Dark clouds drifted drunkenly across a violet sky, shielding the land from the pale light of the two sickles and the bright silver orb that were the three moons. Long strands of dark grass rippled and waved in the chilling wind, which rattled the fruit laden branches of the trees and whipped back the hair and cloak of the young girl standing alone on the cliff, looking out over the wild water which pounded the rocks many feet below her.

Andaren squinted as the wind roared in her ears and buffeted her eyes. Magic, unleashed by the power of the moons which, waxing full and waning, respectively represented the three aspects of the Goddess, tore across the sky above her and rushed across the dark grass and ocean in rainbow colored ribbons. This was it, her one chance to prove herself.

Slowly, taking a deep breath to calm her nerves and bracing herself against the wild weather, she raised her arms above her head and issued the word of power to the elements. At first nothing happened. Then a sphere of vibrant violet light shot with strands of gold and silver materialized between her palms. Andaren braced herself as the sphere expanded to enclose her entire body and she felt the power flowing through her, burning her muscles and seeping like liquid light through her veins.

"That's it!" she heard L'endrin shout behind her, his voice barely audible above the roar of the wind, "Keep your focus, remain grounded!"

Andaren took another deep breath and focused on driving the magical 'roots' that were 'grounding' her deeper into the ground; there was a danger that the powerful magic could tear her soul from her body and there was no guarantee that she would be able to return. Many who had attempted to harness this 'Lunar Magic' before her had been lost that way.

The sphere was spinning around her now, alternatively glowing with violet, gold and silver light. The outside world was now completely isolated from her and a strange sound, something between wind chimes and tinkling laughter, echoed around her, filling her ears and warming her heart; it was the most beautiful sound she had ever heard.

Once or twice she thought she saw tiny lights flutter past her, some of them enveloping tiny, human like figures with wings like dragonflies and butterflies, but they appeared and disappeared so rapidly that she wasn't sure if they were real or figments of her imagination.

"L'endrin!" she yelled, "It's working!"

And then it happened; the sphere stopped spinning and collapsed into her, sinking into her skin. Andaren gasped and staggered as her newly acquired magic, just for a moment, robbed her of all control of her mind and body. And then, suddenly, she felt completely normal.besides a slight tingling in her skin and throbbing in her temple, which was her body becoming accustomed to her new powers.

"By the Lady, I think it's worked!" L'endrin cried, moving swiftly towards her. There was a light in his deep violet eyes that Andaren had never seen before, and a rare look of pride on his wrinkled face. "Who would have thought it, my student the first to harness the power of the Lady's magic!"

Then he pulled her into a tight hug that made her gasp even louder than the Luner Magic had.

"L'endrin..you're choking me!"

"Sorry my dear.." he let her go, still grinning broadly, "It's just that never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that I would end up training the Lunar Mage!" "I might not be the Lunar Mage," Andaren blushed, unwilling to imagine herself as the magician the entire planet had been waiting for since the creation of the five worlds.

"I believe that you might be," L'endrin said confidently. He stretched out a remarkably strong arm for his student to hold on to, "Come my dear, you need to rest before you meet the Mentrians tomorrow."

Andaren grimaced at the thought of meeting the counsel of Terraina's most powerful wizards, but allowed L'endrin to steer her back towards the city. Her skin was still tingling, although she thought that was more to do with trepidation than the magic she had .absorbed?

She disguised a sigh, unwilling to worry her mentor. L'endrin may be exited, but she was filled with fear. If she was the right one then she had new responsibilities, responsibilities that she had no desire to accept, responsibilities that yesterday, when she had not really believed that the ritual would work, she had not really thought about.

She knew that her life would never be the same again. Perhaps the change wouldn't be so bad.it certainly couldn't get any worse.but she would no longer have the peace and tranquillity of L'endrin's care and careful tutorage that over the last few years she had taken for granted.

The old Andaren was gone forever.

