? Nevertheless the idea stuck
around in her head.

        When they burst through the smoke wall, Kurt let loose his first arrow. It struck
one of the dragons, which gave a shriek of pain and tried to break the arrow from his
neck. Kurt‟s arrows were magically bound to be unbreakable, so the dragon‟s flailing
attempts were futile. Kurt let loose the rest of his arrows. Three found their targets; the
others clinked to the ground. The fever poison on the arrows would be quick to kill, so
those four dragons would soon meet their doom. Faladron landed on top of one of the
black dragons, blasting a stream of fire into his face. Kurt dove off as he put his bow
away and drew his sword. Arissa did the same, pulling a thin slightly curved sword
seemingly from nowhere and charging on of the dragons.
        For all seven of the dragons to have landed seeming silly, but Kurt wasn‟t going
to argue with good luck. He paused before attacking the only un-opposed black dragon,
watching Arissa. Her dragon blasted fire at her but it vanished a foot from her body and
hit an anti-dragonfire spell far better than Kurt‟s. He shook his head and charged his own
dragon, sword lit and anger in his face. His armor began to steam as he reached the
dragon, which tried to take to the skies. But Kurt took a slash at his wing, nearly severing
it from his body. With his armor suddenly exploding into flame, Kurt became a terrifying
sight. His slashing blade easily cut deep into the chest of the dragon, killing him instantly.
        With his enemy vanquished, Kurt wished off the flames from his armor. He had
feared it would destroy his boots, tunic and cape, but they were unharmed. With that
checked, he beheld the rest of the battle. All of the other black dragons now lay dead,
either from slashing claws and swords or from poisonous arrows. Arissa came walking
out from behind her dragon, sheathing her sword as she went. The sword vanished when
it was fully sheathed, but she didn‟t seem to notice. Faladron shoved his own enemy out
of the way as he walked towards Kurt, who was retrieving his arrows. All seven arrows
were intact, so he put them away. Faladron said to mount up before their circle of fire
closed in and burned them. Kurt and Arissa mounted quickly and took to the skies,
heading north. As they flew, Arissa whispered in his ear. “Well done Dragon Slayer.”

         Far in the north, beyond Imperial Federation Territory, a great host of tall warriors
were marching west. To the north and east of them, the dark horizon glowed with far off
fire. A single blue dragon marked the passing of the army before flying on undetected by
her enemies. The swirling snow soon covered the passage of the host and their path was
lost to the ones who hunted them.

        In the dead of night Hannah left her chambers, accompanied by no one. She was
dressed in a plain brown tunic and trousers and supple leather boots on her feet. At her
side was her dagger, a gift from her mother years before. With only a small pack on her
back, she made her way down to the Castle armory. A tired squire guarded the door and
with no trouble Hannah tiptoed past his closed eyes, which were not fully asleep but not
aware either.
        Inside Hannah opened several cabinets with her faithful skeleton key, another gift
from her mother, one she had not used in four years. The princess garbed herself in sturdy
but light steel mail armor, leaving off the heavy plate armor. She took a sword and
scabbard from the rack on the far wall, belted it to her side. And after commandeering a
lantern and tinderbox, she left the armory the same way she had come in. On her way to
the stable Hannah put her two new pack additions in her satchel, the tinderbox first, then
the lantern. Inside she caught a glimpse of a blanket, several colors of fabrics and a finer
tunic than the one she wore. Around Hannah‟s neck dangled the locket of Arissa, which
had seemed to work before, bringing help to her in the form of Kurt and Jared.
        Someone more difficult to pass guarded the stable: an old grizzled sergeant, who
had many night watches under his belt and he wasn‟t about to be caught napping. Hannah
considered for a moment whether to bribe him or distract him with a thrown rock to side.
Both things she realized were ridiculous, she was royalty and this sergeant would obey
her commands. She walked into the light of his torch and he called out who went there.
Speaking softly, she told him to let her pass. With great reluctance he opened the door
and strode inside with her, carrying his torch.
        Inside the sergeant woke a squire and told him to assist the Princess. He groggily
complied as the sergeant returned to his post. With the squire‟s help Hannah saddled her
horse and mounted it, putting her satchel on as saddlebags. She passed a few coins to the
squire and said not to speak of her passing. After doing the same with the sergeant, she
rose quietly to the outer castle gate, which was locked shut. With a quiet command and a
few more coins, the guards opened the gate and let her pass. They locked the gated shut
behind her as she rode into the darkness.
        Almost half an hour later, a young knightly man followed Hannah‟s same pattern,
although much faster and with great worry on his face. A large dog followed the man as
he gathered armor and a horse. Once the mounted knight and dog passed the gate, the dog
began sniffing after the princess with his master in tow.

        A small valley just east of the Ellsia River served to host the trio of travelers after
the day‟s flight form the battle. Arissa‟s words in his ear hours before had cut Kurt to the
core. He had long been a friend of dragons and to earn the title of Dragon Slayer was not
something he desired, but it had been forced upon him.
With the cold air no longer whipping their faces and a warm fire bringing its cheerful
heat to them, conversation began to stir. Kurt remembered his father‟s words that Arissa
was crucial to defeating Giffon. He asked her about this and he asked her another
question, one that had long bothered him. He inquired why if Sir Eric had been powerful
enough to curse one such as Giffon, why had Sir Eric not simply killed him. She said it
was quite a coincidence that Kurt had asked those two questions together, for their
answer was interconnected. Kurt knew Giffon had captured Arissa in order to defeat Sir
Eric, but so far Kurt had not learned just how he had planned to do that. It seemed that
when that the first time Giffon had met with the young captive she-elf, he had placed a
dastardly spell between them. The spell linked their life forces, so that if the caster died,
then the other would be killed instantly also. Giffon had made it known to Sir Eric that he
would be killing an innocent young lady if he slew him, so that had kept Sir Eric away.
When Arissa finally escaped she came armed with knowledge of Giffon‟s lair and the
willingness to die to rid the world of Giffon‟s evil.
        Sir Eric and Falcor had used this knowledge to track down the Dragon Mage.
When Sir Eric had broken Giffon‟s body and was preparing to end his life, compassion
had filled his heart, not for Giffon, but for Arissa. So he had cursed Giffon to live on as a
man. The instant he was changed, Giffon used his re-gained but fading magic to take his
apprentice with him - as a dog. He magically transported them both away before the trio
could see what they looked like. Thus, Sardon went out as a young man with a dog at his
side. He joined the Frelekan army hoping to work his way up to usurp the king but
instead he ended up gaining the seat of Baron Varkoe.
        Sardon had after several years managed to undue part of the spell binding him,
making it possible to change back if he could get the blood of the one of trio or a blood
relative. In time he had further undone the spell, so that a good-hearted dragon‟s blood
would be sufficient to change him back to his original form. Once he gained dominion
over Jared, he had sent him to kill Sir Eric. He had succeeded in doing so but was chased
away by the guards who came in just as the Dragon Knight was being killed. Thus, Sir
Eric was buried and his blood decayed, making him unavailable to Sardon.
        Falcor had been slain by Jared‟s hand also, but his mate had driven off Jared to
her own doom. But by the time Sardon reached Falcor‟s body, his fellow dragons,
rendering it useless, had burned it. Never had Sardon told Jared to take blood from them,
as Sardon had always attempted to follow up himself and obtain the blood. However,
Sardon had failed in his two attempts. Arissa herself had left Sir Eric shortly after the
cursing of Giffon and had gone to make her home in the woods where Kurt later found
her. Another question Kurt asked was what Falcor had meant when he had said that
Prince Karl had gotten the three of them out of there after the cursing of Giffon. Arissa
said that Karl had shown up accompanied by ten of his Elf Guards, who had helped them
escape amidst the hundred black dragons that could have slain them.
        Next Kurt asked why Sardon had not simply slain Jared long before, for his blood
would work either way you looked at it in order to undo the curse. Arissa said that as far
as she could conclude, Sardon could not use the blood of one under his dominion, so
Jared wasn‟t available until he joined forces with Kurt.
        As a final question Kurt asked her if the spell Giffon had placed between them so
long before was still intact? Arissa said it wasn‟t, for the feeling it generated had
vanished the moment Sardon was changed back to Giffon. That was both good news and
bad, for now Arissa was free of that looming death. However it also meant Giffon would
seek to find another on which to cast a new spell.
        With all his questions answered for the moment, Kurt said he was going to sleep.
Faladron made no reply, as he was already asleep and Arissa merely nodded as she also
headed to her blankets on the other side of the fire.

