Fight For Vekalt

Prologue

She stood, huddled in a small corner, covered by the shadows, in the Great Hall. Her silver hair, usually flowing and wild, was bound tightly in a dark head wrap. She pulled her dark cloak closer to her body. The coarse material all but hid her cotton nightdress. A few wisps of a light green color stuck out underneath the cloak, but that was it.

Trembling fingers pulled the cloak closer against her frail frame. The pale skin, that was visible, was a startling contrast to the course material that enshrouded her body; and her violet eyes were closed tightly as she tried to shut out all that was surrounding her.

All around this strange silver-haired woman were beings of different races - unicorns, dragons, human, elves, and fairies - were mingling, talking in what almost appeared to be a forced gaiety. None of them wanted to be there. To them, this gathering was just a forceful reminder of the crisis that their world was currently facing.

The small group of humans stood huddled together near a large, golden podium that towered over everyone in the hall. They were of different races, these humans. The color of their skin ranged from an elegant alabaster white to a nice golden bronze. Not one of them knew half of what the other was saying, being from different backgrounds as they were. Yet, somehow they understood what the other was feeling.

Put in any other situation these humans would have fought, spilling the others blood without a second thought, but at that very moment fighting was the last thought from their minds. Even though their languages and customs were very different, these humans - the men and woman chosen to represent their people - felt that they only had each other, and were willing to put aside their differences for once. They were all afraid. A small wiry man, dressed in velvet blue robes had left them. When this man had been there the humans had managed to hold onto a tiny shred of confidence. Not that confidence was gone and they stood there in a small group, each clutching the other in hope of attaining some type of protection.

The dragons, were a completely different story. Unlike the silver-haired woman, that stood unnoticed by all around her, or the frightened humans these gigantic, winged lizards stood proud and tall. They were of all different colors and sizes. The tallest dragon, which was gone now, had stood with its neck stretched out almost to the ceiling. Although the five remaining dragons were still small in size they still managed to stand a good five feet above even the tallest elf. They snorted and gnawed their teeth, talking in what sounded to others as a bunch of growls and snarls, but it was actually a quite interesting conversation for those that were fluent in the dragon language.

Grazing on the patches of grass near the edge of the hall were the small and graceful creatures of the forests.

Unicorns.

Their cloven hooves clacked against the marble. Some had settled themselves near the podium, touching horns together to talk. Their white manes seemed to take on a silver tone as gentle rays of sunlight filtered through crimson bolts of silk that hung from the large windows.

Fluttering through out the room, dodging the others, and scaring the wits out of the humans were the colorful glows of fairies. They were small and delicate creatures. They were bored; eagerly waiting for this to be over with so they could return to the deserts, bogs, fields, and forests that they called home. A fall fairy, no more then an orange glow to the human eye, had to swerve quickly to the side to avoid getting hit by a spear that had suddenly blocked her path. She sniffed at the spear's owner; an elf with black hair that was streaked white. The fall fairy cursed the elf, completely unaware that her shrill voice would never reach his ears, before taking off again.

The elves, only about five in number, were scattered throughout the room. Like the raven-haired offender of the fall fairy they held spears, blue eyes alert and ready for action. They all donned a flimsy sort of blue armor, and one hand kept a firm grip on their silver headed spears, while the other was tensed ready to grab the sword at his hip or the bow on his back if need be.

Even though the air seemed to reek of nervousness that did little to calm Klavena's nerves. She still keep her cloak wrapped tightly around her body, and it was only the thought of what her youngest brother, Alex, would say if he saw her that kept her from fleeing the hall or squeezing herself into the nearest corner.

Klavena wished she could just disappear, and yet at the same time her pride was screaming her to stay. If her youngest, weakest, dearest brother could pass this Test then so could she!

Klavena took a deep breath and her opened her eyes. Calling upon every bit of courage that she had, the silver-haired woman stepped forward, waiting and watching all around her.

The silence came so suddenly that it startled her.

All the murmuring, whimpering, and such had suddenly ceased. It was so quite Klavena was quite positive she could have heard a pin drop.

The silver-haired woman looked around as to why the hall was suddenly enveloped in this heavy silence, and then her eyes fell upon the golden podium.

A human, obviously very old, stepped forward and laid a wrinkled hand on the golden railing that covered the podium's ledge. He was dressed in velvet robes of dark blue, and his graying beard appeared to almost reach the ground. Behind him stood four beings, obviously not human. It was then that Klavena realized that these were the one that the representatives that had gather had chosen to speak for the six supreme races that ruled over Earth.