*

Sunlight streaming through a gap in the curtains woke Andaren the following morning. She groaned and sat up, coaxing stiff muscles to work, rubbing grit out of her eyes and quickly getting dressed. An odd little creature, rodent like but scaly, with a long, tapered muzzle, dragon-like tail and wings regarded her reproachfully from it's position at the end of the bed, large, liquid cerulean eyes still half closed from recent slumber. It's scales, which were dark blue, fading to a lighter turquoise shade on the underbelly and around the face, shone brightly in the sunlight, as did the golden claws. It had long, hair-like fibres - actually a primitive form of feather - around its neck and drooping like whiskers from its muzzle, and a light down over its legs and down the length of its back.

"Sorry Yoli!" Andaren apologized softly for disturbing the animal and scratched it between its large, fan-like ears. The young alundi purred and batted a blue-scaled claw playfully at the girl's face, then fluttered up to her shoulder and snuggled against her neck, claws gripping the material of her shirt for support. Still gently stroking the alundi, Andaren made her way to the kitchens, where she knew L'endrin would be waiting for her. She was filled with apprehension; the Mentrians, by all accounts, did not approve of magicians who came from common families or were subject to constant bouts of sickness. Andaren fitted into both those categories.

Suddenly she winced and placed her hand on her chest as pain shot briefly through her torso. Yoli chirped anxiously as her owner lowered herself into a chair in the hall then, as she had been trained to do, she spread her wings and flew off in search of help.

Andaren had been born with a heart defect and, as such, had not been expected to survive past her first birthday. Maybe it was because of this that her mother had been so willing to let her go when L'endrin had offered to take her on as a student; with one less mouth to feed she could concentrate on raising her four healthy children. The most she had ever done for her only daughter was to give her Yoli, the runt of the litter she had bred for the mages.

Alundis were useful creatures which were not only good companions and assistants for the permanently sick; but good fighters that were often kept by the army; guard animals and, due to their magical qualities, often kept as familiars.

"Andaren, are you alright?" L'endrin was suddenly beside her, pushing a potion into her hands. Yoli dropped back onto her shoulder, fluttering her wings in an agitated way.

"I'm..fine," she gasped, not sure who it was she was trying to convince. She had not yet quite come to terms with the idea that her condition could prove to be terminal. She drank the potion, knowing that it would help restore her heart to its regular rhythm, "What will the Mentrians say when they hear about this?"

"Never mind the Mentrians; we've got hours to go before you have to meet them and they don't need to know about this."

Andaren's heart sank. "You've scheduled an appointment then?"

"I had to, you know that. If anyone absorbs any kind of natural magic the Mentrians have to be informed. And last night was a big event for the entire world!"

"They're going to be pleased....a Lunar Mage who could drop dead at any moment!" she snorted contemptuously, "That's if I am the Lunar Mage!"

"Don't talk like that!"

"Why not, it's true! Even my mother accepts that it's true; Andaren.the sickly daughter who will never have the chance to amount to anything!"

"This is your chance, young mage," L'endrin said gently, laying a hand on the shoulder that wasn't occupied by Yoli, "Here's a chance for you to prove yourself!"

"She'll come up here, you know," Andaren continued, ignoring him, "All smiles and hugs, pretending that she never really abandoned me at all, dying to be able to tell people that her daughter is the Lunar Mage!" Again she laughed, thinking of her mother clamoring to get her hands on all the privileges high-ranking mages were awarded.

"Leroni can't get anywhere near you unless you want to see her," Andaren's hatred of her mother was well known to the old tutor, and he couldn't blame her for feeling that way; Leroni wasn't a maternal person. "That won't stop her!" Andaren said sullenly, raising one hand to gently stroke Yoli, who was whimpering with concern, "Or my brothers!"

"Oh, now by all accounts you get on quite well with your youngest brother."

"Luin's alright," Andaren admitted, "Leroni doesn't have much time for him, either. not since he decided he wanted to become a travelling musician."

L'endrin sighed. Luin was exceptionally good at playing the harp, flute and guitar.but his ideas of travelling would indeed upset his mother, as it did not offer a constant source of money. Indeed, most bards and musicians bartered their songs and music in exchange for food, clothing or shelter.

"I'll tell the guards not to let your mother or your brothers into the Hall," he reassured her, "Except Luin, of course. I think you're going to need his support more than you realize."

A clear, melodious voice suddenly came to his ears, singing an old, popular song. Yoli stood up on her back legs, wings outstretched for balance, whiskers twitching as she warbled a welcome.