         Miles away Hannah was camped in next to some trees with the Ellsia River
flowing along the eastern horizon. With nearly thirty hours passed since her departure
from Castle Freka, Hannah was beginning to doubt her reasoning for venturing out. Her
original logic of wanting to seek Kurt‟s protection was waning; for she truly had no idea
how to find him, he had always found her. With the fire dying low, Hannah put those
things out of her mind and attempted to sleep.
         Three hours later found her fast asleep, with only a few embers still burning in the
fire. Dark shadows suddenly passed over what little moonlight pierced the ever-present
clouds above. They descended quickly, their master‟s target in a perfect position to be
taken. They landed silently, taking care so that their burning breath and powerful wings
did not awaken the princess. One cut the rope that tethered her horse, another gathered
her things. One stood watch and the last muttered a sleeping spell as he gathered her in
his claws. With no struggle this time, the minions of Giffon had once again captured
Princess Hannah.
         An hour later a brown dog came sniffing onto the site, Sir Dirk close behind. He
dismounted when he saw the remains of the fire and cursed himself that she had already
left. When his dog began to whimper at something, he came over to have a closer look.
What he saw chilled him. It was the distinct footprint of a dragon and next to it was a
black scale that had fallen from its owner. He now knew Hannah had not left, she had
been taken. He searched the skies but nothing was in sight. Sir Dirk was about to leave
and head back to the castle when he caught the gleam of gold. He walked over and
carefully picked up Hannah‟s locket from where it had been trampled by a dragon. He
wasted no time in opening it. Inside was nothing, just an empty shell. With a sigh, he put
it in his pack and mounted to head for the castle.
                                             Part Three
         Kurt was blasted from his peaceful sleep by a sound most would not even hear; a
sword was quietly being drawn near him. With a quick movement, Kurt threw off his
blanket and grabbed his sword from its scabbard where it lay near him. In a flash his
blade was blazing with fire at an unseen enemy. Kurt snuffed the flame and tried to
attune himself to the sounds around him. Both Arissa and Faladron were missing from
the resting places they had taken the night before.
        Finally, Arissa came out of the darkness walking towards Kurt with a drawn
sword drooping at her side. She glanced at the Knight of the Dragon and sat down next to
him in a defeated manner. Without a word she handed him a small piece of metal. Upon
taking it Kurt realized it was no metal piece, it was a dragon scale; once red but now
darkening to black. Kurt looked with fear at Arissa, she glanced at him and said that
Faladron had fallen and was now a black dragon.
        Kurt looked at the Elf‟s sword, wondering what she had done with it. She
followed his gaze and proceeded to sheathe her sword. She said Faladron had not come to
harm, for she could not bring herself to strike down one who had been so close to them.
Kurt asked her then just what spell she used to make the sword go invisible when
sheathed. She gave a small laugh and said it was more the other way around. The sword
normally did not exist but when she reached for it, she called upon a spell that created the
sword as she was pulling it from its scabbard of air.
        Suddenly Arissa jerked and looked westward, she stilled and seemed to freeze in
place. Kurt was worried something was wrong but only waited and said nothing. After a
minute, the elf‟s eyes seemed to come back to reality. She looked at Kurt and said they
must make great haste across the river, for someone has reactivated her locket spell, one
who was in great need. Kurt nodded, grabbed his pack and started after the already
running elf.

        An icy wind whipped across the plains of Mardor, the unclaimed lands north of
the IFD territory. Stretching over almost two square miles, thousands of Elves were
camped, their magical fires straining to keep alight amidst the swirling snow and wind.
The army was composed of both male and female Elves, for they were not just an army,
but sent to reestablish Elven settlements on the main continent of Wanvaria. Their ships
had numbered in the hundreds but a terrible storm had driven them North of their
intended landing point of Cho, bringing them into IFD lands. The massive seacoast rocks
bordering Imperial territory had smashed almost all the graceful Elven ships, causing
death and loss of food and supplies.
        When border guards saw the Elven colonists, they sent word to the ruling clan of
the IFD. The leaders responded by calling up all the dragons in the Federation to drive
the Elves off their land and banish them again to their island homes. The Elves had been
given strict orders not to abandon colonization and as dragons had long been their
enemies, they had no problem making war on the IFD. The path from the landing point to
the Ruling Mountain was littered with hundreds of casualties on both sides. The Elves
had attempted to take the mountain for their own, but the terrible battle there left the
mountain death stained with magical traps in place. Dragonfire and magic dart traps were
hidden everywhere, making it a hazardous place to be. Neither side now wanted it. Karrie
realized now that when Kurt and the rest had come with her to the mountain, it had been
a miracle no one was killed by the traps she later found when she came searching again.
        Karrie‟s thought that Sardon had summoned the Elven army was wrong and she
was now realizing that they had come peaceably. Dragon and Elf memories ran long
though and the ensuing war had cost both much in time and lives. The blue-scaled dragon
was now watching from a small hill, hidden from the Elf watchmen by the swirling snow.
The Elf camp was surrounded by the now full-strength of the Imperial Federation of
Dragons. With the dragon‟s natural resistance to magic and the cold of their environment
they would surely slaughter the freezing and weakened Elves, thereby destroying all hope
of contact with the great island spell-casters.
        Karrie wasted no more time, but flew down alone towards the Elf camp in hopes
of parley before the battle began. As she flew down a sharp-eyed archer on guard saw her
shape and loosed an arrow at her. It merely bounced off her armor scales and dropped
silently to the snow. The archer reached for his horn as Karrie gracefully dropped to a
pinpoint landing in front of him. He nearly winded the horn when he realized the dragon
was not attacking but waiting. He talk a step nearer, she didn‟t move; he took another,
same thing, he then asked her purpose. She spoke quickly, saying she wanted to speak
with the leader of the Elven army. The archer shouted back and another Elf came trotting
out. The archer told the other Elf to make haste to their leader, for someone wishing to
parley had come.

        The ruling mountain of the IFD was not in fact fully abandoned; a black-scaled
scout investigated it. After seeing the dangers posed to anyone attempting to enter the
mountain, he breathed a fire onto some sticks, melting the snow and creating a sickly
looking blaze. Upon the fire he uttered a few magic words that activated a messenger
spell. Far away, a group of Black Dragons heard the call and went to alert their master.

         The Ellsia River flowed calmly southward as Kurt reached its edge and dropped
to the ground. Constant travel on Faladron‟s back had apparently drained his stamina.
Arissa on the other hand wasn‟t even winded. Kurt was exhausted, they had run all day,
first north, then south, then east, then finally west, making Kurt think they were going in
circles. Finally Arissa said she had locked on to the source of the spell and they needed to
cross the river. Kurt glared at her, wondering why they couldn‟t have just come this way
in the morning and save miles of running, chasing a phantom calling spell. Kurt got up
wearily and followed her down the riverbank. When they reached the edge, an arrow
suddenly came whistling out from behind them and clanked to the ground between the
duo. Kurt spun but a glance at the arrow on the ground made him freeze without drawing
his weapon. The arrow changed within seconds from a solid wood and metal arrow to a
semi-transparent projectile and then dissolved, leaving no trace of its presence.
         Arissa said it was a weapon of undead warriors; Kurt nodded and drew his sword.
Out of the evening mist to the east, ten warriors came striding. In no hurry, nine drew
their swords while the tenth proceeded to pull another arrow from his quiver, nocking it
and pulling back on the string of his bow. They were not living warriors, for you could
barely see through their bodies, which carried a ghostly purple hue. The archer loosed his
arrow and it whistled at Kurt, piercing his armor and passing halfway through his chest.
         Kurt gasped and fell to his knees, he reached to pull the arrow out but it already
had dissolved, leaving behind a bleeding wound. Arissa charged the warriors and slashed
her blade at them. The sword passed through without harm and whipped the Elf around
with its unexpected lack of resistance. Kurt came stumbling up the bank and followed
Arissa‟s actions, slashing at the warriors with his own sword. They apparently were not
afraid and made no move as the two slashed through their bodies several times. Like a
slap to the head, Kurt remembered to light his blade.
        The pain in his chest was excruciating, clouding his mind and slowing his
movements. Finally, the simple spell came to mind and he thought the fire onto his
sword. The blade ignited along with his armor. Now a flaming terror, he slashed at the
nearest warrior. He didn‟t move as the powerful sword came near him, fully expecting it
to pass through again. It didn‟t, Kurt‟s blade smashed into the undead soldier‟s armor and
cut deep into his body. With a cry the soldier fell to the ground and quickly dissolved.
With that, the others plunged into action, the eight closed in around Kurt but now he was
angry and jumped at two. They met his sword but it cut right through theirs like his sword
normally cut through steel. He cut those two in half, sending them onto whatever fate
awaited them.
        Kurt proceeded to fight the other undead warriors, dropping them quickly now
that his sword and armor stopped and cut their own. Arissa‟s attention was drawn from
the amazing sight to the undead archer fitting another arrow. He loosed it at the Elf but
she nimbly dove out of the way. She slashed through him with her own blade but it
passed through without harm. Suddenly the realization hit her and she called her blade to
ice over. It did and she slashed at her opponent again, this time cutting through his light
leather and killing him or at least re-killing him. She turned to see Kurt plunge his sword
into the belly of his last enemy.
        “So that is the answer, over the years many have tried different metals and
potions.” Arissa said, “But indeed the answer is simple. To fight undead enemies you
must have elementally enhanced metal, nothing more.”
        “Elementally enhanced?” Kurt replied breathlessly.
        Arissa nodded, “Indeed, yours was covered with fire, while my own sword was
covered by ice. You told me the former Varkoe army was able to drive away their undead
enemies at the river with fire and water, so that must be it. Indeed some simple elemental
magic spells will probably work too, but don‟t count on it.” She paused. “Come now,
whoever is carrying my locket can probably reach the King and he needs to know how to
fight his enemy.”