The human obviously had to be Merlin, the wise wizard that was said to have advised Arthur in the days of Camelot. Klavena trained her violet eyes on the other four representatives, one by one.

Almost directly behind Merlin was a woman with her hair done in a thick, dark braid that swung over her shoulders. Perched on a shoulder was a large, gray-feathered owl. It was at that moment that Klavena realized that she was most likely staring up at Athena, the cruel Grecian goddess of wisdom. As she studied the goddess, Klavena was finding it hard to believe that this was the goddess that was responsible for her family's suffering. Athena raised a hand to pet the owl's feathery head before turning her attention to the mass of beings that stood before her and the others. The owl nipped at the goddess's ear before taking off and disappearing through an open window, brushing against crimson silk as it flapped past.

To Athena's right was a unicorn, rather large in size when compared to most. It shook its head in impatience; it's gray mane shook before settling against the creature's white flank. A magnificent golden horn spiraled upwards and out of its head. Enormous white wings were folded firmly against it side. The unicorn looked like it would rather be somewhere else and longed to spread it's wings and fly away, but a sharp look from Athena stilled the creature.

On Athena's left was a tall man, whose skin was so bronze it almost gleamed in the sun. Now Klavena had never seen a human before (since they had long since died out by the time she had hatched from her egg) but if she remembered correctly none of the humans in history books were ever quite that big or had shoulders quite that big.

~He looks a lot like the humans in Mother's book though. ~ Klavena thought, briefly wondering if he had been a god to the long since deceased humans. Then her eyes landed on the golden sun medallion that hung around his neck and she understood.

"So that's Osirus." She murmured in a cracked sort of voice, as she took in the Egyptian sun god. Somehow with the appearance of these representative Klavena found that some of her earlier fear was starting to recede, and she could actually talk...somewhat.

Suddenly a flip of light hair blocked her view of Osirus's chiseled features.

Klavena glared at the offender: an elven princess.

A portion of the princess's hair was done up in a mass of curls behind a simple wooden circlet while a thick lock cascaded down her back. Although she knew it didn't matter, Klavena took in instant dislike for this elf. She looked too haughty. Like Athena, the princess was arrogantly studied the crowd. She smoothed the front of her satin dress, and played with the chain belt that was wrapped around her waist.

All in all these five made an impressive spectacle. They were obviously the most important of their races, and yet somehow Klavena found them to be a bit dull. Even though she most defiantly wasn't here to gawk and stare at the representatives Klavena couldn't help herself. The pale skin of her forehead wrinkled slightly as Klavena frowned. She still had yet to see the one that she been waiting for.

Where was the dragon representative?

Klavena's question was soon answered when an enormous roar filled the Great Hall. An enormous, black lizard like body suddenly appeared to fall from the large hole in the ceiling and landed with a crash, breaking the marble floor surrounding it in the process.

Klavena's mouth dropped open in awe.

This, however, proved to be too much for the humans and they ran off screaming. A few of the woman, and one of the men, passed out. The rest of the humans ran around screaming in a way similar to the reaction Klavena's younger cousins had when her father told them ghost stories.

It took three sleep fairies to calm down the rest of the humans. The minuscule, winged creatures waved tiny, crystal wands and a bit of blue, sleeping dust settled on the humans. It wasn't enough to lull the humans asleep, but it was enough to bring them into a daze that would last several minutes.

Klavena found it amusing that the only human who wasn't intimidated by the sudden appearance of the dragon representative was Merlin. If anything he looked bored. He raised an eyebrow and trained his gray-eyed gaze at the dragon.

For the silver-haired stranger that just stood there, not taking part of the whole affair - just watching, the dragon was the most magnificent creature she had ever seen. Being half dragon herself Klavena had been particularly interested in seeing this particular representative.

The creature's tender skin was covered in an armor of midnight black scales, with the edges painted in a glittering gold. Amber specs decorated the violet pupils which, only a shade darker then Klavena's own, roamed over the variety of creatures that cluttered the hall. A shimmer of amusement glittered from within its depth as the violet orbs landed on the small group of trembling humans.

As Klavena stared at the dragon in awe her earlier fears and worries completely forgotten, she noticed a red glow that seemed to wrap itself around the black horn that protruded just above the mystical creature's snout. It stayed there a moment before floating down towards the podium, stopping finally to land on Merlin's shoulder.