"Ah, speak of the bard and he will appear!" L'endrin grinned, "I'll leave you to it." He bowed and left, just as a boy of about nineteen years with short cropped black hair, dark eyes and dark skin entered the room. A harp was strapped in its case on his back, a flute was hanging by a chain from his neck and he held a guitar in his hand.

"How're you doing, sis?" he began cheerfully, then spotted the empty potion flask and suddenly looked concerned, "Are you ok?"

"It was just a little heart flutter...nothing serious," Andaren lied, not wanting to upset him by telling him that the 'little flutter' had in fact been one of the worst attacks she had had in years. Yoli uttered a little scandalized yip, sensing that she was lying, then flew to Luin's shoulder and nuzzled him affectionately.

"Hello little one, is your owner feeding me lies again?" Luin tickled Yoli under the chin, smiling as the alundi made a little amused sound very much like a giggle and half closed her eyes, enjoying the attention. Then he turned back to Andaren, his expression and voice serious. "Don't think I don't know what you got up to last night; everyone knows there's a meeting regarding the Lunar Mage this afternoon."

"And how exactly do you know its me?"

"Because I just saw L'endrin's rather guilty expression as he left the room. I'll kill him! You know that power could have put a strain on your heart!"

"I'm not an invalid!"

"I'm not saying you are..." Luin looked about ready to explode, "But Andaren, you can't afford to go taking risks like that. you can't gamble you're life for a few extra powers!"

"Look Luin, the Lunar Mage will most likely be needed soon...It had to be done. Anyway...I might not be the Lunar Mage."

"You absorbed the Lunar Magic...of course you're the Lunar Mage! And that means you're going to have to put yourself in harms way!" he was almost shouting now, suppressing his voice for fear of causing his sister to have another attack, "You're.you're vulnerable enough already!"

He dropped into a chair beside her, carefully resting the guitar against the wall and lifting the harp from his shoulders. "You know I'm leaving soon, don't you?"

Andaren nodded.

"I was thinking of leaving at the end of the week.I just need some time to gather all my things together, decide which direction to go in." he looked agitated, as if there was something he wanted to tell her but couldn't quite work up the courage to do it.

"What is it?" Andaren's skin chilled, "You will be coming back at some point, won't you?"

"No..." Luin replied, "...I never want to see this city again. Andaren..."

"You can't leave me alone!" Andaren's stomach turned to ice.

"I know I can't, and I don't want to loose you; I can leave everything else behind me, but not you.. that's why I'm asking you to come with me."

"What!" She gasped, "I can't, you know I can't...not after last night!"

"Andaren, even if you are the Lunar Mage the Mentrians aren't going to accept you; you're not from a magical family and you have an incurable illness. What's keeping you here?"

"Luin, I want to go with you, I really do...but..."

"Talk to the counsel later," Luin rose, throwing the harp back over his shoulder and depositing Yoli on his vacated chair, "See what they have to say. Send a message to me if you change your mind."

He left.

Andaren dropped to her knees on the cool marble floor, a new pain gripping her heart. Except for L'endrin, Luin had been the only person she had felt she could trust and the one member of her family she thought truly understood and cared about her. The thought of loosing him terrified her.and yet she knew she couldn't go with him.

For a brief moment, and for the first time since she had come to the Hall, she felt hatred towards L'endrin and her powers. The feeling faded almost as soon as it had appeared; she had always been drawn to magic, she liked having her powers and it wasn't L'endrin's fault that she had absorbed the Lunar Magic.

"Brrr?" Yoli landed on her shoulder, humming anxiously, and nuzzled the side of Andaren's neck. Andaren reached up to stroke the alundi, gently pulling the feather-like hairs around Yoli's neck.

"You'll stick with me, right?" she murmured, earning a little chirp of affirmation and an affectionate slap of the alundi's tongue against her chin. "What am I going to do, Yoli? I can't loose Luin...and I don't want to leave L'endrin either!"

Yoli's eyes were sympathetic, but she could not speak and so could provide no answer. In desperation Andaren called out to the Goddess - the only other beside L'endrin and her brother that she had faith in.

"Lady...what do I do?"