         Nearly fifty hours of running without halt had worn Kurt to a frazzle. Finally
Arissa said that she saw someone ahead and that someone was carrying her locket.
Another hour‟s pursuit of the riding figure brought the duo within shouting range. Kurt
shouted for the rider to stop. His lungs burning now, he worried the rider did not hear
him. His worry unfounded, the rider checked his horse and looked back, seeing the two
now walking towards him, he rode back.
         Upon seeing Kurt, the rider drew his sword. Arissa put out her hand and muttered
a few soft words. Sir Dirk suddenly stopped and shook his head as if clearing it after a
blow. He looked at Kurt with eyes that seemed enlightened and tilted his head to the side.
He sheathed his sword and rode quickly to the duo.
         “Something just happened to my mind,” Dirk said. “I am under orders from the
King to kill you on sight, as are all the soldiers, but I suddenly realized how ridiculous
that is.”
         “I have just lifted a spell from your mind.” Arissa said. “That apparently is what
happened to Kurt back at the castle. It is unclear to me whether Giffon himself is weaving
this spell in the mind of the King and his nobles or someone else.” She paused, “Is there
anyone with that kind of magical capability near the King?”
         “The only one was the mage who was impersonating you.” Kurt said.
         “Of course!” Arissa said, slapping herself on the head. “He must have been
working on the spell before you killed him. I have heard of martyr magicians but I did not
think any still practiced it.”
         “Martyr magicians?” Kurt and Dirk asked together.
         Arissa nodded, “Yes, they put a spell on themselves so that if they are killed
before finishing a lengthy spell, it will complete itself: sometimes with unexpected
results. The mage must have been working on control spell for the King and his Knights,
such as you Dirk. But a spell like that must have a reality foundation already existing. In
this case, the King would need to already have a reason to distrust or even want to kill
Kurt; does he have one?”
         “Yes,” Dirk replied slowly, glancing at Kurt. “Not many know this, but the wife
of Sir Eric Karcelow was my aunt, the King‟s sister.” Kurt‟s eyes widened. “Indeed, not
even you Kurt or Hannah knew that, although many knew my aunt and her husband died.
And many knew Kurt‟s father and wife died, few knew they were one and the same.”
         “But…” Arissa started.
         “Why would that cause my father to want to kill Kurt?” Dirk finished. “Because
my father doesn‟t want Hannah to suffer the same fate as her aunt. I guess the spell
inflamed that want, just after the mage‟s death and made my father rethink his promise to
Kurt.”
         Arissa tilted her head, “What promise?”
         “Nothing!” Both the men said quickly. Arissa merely raised her eyebrows and
shook her head.
         “Anyway,” Kurt said, “If you could lift the spell from Dirk, could you do the
same for the king?”
         “Yes, removing a spell like that is not hard, if you know what to look for.” Arissa
replied. “But I will need someone to establish my creditability at the castle, for I am not
going to sneak in.”
         “I will go with you,” Dirk said. “I can bring you before the King and you can lift
the spell.”
         “Good,” Arissa said. “Also once that is done, I will show the King how we can
combat the undead army of Giffon‟s.”
         “You figured it out?” Dirk asked, surprised.
         “Yes,” Kurt said, “Now you two go, I will head to Barondom Varkoe and see if I
can track down Jared.”
         “Wait Kurt!” Dirk called, Kurt looked back. “Black dragons kidnapped Hannah
from her campsite east of here, you must find her!”

        Hannah‟s eyes opened. She was alone and in a room seemingly carved out of ice.
There was a single doorway to her left and her things were lying against the wall to her
right. She rose quickly from the blanket she was lying on. The cold had penetrated her
body and she was beginning to go numb. She knew she had to figure out several things:
how to get warm in a hurry, how she got here, and how to get out of here. Her armor and
sword were missing and she now wore the blue dress she had put in her pack.
        Moving quickly, she went to her pack and opened it; her mail armor wasn‟t there
but her heavy cloak was. She withdrew the cloak and put it on. Made of purple material,
it reminded her she was a princess and not supposed to go traipsing about in the wild.
Nevertheless her she was, in a freezing ice cave with no idea where she was. Shouldering
her pack, she heard a small jingle come from it. With a sigh, she took it off again and
searched. At the bottom, she found the dagger that her mother had given her. With a
smile she withdrew it and belted it to her waist. Once again shouldering the pack. she this
time made it through the doorway. Outside was a hallway going both left and right.
Deciding to go right, she set off at a brisk pace. She hadn‟t gone twenty paces when the
hallway went around a corner and abruptly ended.
        Hannah turned and went back the other way, walking quickly. She was passing
twenty paces again when she suddenly realized the doorway to her room had vanished!
Gone without a trace, the wall was now smooth without any indication of the former
doorway. With now a suspicious air about her, Hannah kept walking down the hallway.
After preceding a few dozen paces, Hannah realized the air in the tunnel was filled with
fog up ahead. Not sure why it was there, the princess paused. Knowing there was no
other way to go, she pressed through the fog.
        After nearly one hundred paces, Hannah suddenly ran into a solid ice wall.
Flustered, she felt along the wall to her left and found another hallway running
perpendicular to one she was in. She walked down it, finding the blue light that seemed to
come from everywhere in the caves before was not present. With the light fading, she
began to notice a faint noise on the air. At first it was just a whistle but it steadily
increased to low moan as she moved on. Tiring quickly of the darkness, Hannah reached
into her pack and found her tinderbox and lantern. She struck the rocks and after a minute
managed to light the lantern. It cast a dismal light, less than normal. Now that she could
see again, she saw the there was a more fog here; but it wasn‟t normal white fog, instead
it was a sickly brown. Suddenly the moan on the air picked up as a wind began moving
through the tunnel. The moan quickly changed to a wail and then a steady scream that
seemed to penetrate Hannah‟s soul.
        Terrified now, Hannah began running forward as the scream seemed to come
closer and closer. Suddenly the scream cut off and Hannah froze. A sound more terrible
entered her ears: it was a low hiss that steadily increased in volume. She recognized the
barely audible scrape of scales over rock. She held her lantern in front of her and saw the
ice ended a few inches in front of her and the tunnel became lined with a rough black
rock. Suddenly, two points of light came into view around the corner up ahead and
reflected her lantern.
        She quickly realized the lights were eyes and she put together that with the sounds
she had heard earlier. The eyes were a solid two feet off the ground and ten inches apart.
A forked tongue flicked into view for second; its saliva reflecting the light of her lantern.
Against her will a scream came forth from her and she turned and ran. The giant snake
behind her made no move to increase its speed. It steadily came on after her, flicking its
tongue. Hannah ran for her life, no longer screaming but panting. Suddenly the scream
she had heard earlier started up again, making her heart beat twice as fast. Behind her a
new sound came, the sound of scissors slicing nearer and nearer to her.
        Suddenly she ran right into a wall where there shouldn‟t be one. Dazed for a
moment, she turned to the left and ran again, finding another tunnel that shouldn‟t exist.
The wind in the cave increased, finding a crack in her lantern‟s casing and putting it out.
Now even more scared Hannah continued to run; the scream in the air continuing, the
snake following her, and the scissors slicing closer. She sensed something up ahead and
froze. The sounds were getting louder and louder, penetrating her eardrums and putting
her closer and closer to panic.
        Something materialized out of the darkness in front of her. It was a solid twelve
foot tall, which should have been impossible because the tunnel was only seven feet tall
but Hannah didn‟t notice. With a roar it came at her, Hannah stared with horror at the
beast and then fainted.