The wizard's earlier annoyance seemed to have disappeared, as he looked over at the tiny glow, a kind look in his eyes.

It was that moment when Klavena was finally able to see what the red glow really was.

A fire fairy.

Her lips curled up to form a nasty expression of disgust, and Klavena couldn't but feel appalled. Why had that dragon let the fairy hang around it's horn?

The feeling of disgust grew when Klavena noticed the hurt look that suddenly appeared in the dragon's eyes.

It couldn't be!

Did such a magnificent dragon actually enjoy being within the company of such a puny and weak creature!?

Klavena's violet eyes suddenly narrowed into a glare and she kept her eyes trained on the tiny fairy.

The fairy, obviously a female, played with the gold sash that kept her scarlet robes attached firmly to her tan skin. Briefly she tugged at her thick braid, tucking a strand of dark auburn hair back into a place. Then her slender fingers resumed their previous task of rolling the golden silk against their tips.

Klavena watched as the fairy leaned closer over to Merlin's withered ear as if to whisper something, but her lips didn't move. The wizard must have gotten the message however if the slight nod of his head was any indication. The transparent wings quivered excitedly at the sudden movement. The small tendrils of flames that seem to hang to delicate appendage twisted the air around the young fairy, dying it a light crimson and giving one the illusion that the fairy was actually a red glow bug.

The silver-haired woman forced herself to ignore the irritating fairy, and patiently waited for Merlin to speak.

It would come soon.

Soon the Test would begin.

*~*~*

Athena stood behind Merlin, her hands hung loosely at her side, slowly curling into fists as stared at the back of the wizard in a neutral sort of way. On the outside she looked every bit of how the gray-eyed goddess of wisdom should look, calm and collected, but inside was a different story. Inside a boiling rage, completely uncharacteristic of her, was threatening to explode. It swirled inside of her, like a volcano, just because of one small, old man.

Because of a human.

She should be the one that announced the plan to get rid of the rebels! Not some pitiful human.

While the gray-eyed goddess was inclined to agree that in his own rite, Merlin was powerful (especially for a human), it was pride that rebelled against the thought of the wizard getting credit for laying out the plan before the masses.

Her plan.

Silence suddenly enveloped the enormous hall. Athena looked down at the many manner of creatures that had gathered. All of them where looking up at the podium in silent anticipation. Again Athena felt a twinge of irritation when she realized that the many eyes were trained on Merlin instead of her or Osirus.

The old wizard stepped to the edge of the podium resting a hand limply on the golden rail.

"We have reached a decision." Merlin said, pulling at his beard slightly, after a few moments of silence. "What we are currently dealing with, and why we are all here, is something that not even the Fates could have predicted. It is something that must be dealt with quickly and thoroughly. The rogue Immortal has managed to lead three of Earth's most powerful clans astray. The Silver Dragon clan, the Nigrescent Unicorn clan, and the Auletes clan of Egypt."

The wizard paused for effect, and next to her Athena could feel Osirus tense up.

The Egyptian god was taking this as a personal insult it seemed. The humans of the Auletes line had served their gods without question for many centuries. The gray-eyed goddess knew that Osirus blamed Cleopatra for this happening. Egypt was surely headed for ruins now that its royal family had turned traitor to the gods.

Athena wanted to say something to the sun god, but kept her mouth shut. Normally she had an immense dislike for anything of foreign origin, a trait that she most likely had inherited from her father, yet there was something about Osirus that....

The Grecian goddess couldn't think of a word to describe these feelings. It certainly wasn't love of that she was sure, but what was it? Reverence? Respect? Athena shook herself mentally and put these confusing thoughts aside as Merlin started to speak again.

"Human, dragons, and unicorns. For countless of years these races have been revered, praised by the gods and worshipped by others. They are the most clever and arrogant beings to ever walk this planet."

"Yet, it is because of this arrogance that these clans are facing expulsion. They dared to have turned from the heavenly leadership. From the gods and goddesses that have guided them since the beginning of time. They dare to have turned to this Immortal, a pretender that received favors the Greek goddess Aphrodite. These clans are like a plague. A plague that will spread if and infect those near them if they are not stopped."

*~*~*

Klavena clenched and unclenched her fists as she fought to keep her anger under control. The small surge of pride that she had felt when Merlin had started to talk had all but disappeared. At the very moment she wanted nothing more then to burn the old human to a crisp.