         Kurt hadn‟t wasted any time making his way back into Barondom Varkoe. He
crossed the river the day after leaving Dirk and Arissa and then turned a bit northward to
make for Castle Varkoe. The days now no longer differed much from the night, making
his travel difficult. The cloud that had come from the south now stretched from the Black
Mountains to the white, from the Eastern Sea to the Western woods. Hundreds of feet
thick, the black cloud fully covered the Kingdom of Freleka.
         While Kurt was powerful indeed, he did not have the power to alter the weather,
so he continued on in the darkness. His four-day journey brought him near Castle Varkoe.
Along the way he began to doubt his purpose for this. Why not leave all these troubles
behind, for the Kingdom of Jornia was said not to have been affected by the cloud. His
friends had deserted him, why not with his power go and make a new life somewhere
else.
         When he left a small forest and crested a small hill to come into view of Castle
Varkoe, all courage left him. Arrayed around the castle were hundreds of thousands of
undead troops. Elf, human, dragon, and horses were all camped silently. Lastly however,
was a race Kurt had never seen. Hundreds of undead dwarves, who had been annihilated
long ago, were mixed into the army. He realized just how far back Giffon had been
causing death. All that Giffon killed or even had any hand in causing their death, he could
bring back to life to serve him. Kurt had been told Giffon had been around for ever so
many years, stretching back farther than any other living being. Kurt had never quite
grasped that fully until now. He was thankful only one Knight of the Dragon had fallen
by Giffon‟s hand, or Giffon‟s army‟s power would be greatly increased.
         Suddenly Kurt saw a great wall of fire come blasting around the far side of the
castle. Out of it flew a deep green dragon, with a single undead knight on top. Chasing
him was nearly one hundred undead dragons, blasting fire that stopped dead inches short
of his tail. Darrok flew straight for Kurt, with Sir Eric launching arrows behind them.
Darrok did not stop and exchange pleasantries. Instead, Darrok snatched Kurt up in his
claws and flew on, beating the air with his wings for all he was worth.
         The green dragon tossed Kurt onto his back, where Sir Eric caught his hand and
kept him from falling off. For two hours they flew, the undead dragons falling steadily
behind and one by one breaking off the chase until at last the threesome was free. Only
then did Darrok head for the ground to rest. He hit the ground hard, his energy depleted.
The two knights tumbled off and rolled in the grass for a moment before coming to a
stop. None of the three had spoken since the beginning of the escape, only now did Sir
Eric begin to speak.
        Sir Eric began by saying that he had discovered Giffon had already left his former
Barondom. Where he had gone Sir Eric did not know but the most likely place would be
his former holdings in the Black Mountains. He had also discovered several things that
were most interesting. The first was that Giffon had been killed not once, but five times.
Contrary to popular knowledge, the first five Knights of the Dragon had indeed killed
Giffon. His necromancy though each time had been able to reanimate his carcass. Each
time he did so, he was weakened, making it a cycle that he would not be able to carry on
many more times. Another thing he had discovered was the actual identity of his
apprentice who had followed him to the grave and back to life throughout the years. He
was indeed Giffon‟s younger brother.
        Far more important was the next piece of information. Giffon, taking his brother
with him through battles, dark magic, and death, had bonded their life forces together. If
Giffon‟s brother were to be killed, it would severely weaken Giffon in every way except
for physical strength. Next he said the undead army surrounding the now empty Castle
Varkoe had given orders to strike Castle Freka before the end of the month, which was
less than three weeks away. Lastly he said Giffon‟s dominion spells had been spreading,
infecting not only legendary monsters but also perhaps the men on the side of Kurt.
        At that Kurt said it had indeed infected the upper leadership of Freleka but he had
sent Arissa to deal with it. Sir Eric considered this and said that she was quite capable of
taking care of the problem. Worse though was the problem of actually defeating Giffon‟s
undead army. While he, Sir Eric, could fight them on an even footing, he new of no
weapon that had survived to modern times that could so much as put a dent in them. Kurt
quickly spoke of the solution that Arissa and he had found. Sir Eric was much pleased at
this but posed a question that foolishly hadn‟t occurred to Kurt: how could all the
common soldiers call forth fire or ice on their blade?
        Darrok had been silent throughout the conversation but now he spoke up. He said
that a master of magic could teach the soldiers the spell; it wasn‟t that hard to call forth. It
was indeed one of the first spells Kurt had learned. Kurt said he could return to the castle,
as Arissa had probably undone the spell from the King. He could there speak to the men
and teach them.
        Sir Eric opened his mouth to speak when he noticed a faint wisp of smoke rising
from Kurt‟s armor. Kurt felt the heat as well and since his armor usually only heated
when there was danger nearby, he yanked forth his sword and summoned the fire to his
blade. Darrok launched himself into the air and spiraled upward, searching the ground
and skies for enemies. He spied an undead dragon flying towards them and launched
forth a torrent of flames. The dragon, instead of returning fire dove out of the way and
drifted towards the ground. Unlike wood fire or even magic fire, dragon fire would harm
undead ones, so dragons could fight the undead. Kurt was about to run and attack when
he saw the look on his father‟s face.
        The dragon landed and began speaking, “It has been a long time my old friend.”
        Sir Eric looked like he was lost in a dream, “Falcor? I thought you were long
dead…”
        Falcor laughed, “You have little room to say something such as that my friend.
Giffon tried to summon me back but I escaped his grasp and have been searching for you
for quite some time. But who is this one who wears your armor and why do you keep
company with this dragon of the Shadow Alliance?”
        Darrok bristled but Sir Eric motioned him to keep silent, “This is the seventh
Knight of the Dragon and also my son, Sir Kurt Karcelow. As for Darrok, he has mended
his ways and is now an ally of mine and Kurt‟s.”
        “I see,” Falcor replied, “And what of the one I left behind, what has become of
Faladron?”
        Darrok spoke now, “Faladron has fallen to the black scales.”
        Falcor exhaled and his whole body seemed to deflate, “It is as I feared, I knew
Giffon would seek revenge for my escape. However I did not think he could truly bring a
free dragon into the Shadow Alliance without their permission.” The foursome was silent
for a minute. “Come Eric, we must go and dispose of Giffon‟s brother. As for you two,”
he said, turning to Kurt and Darrok, “The people of Freleka need you now more than
ever. Fly now to the village east of here. It is a small place of fishing and farming on the
coast, where people live untainted by the evil of our day, save for the cloud above.
Threatening their lives are servants of Giffon. Defend the people there until the danger is
passed. Eric will contact you when he we have learned of Giffon‟s whereabouts. Go!”

         Ice. Above, below, and all around her. She was freezing to death but Hannah did
not want to awaken again and warm up. Every time she had done so, she had come to
face to face with horrors from all the nightmares of her life. She was not entirely sure the
whole thing wasn‟t just another nightmare, because nothing seemed to stay solid in
reality. What kept driving its icy point home was the cold and she knew she had to get up
and move around to keep from freezing.
         Throwing her blanket off she stood and stretched. Each time she awoke and went
out she would faint from terror somewhere in the dark tunnels outside. Each time she
would find herself with a blanket under and over her back inside the little room. This
time though she was determined not to leave the room. Whatever was out there didn‟t
seem to happen until she left and it only got worse the farther she went.
         Three hours of waiting finally produced the faint moan of wind through the tunnel
outside. Tired of sitting still, Hannah rose and exited the chamber leaving behind her
blanket. As usual when she went the left, the hallway of ice would end around the corner.
The only thing she did not understand was why the wall was different distances from the
corner each time. How many times had she awoken and eventually fainted now? Eleven
or twelve, she mused. This time she walked around the corner and to her shock the
hallway did not end but extended on into darkness. Pulling her lantern out, Hannah lit it
and began walking, dagger at the ready.

        Dirk and Arissa‟s return caused little commotion at the castle. The King and his
nobles were engaged in training themselves and the army. Much as Dirk and Arissa hated
to say it, all the training was going to be in vain if they couldn‟t combat the enemy.
Arissa moved towards breaking the dominion spell quickly but she realized someone was
working against her, making it near impossible. The one who was now manipulating the
spell would have to be destroyed before she could lift the cloud from the King‟s mind.
Seeing as how that work was futile for the moment, Arissa instead went with Dirk to the
King to tell him of how the undead enemy could be fought and destoyed.
         Pascarra was a sleepy farming and fishing village just like Falcor had described.
When Kurt and Darrok arrived they caused quite a stir, for visitors of high stature had
never come to their humble village before. Darrok rested in the village square while Kurt
went to the only inn in the village to learn of the goings on of late. Within minutes after
his arrival, a sailor was brought before him. From the way the men hustled the sailor in,
Kurt thought maybe he would have to pass judgment for some crime. Such was not the
case; instead he saw that they carried him in because he was overcome with terror.
Wondering, he asked how long the sailor had been like that. The men told Kurt he had
been stiff with fright ever since he had washed up on shore nearly three weeks before. He
had barely eaten or slept since then, so his face was drawn and pale.
         Kurt motioned for the men to sit the sailor down and they did so. Kurt asked him
what he was afraid of. The sailor shook his head as if spilling the secret might cost him
his life. Kurt asked him again, a bit more forcefully. The sailor shook his head again; his
body was trembling now. Kurt pulled out his dagger and ignited the poisoned blade. He
lowered it but kept it in the sailor‟s vision. Feeling this sailor was vital to the mission
Falcor had sent them for, Kurt narrowed his eyes and asked the sailor again what he was
afraid of.
         Seeing the deadly look in Kurt‟s face, the sailor began speaking. “We set out from
Cho over a month ago; the winds were against our fleet, so we made slow progress with
the oars. We were bound for the mouth of the Ellsia River, where we would then unload
our oxen the use them to pull us upstream. We were going to split the fleet, half guarding
the Southern Bridge, the other guarding the Northern Fords.
         “We were to keep Sardon‟s army from ever crossing again, thereby keeping him
in Eastern Freleka for the time being.” Kurt realized this could be all that was left of the
river fleet Cho had promised to send. The sailor haltingly continued, “We were a week
out when we where hit by a terrible storm. We were far enough out that we avoided the
coastal rocks and only two ships were lost to the waves. We took some damage, nothing
we couldn‟t fix. Pressing on, we neared the mouth of the river when…” He paused, terror
clouding his face again.
         “Who?” Kurt pressed, “Who appeared? Another fleet, dragons, sharks?”
         The sailor gave a small laugh, “They are like nothing you have ever seen. They
are like men, but they can live under the waves as easily as in the air on the surface. They
must have stood a hundred feet tall. When they rose from the waves it was like great
columns of water were blasting into the air. They created great waves whey they stood,
and then they attacked!”
         “I don‟t understand,” Kurt said, “Giants?”
         “Not quite,” The sailor said, breathing shallowly, “They are the Titans of the
deep.”
         The whole room shuddered at this. Kurt had heard the name Titans before, but he
couldn‟t place where. He looked searchingly around the room at the other men. One
spoke, “You must understand, the Titans are a force that has not been spoken of in the
light of day for many a year. Even since the great Elf wars of old, they have not been
seen and most of us had begun to believe they were just a myth. I guess now they are
coming again to reclaim their lordship of the sea.”
         Suddenly another sailor burst into the room, “Harbormaster!” A man looked over
quickly and Kurt assumed he was the Harbormaster. “Yes?” “There are great waves
crashing against the docks, but while the great cloud is present there is not a breath of
wind!”
        The Cho sailor started to shake, “They are coming for me!” Kurt wasted no time
but sheathed his dagger and yanked forth his sword. He followed the men running out
towards the harbor but froze in his steps when he saw them. The water was heaving
upward in a dozen places, as if great hands were pushing up from the sea. The water
slowly crashed back down to reveal the gigantic Titans wading to shore.
                                               Part Four
        The generals of the Varkoe army were open to any means to fight their new
enemy, so it took Dirk and Arissa only minutes to convince them to have their men learn
blade fire spells. With several hours still left in the day, the two generals agreed to have
the men learn before dusk came. Leading the duo out of their command tent, one of the
generals ordered the army to assemble. The lieutenants ran out shouting out the order and
within minutes the army was assembled into more or less straight lines facing a small
platform that Arissa was to speak from.
        It was fairly popular belief that only men and not women could proficiently cast
magic. Rather than try to combat that belief in the army, Arissa asked the general to
introduce her as an Elf who would teach them how to combat the undead. That took the
general off guard, for he had not suspected she was an Elf. No Elf had knowingly
declared themselves for hundreds of years in Freleka. Nevertheless he went ahead and did
it. The men focused their attention a bit better when they found out they were going to
learn a spell from a real Elf.
        “Greetings soldiers, during recent combat with undead warriors raised up by our
enemy,” Arissa began, the soldiers shifted at the mention of Giffon but kept focused, “I
and a good friend of mine discovered a way to effectively combat these enemies just as if
they were still living and breathing. The answer was surprisingly simple; all you need is
elementally enhanced metal weapons. The easiest way is to summon a fire on your sword
or arrowheads. This is far easier than many assume, for magic is a simple matter to use
despite many stories telling otherwise. Simply begin your sentence with Magic‟s original
name and then say in whatever language you choose what you want magic to do for you.
Let me demonstrate.” She pulled her sword from its invisible sheath and spoke loudly.
“Magricko, let my blade burn with fire!” The blade immediately burst into torch-like
flames. “Simply speak those words or ones to similar effect while touching and
concentrating on the object of your spell. You will then be able to summon and
extinguish the fire at will with just a thought. I will be touring the camp if further
instruction you require.” With that Arissa strode from the platform with an uncertain Dirk
in tow. As they walked back towards the general‟s tent fires began to spring up
throughout the army on the blades of the soldiers.
        Inside Arissa sat down on a chair heavily. Dirk wondered at that, for she had just
had a great success. He asked her what was wrong. She looked at him and said the world
was in trouble. Giffon‟s power was growing and all four of the men she was connected to
were undergoing trials that would soon be beyond their strength.
        A bit taken aback, Dirk asked who these men were she was supposedly connected
too. She said the first was Jared, his life force was diminished for having died but it was
not lost due to Giffon‟s necromancy. He was soon to be sent to complete a mission that if
he succeeded he would regain his life. Dirk asked why that was so bad, Arissa said
because if that happened, then the doom of this age would come upon them. If he failed
then he would be cursed to roam the earth as a spirit until the end of time. There was no
middle road in sight for him. Dirk sat down too.
        The next was Sir Eric, who had rescued her from the clutches of Giffon years ago
and was now going to pay the ransom. His time in life was over, yet he still had several
quests to complete before he could leave this realm. Having no constantly growing life
force to draw upon anymore, he would have to draw it from other life, causing death that
could be catastrophic but must be taken before he could finish his original quest. Despite
Dirk‟s probing she did not say what that was.
        The next was Kurt; he had also rescued her from Giffon‟s clutches but in a
different way so the price he would pay for that would be different. His price would be
one of two things; both would devastate the world around him. He would also face a
choice, one that could complete the missions of many, but also take away the life of
several. Not only would that happen, but also he must face the monsters and spells of
Giffon alone, not even his newfound dragon friend could help him. He must also kill ones
that were dear to him if he was to survive. The trials he would face would be more
terrible than any else in this age had ever heard of.
        Dirk asked who the fourth man she was connected too was. She looked at him
with tears in her eyes and said it was him. And not only was it he but also his trials
approached the door even as they spoke. He also must face his trials alone, for if he was
to become King of Freleka one day, he must first prove he was able.

          The icy cold was steadily penetrating Hannah‟s body. Despite her best attempts
to keep herself covered over with her cloak she was getting colder and colder. Walking
did little to warm her either. So far none of the nightmarish horrors of the past few days,
or weeks, had haunted the tunnels she was in now. It was deathly silent, with only the
occasional whisper of wind to remind her that her hearing and sense of touch still
worked. Save for her lantern there had not been a hint of light in the tunnels since leaving
her icy chamber.
         Finally she came to something that brought her mind back to complete sanity. It
was a very simple thing yet it reconnected her to the real world outside this cave of
horrors. It was a wooden door, chained and locked with a key lock. She looked around
the edges, but the hinges were on the other side. At a loss on how to open it, she sat down
on the cold rock, nearly dropping her lantern and causing the flame to flare for a second.
         Before she could dismiss the idea she smashed her lantern against the door,
breaking it apart and spilling the oil all over the door. The flame from the wick caught the
door and it slowly began to burn. With the flames spreading out Hannah had begun to
burn her way to freedom.
         It took much longer than she had anticipated for the door to burn through, nearly a
full hour. During that time however the flames had heated the tunnel, driving away the
cold and darkness that had surrounded her for so long. Finally the flames had fallen down
to embers burning what little wood was left. Passing through Hannah saw the door led
into a small bare room, one with stairs that led to freedom.

       Ill thought words at ill times are and ill thing indeed. The sailor standing next to
Kurt didn‟t boost Kurt‟s confidence at all by reminding him that his fire was probably
going to be next to useless against the Titans. The massive Titans coming up from the sea
took no notice of the ships and docks as they waded onto dry land. They didn‟t notice the
buildings in their way except when they stepped on and crushed them flat.
         Kurt had never seen anything that looked like these monsters of the sea. They
were incredibly tall and vaguely resembled giants but were covered over with bluish-
green leather-like scales. Their heads looked like nothing Kurt had ever heard of before;
deep green with a faint trace of red eyes and terrible jaws that jutted out. Their hands
were like great claws made to pick up small ships and crush them. Great spines trailed
down from their necks down to their short stubby tails. Their feet were webbed and with
many toes and sharp claws.
         The people of the village were scattering, even the sailors who wielded cutlasses
minutes before had hidden themselves wherever they could. As the Titans walked they
looked around and it quickly became clear what they looking for. Anyone who made a
sound or had not hidden themselves was promptly smashed flat. The terror that had
gripped Kurt a minute before vanished; it was replaced by a rage against these beasts.
         The time of these things‟s rule of the sea needed to end. Kurt sheathed his sword
and drew his bow, reaching for his poisoned arrows. It occurred to him that every time he
met an enemy he would draw his sword and more often than not he would swap it out for
his bow after minute. He pushed the thought away for later examination.
         Darrok had been awoken by the screams of the people and had taken to the skies.
He first climbed high and then swooped back down and blasted fire into the face of the
first Titan. The beast began to steam but took little notice as he kept marching towards
Kurt who stood defiantly in his path. Undeterred, Darrok swept down and lashed his tail
across the Titan‟s cheek. It let out roar of pain and swung for the dragon but it darted
away into the sky.
         Kurt loosed his arrow and it flew straight and true straight towards the Titan‟s
heart. It hit and bounced off. Kurt was shocked for a moment, he had had never seen
anything able to withstand his dragon metal. His bow, sword and dagger were not alone
in his arsenal. With that knowledge Kurt slung his bow and removed his gauntlets.
         Kurt began to gather magical energy, bring it in and forming a ball of fire in front
of him. Larger and larger it grew, miniature lightning streaking around it. The dark
clouds above began to move as the sphere of fire grew as tall as a man. The clouds
circled into tornadic frenzy as Kurt‟s sphere grew larger and larger. He was creating a
powerful lightning and fire blast spell that he had only cast once before.

         Kurt remembered back to his training more than a year before.
         “There are some enemies out there who will be able to withstand every physical
weapon you throw at them.” One of the Dragon Trainers was saying. “Even the weapons
of the old knights were useless against them. Large they stand under the unsuspecting
feet of sailors.”
         “Who are they?” Kurt asked, perplexed.
         “That knowledge you need not yet. Powerful they were, yet there is a way to
defeat them if you are not of greater stature than a man or…someone of similar stature.
There is a powerful spell that infuses the power wind, lightning, fire and magical blasts
to burn away your enemies. Beware, this spell can consume a part of you when cast
because its extreme power. Since we are here the first time you cast it we will not let it be
so. Woe to you if you cast it unprepared in the future!”

         The energy rushing into him and then onto the sphere was draining Kurt‟s
strength. He had not tried a spell this large or terrible since his training. Back then the
dragon trainers had been standing safely next to him, ready to stop the spell or catch him
if something went wrong. Now there was no one. Darrok flew away from the village to
avoid the now terrible swirling wind that was forming into a cylinder of energy coming
down from the cloud to meet the sphere of fire growing in front of Kurt.
         The Titans hesitated at the fire and lightning, elements they did not control.
Water, winds and waves they could handle but Kurt represented elements alien to them.
The buildings around Kurt were beginning to sway as he continued to pour power into his
spell. The people of Pascarra were no longer hiding from the Titans, they were running
for all they were worth to escape the terrible wrath of Kurt‟s spell.
         All the months he had spent in this war against Sardon and now Giffon were
coming to a terrible climax at this moment. All Kurt‟s anger, frustration and sorrow were
poured into this terrible spell that the dragon trainers had warned him about. They said it
could destroy almost any enemy but it could also consume the caster in a way he would
not understand. Kurt heeded not that warning as he the last chance to call off the spell
flew away. He released the spell and it split into a dozen smaller spheres that each shot
towards a Titan. The tornado that was forming above split into twelve points that
followed the fireballs, lightning blasting down from the clouds as they went. Amidst his
quickly conjured storm Kurt stood rock still, the winds passing him by and the lightning
unheeding of him.
         The fireballs smashed into the Titans, who staggered at a force that was far
beyond what they expected. They were not magical creatures per say, and thus had no
natural defense against it. The magic fire tore across their scales causing them more pain
than they had ever encountered. Some stumbled, some fell but all made their way back
towards the sea as fast as the swirling wind would allow. When the last of the twelve
heads sunk beneath the harbor waves the winds ceased. The great cloud above followed
suit and returned to its normal calm and somber self.
         Looking around, Kurt realized just how much damage he had done. Most of the
buildings in the village had been flattened, all the ships in the harbor were wrecked and
fires were burning all over the place. Darrok flew back down once the winds allowed and
landed next to Kurt. He stared at Kurt for a minute. Kurt followed his gaze downward
and realized the dragon trainer‟s warning had substance after all. His armor was now
blackened and only a faint trace of red could now be found. Although he could never
light his armor on command, he knew its fire had left him. All the magic feeling that had
been there before was gone. He touched his bow and knew all the magic also had left it.
The spell had drained him in a terrible way. The trials Arissa predicted had begun.

        Ice had passed over to fire. Ascending the steps Hannah had passed through
another door at the top. Closing the door she had glanced back at it and it vanished into a
bare black rock wall. Heat began to fill the tunnel then. Passing from one stage of this
terrible maze to another it seemed would not yield any improvement. The lack of a
lantern made Hannah stumble as she probed her way down what she assumed to be a
hallway carved by magic through rock.
        She was right in one respect; the tunnel was indeed carved through the rock but
by a force even more powerful than magic. The fire of the earth itself had carved this
rock. Lava from the core of the world had come up from below to burn its way through
what most assumed was impenetrable rock. The meddling of Giffon had stirred what had
been asleep for thousands of years. The volcano had awoken and Hannah was deep inside
its heart.
        A rumble shook the ground and Hannah fell to the ground. Feeling it she realized
it was not rough but smooth. She knew not even magic could carve a tunnel so perfectly.
A light behind her startled the princess. She spun around to see a glow coming the far end
of the tunnel. It was the orange glow of fire but it did not waver and flicker like fire. It
brightened and an image she had never beheld ere that time came into sight. Liquid rock
rolled in a steady stream around a bend far down the tunnel. It came faster than a walking
person and would soon overtake her where she lay.
        Hannah rightly ran from that sight more terrible than many others in the world
had ever beheld. She ran, stumbling but springing up again instantly, knowing she would
be killed if she stayed. She ran down the tunnel for many minutes before it abruptly came
into a giant dome-like room. The lava behind her relentlessly continued, heating the
tunnel and driving her to panic. More than two-dozen tunnels came into this room and
none looked any better than any other. Picking one ahead and slightly to the right she ran
on.
        Hannah‟s strength was ebbing, the lava behind was delayed as it filled the room
and split off into the many tunnels. Eventually it found its way into Hannah‟s tunnel,
where she had fallen to the ground, able to run no more. Suddenly a cloud filled her mind
and she began to swoon. As she fell back she saw a man walking towards her arrayed in
dragon armor. His face was hidden under a hood but offered his hand. As the sudden
magic sleep overcame her she whispered, “Kurt?”

         The figure picked up the now unconscious princess and walked quickly to the
wall, where he put out his hand and it parted to reveal a stairway. He walked up the stairs
as the wall closed behind him, sealing off the lava for a time. He reached the top of the
stairs to come into a cold room. Sitting in the middle was a large black dragon, watching
and waiting.
         Jared set Hannah down at Giffon‟s feet and threw back his hood. His hazy purple
undead face stared with defiance at the master of magic before him. “Well done my
servant.” Giffon said.
         “Don‟t call me that, you slime!” Jared spat back. “Just because you own my soul
and I must obey you doesn‟t make me your servant!”
         “Oh?” Giffon replied with a bit of sarcasm. “Well then, feel free to leave my
command, if you can.” Jared stood sullenly without reply. “Don‟t look at me like that,
young elf. If you‟re not careful you will end up just like me, casting spells on yourself
that cannot be undone. I was in a position similar to you once you know.”
         “I know full well.” Jared replied quickly.
         Giffon nodded, “Perhaps, perhaps not. Let me tell you a condensed version. It was
nigh on two thousand years ago now. My scales were deep brown then and the love of
my life was a beautiful scarlet dragon princess. I attempted to woo her and she came to
love me too. Her father was the ruler of the Ancient Dragon Alliance, the one formed
partly to expel your kind from the great continent. He would not have us bonded for I was
only a lowly border guard. Instead he promised her to one of the upper dragon nobles, a
fine male in his own way but he was taking my bride. You may be wondering so I will
answer before you ask. Yes, our kingship and nobility and courts and all that back then is
very similar to the way the noble men of Freleka behave and exist at the castle today.
         “But back to my story, I pleaded with her father at first but he would not listen.
As time went on her love for me was lost and she came to love the one she was promised
to. Alas for me that I did not forget it and go on to more important things, the world
might be a much better place because of it. I went with my brother to an Elven mage to
learn how to cast a spell to get her back. When that failed, I began to learn all of magic I
could from the mage. Woe to the world today for the fell choices I made then. Elf slayers
killed my love not long after. Her death drove the alliance to the great purge when they
banished all elves from the land.
         “It also drove me mad. I cast spells on myself that I should not have. One made
me have an insatiable thirst for revenge, which ended up splitting the alliance into the
halves we have to today. The next turned my scales black. The next gave me a want for
power like the dragon king of old had who withheld my love from me. The last…the last
destroyed my inability to cast all but basic magic. That spell alone has come to account
for thousands of deaths. None of these spells can be uncast and only a master of magic
more powerful than any living today could counter them. That is why I know I am a slave
to my own magic, always gathering more and more servants and power until there is none
left. I have managed to live through countless enemies, the most formidable being the
Knights of the Dragon. Although each was created for some other purpose, all save one
ended up killing me.
         “My necromancy brought me and my brother through death, destruction and old
age. I kept him with me all this time, without him I would have gone completely mad. I
still remember my mistakes and what I could have been. But most of the time I am lost to
the side of me that I foolishly created with my own spells. Go now and carry out the
mission I assigned to you.”
         “My succeeding in doing so will cause you to dominate all life in this world.”
Jared said angrily as he turned to leave.
         “All the better,” Giffon mused, “Maybe then I will be able to find someway to
escape.”

        Arissa‟s eyes seemed to become unfocused for a moment and then she looked
back at Dirk. She said although his trial was about to begin, Kurt and Jared‟s had already
begun. Both were being lost to the shadow of evil and neither knew it.
        Dirk was tired of her morbid prophecies so he got up and stepped through the tent
door. His father and a company of Frelekan Knights who were standing with swords at
the ready met him. King Karl ordered him to step aside so they might kill the evil one
inside the tent. Dirk knew he could not, for they were going to kill Arissa. Giffon‟s spell
was growing more powerful indeed if it could influence the King to such lengths.
        Dirk took a deep breath and drew his sword. Remembering Arissa‟s words he
called forth a fire on his blade. Nothing came, undaunted he thought it again. This time
the flame caught and his blade began to burn like a torch. He said that they could not kill
the one inside, for she had come under the protection of Sir Dirk, Prince of Freleka. His
father considered this for a moment and then ordered his knights to stand down. He
stepped forward and asked why Dirk associated with this enemy of theirs. He replied
sayiung she was not an enemy of Freleka but an enemy of the spell within Karl.
        The King wasted no more time but brought up his sword to strike Dirk down, the
spell now in complete control. Suddenly he froze and Dirk glanced back to see Arissa
holding out her hand. She waved it again in a strange fashion and the King‟s eyes seemed
to clear. He looked at Dirk as if he had just awoken from a dream. He said a cloud had
been before his eyes, glancing at Arissa he inclined his head and said she was welcome
again in his court. The King turned and walked back towards the castle with his
bewildered knights in tow.
        Dirk looked at Arissa with questioning his eyes. She said Giffon had made a
mistake coming on so strong to the King and she had been able to break the spell when it
finally fully exposed itself. She then looked at Dirk and said he must go and gather men
loyal to him; ones who would not fall away even in the face of death most horrible. He
nodded and started walking towards the castle.
        Arissa watched him go until he was out of sight. She then turned and walked
quickly to the tent given to her by the Varkoe generals. She retrieved her things from it
and dismissed the guard as she walked out. Making her way out of the camp she turned
west and headed for the Frekan woods east of the castle. She was seeking someone who
she hoped had survived in some way, for he was the only one who could unlock the spell
she needed.

         Sir Eric and Falcor had flown south to an area that had long been left alone by
many. The Black Mountains were black in more ways than color. Infested with black
dragons who awaited their master‟s call and throughout the air black magic ran constant,
tainting the hearts of all who went there. Deep in the range of mountains the knight and
dragon rested, tired from days of traveling and needing their strength for the coming
battles.
         They had attacked, captured and questioned a Shadow Alliance border guard at
the northern edge of the mountains. He had told them two things before he tried to escape
and was subsequently killed. The first, more important than the other, was the location of
Giffon‟s brother. He was coordinating the movement of all the black dragons still in the
south from a peak in the southern range. The other piece was inconsequential but still
interesting. It was their target‟s name, Harkan.
         Arissa had been right, because Sir Eric and Falcor were not living anymore; they
had no life force to draw upon. Therefore they were forced to draw it from others. In their
current situation it was simple who to draw it from, the black dragons who infested the
area around them. Their stopping to rest would be pointless if they did not regain strength
somehow. Both of them together drew upon all the life force of one black dragon to the
east. He died within seconds without ever having a chance. Minutes later Sir Eric
mounted and the two flew south in search of Harkan.
         The work of dark magic had already begun in the hearts of the older dragon duo.
         Kurt and Darrok were on a similar mission, only many miles away to the
northeast. They were flying north to Cho on a mission to liberate it from those whom
Giffon still had garrisoned there. The sight that greeted them there was not what they
expected. They had thought most of the city would still be intact with a portions of its
walls still standing and a few ships in the harbor. Such was not the case.
         The walls were destroyed by looked like lightning blasts. The houses had been
burned. The ships were sunk as far as the depth of the harbor allowed and the city was
bereft of living beings. They flew over the city and the stench of death reached them.
Flying down a sight greeted them that would remain in Kurt‟s memory until his death.
The bodies of civilian and soldier, Cho and Varkoe, man, woman and child alike had
been either smashed or torn apart or blasted by lightning. All over the city the tale was
the same.
         Kurt knew it was not normal beasts or men or even magicians alone who had
done all this. The footprints of the ones who had crushed the people were gigantic,
showing the Titans had come there before Pascarra. The ones who were torn apart had
been done unto by the one and only beast that hungered so for human flesh: Trolls. And
lastly the ones who had been struck by lightning, it was no ordinary lightning that had
done it. Giffon had worked the weather and apparently destroyed the city with fire and
lightning after his Titans and Trolls were through it.
         Kurt and Darrok stayed in the city for several hours, searching for anyone living.
None had survived. After using his fire to burn the bodies so they would not stay to rot
Kurt mounted Darrok and the two flew northwestward out of the city. They spotted a
small camp a few miles out and flew down to it. Inside were the ones who had escaped
the city before the holocaust. Less than two hundred were there, the price Cho paid had
been dear indeed. That alone opened Kurt more to the work of evil as his anger built
larger against Giffon.
         The survivors told Kurt of terrible giants from the sea, cold bodied trolls with
snow on their bodies and of lightning that struck only people or in places that would
cause building to collapse. They said it had been more horrible than anything that had
ever seen. The anger was brewing inside Kurt more as they talked, it was gathering more
and more rage towards Giffon; the one who had captured the lady of his heart and was
now destroying his homeland.
         Lastly the survivors told of three men who would throw fire from their hands,
destroying everything in sight. Kurt knew them to be the mages who had taken Cho in the
first place. Thanking the survivors Kurt mounted his dragon and the two flew north
following the survivor‟s report of the trolls heading north again.
         During the flight the two were silent until at last Darrok spoke. He asked Kurt to
recite the code of the Dragon Knights. Kurt was silent for a minute as he attempted to
dredge it up from his memory. Dark magic had done its work well, blocking off the code
that was vital to this Knight of the Dragon. Darrok said something under his breath and
promptly dove to the ground.
         Kurt grabbed one of Darrok‟s spines and barely avoided being thrown off from
Darrok‟s sudden change of direction. He landed and did a quick twist that threw Kurt
free. Kurt was up in a moment with a blazing sword ready for revenge against this
unprecedented act. Darrok made no move to defend himself and Kurt stopped cold. He
realized what Darrok was doing and the dark magic working on Kurt‟s mind was
consequently shoved away.
        Darrok said he could no longer ride with Kurt if his heart continued to open itself
to black magic. He had already left the Shadow Alliance once and would not be drawn
back into Giffon‟s clutches. Kurt stood in silence for a moment, still holding his burning
sword. Finally his sword point fell to the ground and the fire extinguished. With his mind
cleared he now remembered his father‟s instructions back a Castle Freka, appointing him
to another task. This task would also bring him closer to having Hannah but he put that
out of his mind quickly. He looked up and said they must abandon the chase of the trolls
and look for Jared. Darrok nodded and allowed Kurt to remount and the two flew
northwest. Neither of them knew why they went that way but it seemed the best way to
go. The duo took not notice but all Kurt‟s armor, covered over by his cloak, was turning
from a darkened red to a deep black.

         Prince Dirk Freka had summoned together his cousins and close friends. He was
following Arissa‟s instructions and was forming a company of knights he knew would
not fall away even in the face of a death most terrible. Dirk was still wondering if the
trials Arissa had predicted had already passed for him. He doubted that was so. When he
returned to Arissa‟s tent she was gone. The guards said they had seen her walking west.
Dirk knew she had left the Castle area so he was now without the help of his magically
inclined friends.
         Just then a trumpet rang out from the upper ramparts of the castle. It was the
sound of enemy sighted and it called for all men to ready for battle. Dirk wasted no time
waiting but ran with all speed back to the castle. There he called together his hastily
formed company and with them armed, mounted, and sallied forth.
         They rode to the eastern edge of the encampment and saw their enemy forming in
front of them. Seemingly out of thin air undead soldiers were appearing and forming into
lines for battle. Dropping out of the clouds were dragons that lacked life and whose scales
were a ghastly dark and slightly transparent purple. Scattered amongst the companies of
men were groups of soldiers who were short and appeared to be children. Dirk realized
with a start that these were dwarves. Aside from the dragon four he was the first to know
what race he was seeing.
         Long extinct these dwarven troops came from wars long ended many years
before. Stretching back to the earliest history books were the only mentions of dwarves.
Close to fifteen hundred years had passed since men had seen a dwarf. Despite their small
stature the history books told the dwarves to be fearsome fighters. Surprisingly they
supposedly did well against horses, able to get underneath and hack their legs away with
axes.
         All this passed through Dirk‟s mind over a few seconds as the living troops under
the Frelekan formed their own lines in defiance against Giffon‟s undead army. All around
him fires were breaking out, some came from magic some were swords or arrows dipped
in pitch and then lit. All this Arissa had said would be deadly against undead enemies
while normal metal would pass through without harm. Dirk lit his own blade with the
spell and his knights did the same. Without waiting for orders from above Dirk raised his
blade and cried out to charge. The battle for Freleka had begun.
         A circle of eight black dragons surrounded one in the middle who sat with eyes
closed and seemed to concentrate very hard on something. At last he opened his eyes and
said his spells could do no more to stop the two coming and that they must fight this duo
if the plan was to continue.
         Sir Eric and Falcor had become much tainted both in heart and scale as they had
journeyed deeper and deeper into the black mountains in search of Harkan. Harkan
himself had woven spells of doubt and foundless malice into their hearts and minds as
much as he could in an effort to stop the undead duo without resorting to actual combat.
He had succeeded in weakening them both but he now had to defend himself with claw
and fire.
         While brother to Giffon and much learned in his brother‟s powerful magic arts he
could not compare in true power. Sir Eric knew this and that was why he thought he
could possibly defeat this fully dark hearted dragon. If the stories were true than Giffon
was a slave to magic while Harkan himself had fully put himself over and had no hope of
coming back to the light. This made Harkan both weaker and stronger than his brother.
Weaker because he was blinded and did not have as much power as his sibling, but
stronger because he had a slightly more complete control over the black magic he used.
         Sir Eric and Falcor on the other hand had power of their own. Sir Eric‟s old
magic, while weakened due to death was still a considerable foe. Falcor had always been
an incredible fighter with fire and claws and was a legend throughout many lands for his
single-handed defeat of two armies at Narkaya.
         The nine black dragons were situated in the middle of an inverted cone that fell
down between four mountains tops. Sir Eric and Falcor came between the two northern
ones and dove down to meet the black dragons that were taking to the skies. Sir Eric
threw up a fire shield just in time to meet the storm of flames that came at them. Falcor
dove down and crashed the ground. Having evaded the nine for a moment he flamed the
ground and caused everything there to ignite. With a short lived smoke screen Sir Eric
dismounted and pulled out his two throwing knives.
         Falcor climbed back into the sky and engaged five of the dragons while the other
four dropped and landed around Sir Eric. Before they could realize his intent he threw his
two knives tipped with a deadly poison from the king‟s own herbalists. They flew straight
and true and impacted on two of the dragons. They convulsed and crashed to the ground,
the fast acting poison taking it‟s toll. With now only two dragons to deal with Sir Eric
charged one attacked with his sword.
         Ten furious minutes later eight dragons lay dead. Sir Eric and Falcor stood amidst
their bodies and faced Harkan. He wasted no more time with fire but instead drew back
and began gathering the cloud above into a lightning storm. Within seconds, before the
duo could react, twin bolts of lightning came crashing to the valley.

       Kurt and Darrok had flown many miles and reached the base of the White
Mountains before stopping to rest. Both were tired and fell asleep immediately. Two
beings converged on their camp a short while past the second hour. One came from the
north covered in a black cloak and the other from the south covered in black scales.
       Darrok sensed the approach of a black dragon and snapped awake. His growling
aroused Kurt. Remembering his thought during the Titan battle he grasped his bow and
pulled four arrows from his quiver. His mail jingled as he got quickly to his feet. Darrok
had not yet taken flight; he was instead sitting very still, listening. Kurt did the same.
        Suddenly a stream of fire came blasting down from the sky at Kurt, he dove away
as the ground was scorched and the grass set on fire. Darrok leaped into the air before
Kurt could get up again and rammed into the black dragon as he came down. Kurt dared
not loose an arrow yet for fear of hitting Darrok. Thinking quickly, he summoned a new
spell to guide his arrow to the black dragon. He was about to release when another arrow
came whistling out of the darkness and bounced off his shoulder mail.
        Kurt lowered his bow and did a quick roll out of the way of the next arrow that
whistled by. He looked intently into the northern darkness. Above him flashes of fire and
screeches of claws on scales distracted him. Suddenly a long torch of fire blazed out of
the darkness. The logs they had used earlier for a fire Kurt commanded with a few short
words to begin burning again. They blazed up and into the light came walked a figure
that Kurt had secretly hoped never to see again.
        Kurt discarded his bow and took up his sword from next to his bedroll. He pulled
it out and lit it. The battle that had started over a year before was resumed as Kurt and
Jared drew back their blades and then smashed them against each other in an explosion of
sparks.

         Hannah‟s eyes opened to darkness. There was a growl and torches around the
room lit up seemingly of their own accord. It was a bare rock room, circular in design and
with a ceiling that was nonexistent. Seeing the massive black dragon in the center of the
room Hannah guessed the lack of a roof was due to the dragon needing to fly in and out.
Even the princess, who was not in any way a magic user, could feel the raw power
emanating like smoke from the dragon.
         She correctly guessed she was being held as the personal prisoner of Giffon.
         He looked intently at her and began speaking by apologizing for putting her
through the mind maze of the cave of horrors below. He continued by saying it was
necessary to weaken her mind before he could use the spell he had in mind. Giffon said
next she need not ask what spell it was, for it was out of her hands and therefore did not
concern her. Hannah privately thought that it very much concerned her but wisely
remained silent.
         Since she was not bound the princess stood and began to stretch her legs by
walking. She had not gone more than three paces when she ran into an invisible barrier.
Giffon had had his eyes closed and seemed to be concentrating until she bumped into the
barrier. He opened his deep black eyes and said there was not much use in walking
around, for he had a magic cage around her. Hannah sat down again.
         She then asked the question that had long bothered her, why did Giffon lust after
power so much? How, when dragons naturally were resistant to and could not use magic,
did he become such an accomplished spell caster? And then why had he brought her here,
wherever here was. Giffon eyed her, apparently contemplating her words. He then
prepared to launch into a long tale of his life, beginning from just before he met the love
of his life up to just before Falcor began wrecking his plans. Before he did so he told her
to make herself comfortable, for it would take many days to tell. Hannah had nowhere to
go so she sat back against the cushion that appeared behind her.
          Lightning dissipates well on non-conducting magic as Harkan found out. It was
a simple matter for Sir Eric to block the bolts sent at him by his opponent. His round
shield flared as it absorbed the tremendous energy of the storm. The cloud above had
transformed into a terrible tempest at Harkan‟s call. Lightning was now crashing down all
around them but Sir Eric stood with a grin on his face.
        Harkan was through playing magic games with these two; they had disrupted his
brother‟s plans for far too long. With a thought he summoned up a powerful blast spell
that would combine his natural dragon fire and the lightning of the storm, enhancing it
with magic‟s own destructive power he unleashed it against Sir Eric and Falcor. Sir Eric
dove out of the way while Falcor bared his teeth and unleashed a powerful blast of fire
that miraculously rebounded the spell and caused it to come back and crash against
Harkan. This all happened in less than a second and Sir Eric rose slowly with his pale
sword blazing with a sickly looking flame.
        He muttered up a powerful shield and charged. Harkan responded by attempting
to take flight but was battered back down by his own storm. He then breathed out a
powerful river of flames at the charging undead knight. It slid off his shield and
dissipated harmlessly against the ground. Falcor took the initiative and charged Harkan
from his side, pinning him to the ground. Sir Eric reached the duo then and called upon
the same spell that Kurt had used against the Titans. Having practiced it more the ball of
energy came to full strength within a second. With a sardonic smile he let it go and it
smashed into Harkan, knocking him to his back and dazing his mind. Sir Eric did not wait
for him to rise but instead shoved his sword deep into the master of black magic‟s heart.
        Sir Eric whispered to Harkan before he died. “Your brother‟s necromancy won‟t
be able to save you this time.”

         Sword clashed against sword as two masters of the blade dueled in the night. Both
blades burned with fire, one was a pale but bright fire, the other a solid but dark fire.
Jared had no wish to kill his friend but Giffon‟s will overpowered his own, making him
both a weak and dangerous foe. Kurt had feared Jared had fallen away but hoped for the
best. This battle convinced him Jared had turned his heart to the side of darkness. One
swordsman battled for darkness and the other for light, which one did for which was
unknown.
         The duo‟s armor was completely impenetrable save for magic and the weapons
they carried. Both swordsmen would unleash with a quick spell whenever either got the
chance but neither could get it past the other‟s quick magic reflexes. Their blades weaved
a web of composite metal between each other but neither could reach the other‟s armor.
After a time Jared‟s armor began to flame with the magic fire inside it and Kurt‟s began
to smoke as his fire tried to come out but was battled back down by dark magic. The
battle stretched on for minute upon minute and eventually hour upon hour.
         Above the battling former friends two other former friends were battling to the
death in a clash of fire, claws, tails, and teeth. Darrok was very adept at fighting other
dragons but his opponent was enhanced now with dark magic from the Shadow Alliance.
Dragon scales have a certain immunity to fire so it was difficult for either to land an
effective blast. Finally Darrok missed Faladron‟s quick jut of his head and Darrok‟s neck
was caught up in a crushing embrace of teeth. With a roar he closed his wings and
dragged Faladron down to the ground with him.
       The two smashed down on the ground and their breath ignited the grass beneath
them. Faladron hung on, his teeth working their way deeper and deeper into Darrok‟s
neck. With each passing moment the green-scaled dragon‟s movements slowed as he lost
both blood and breath. Finally his movements ceased and his flame died to embers within
him.
       Not more than a few dozen yards away Kurt sent a quick blast of magic from his
hand and followed through with a smashing strike with his sword. Jared blocked the
magic but brought his sword up to late. The blade was knocked away and the force of the
blow smashed Jared onto his back. With a strange glint in his eyes Kurt brought up his
sword to finish his opponent
                                       To be continued…

				
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