The silver-haired woman had read many things about this wizard from the books in her mother's study. She had always pictured him as wise and powerful. A man that was wise enough to know his place and submit to the authority of those around him.

Why was he the one talking? Why were the gods just standing there quietly as he spoke? He was only a human!

~We are a proud race. ~ Klavena thought, her face set in an angry scowl as Merlin's voice echoed in her head. ~Not some sort of infestation. ~

The wizard had started talking again, but for some reason Klavena wasn't hearing what he was saying. All she could her was world 'plague' repeatedly, and it set her blood a boil.

It repeated in her head like a mantra and Klavena was so preoccupied with her feelings that she hadn't even noticed the large, golden disc that had materialized on the floor right in front of the podium. Silvery writing of some old, forgotten language was engraved on the edges. Bound firmly in the middle of the disc by a thick strip of burgundy colored silk was a small crystal. The sun, which filtered through the open windows, caught on it and for a moment a lovely shade of blue shimmered from within the crystal depths.

It was this blue color that caught Klavena's attention. She lifted her head looking for the source of the color, and when her eyes settled on the orb her insides turned as cold ice.

Suddenly, a vicious wind called hate wrapped around her, nearly consuming her. Even the respect she held for the gigantic, black dragon was gone. All the silver-haired woman could do was tremble with anger as she stared at the golden disc.

That orb.

Her hands curled into fists so tight that her knuckles started to turn white.

That orb was the reason why she, her family, and all the inhabitants of Vekalt had suffered. It looked innocent enough, glittering in the sunlight, but it was far from innocent.

*~*~*

Osirus looked down at the fire fairy as it suddenly landed on one of the arms that were folded across his chest.

Something's here. The thought tickled Osirus's brain slightly. The sun god started slightly before remembering that fairies rarely spoke out loud, and looking down at the fairy representative he understood why. Even with his superior hearing Osirus doubt he would have heard her.

"I know." He whispered softly as Merlin continued on with his speech, explaining how the Disc of Salvation, Athena's invention, worked.

"She's finally here, Athena." He whispered out of the corner of his mouth.

The only indication the goddess of wisdom gave that she had heard him was a slight nod.

It's not her.

This caused both Athena and Osirus to look down at the fairy in surprise.

"What do you mean? She didn't come?"

The fairy shook her head.

No, the Prey is defiantly here. It's just...it's strange. This aura.....It's similar to that of the Prey, but at the same time it isn't. It's confusing.

Osirus and Athena exchanged worried looks.

"Do you think she brought help?"

"It's possible, but I doubt it."

The Prey will show herself soon. She wants to destroy the Disk.

Osirus and Athena nodded. The sun god returned his attention to Merlin's speech while Athena smirked maliciously. She watched the Disc of Salvation. The Prey had caused her so much trouble.

~Finally, ~ A light blue, water fairy that must have been to the podium earlier suddenly left. Athena's watched the blue glow make its way towards the elven soldiers. ~That bitch is about to learn what happens when you mess with the gods. ~

*~*~*

She had silver hair and violet eyes, much like the young woman that stood in the shadows below her. She watched the young woman with mild interest as she sat on the cold stone of an open window, her legs hanging over the side. The anger……she could just feel it flowing off of the woman. Vaguely, she wondered what the woman's name was. Her expression softened as watched the other silver-haired woman.

She knew what that girl was, and it caused joy to rise through her. She had seen many like this girl come, although most of the others had been male, they still look the same: violet eyes, silver hair, and pale skin - all traits of the Silver Dragon clan.

Her clan.

Smiling slightly, the strange woman stood the crimson silk of her dress swaying as she moved. She grabbed one of the vines and wrapped it around her left wrist. Then she slid down the side of the wall, and into the Great Hall, gripping the vine tightly. Her bare feet touched the smooth, polished wood of a ledge that ran its course through the whole hall, and crouching slightly at first, she let go of the vine, pushed with her feet, and flipped off of the ledge. She landed just behind the young woman, wincing slightly at pain that coursed through her feet when they hit the marble ground. The girl in front of her froze.

The older woman's smile widened, but she didn't catch the other's eyes. Technically, she wasn't supposed to be aware that this girl was even there. Even as a feeling of elation soured through her, the silver-haired woman couldn't stop the twinge of sadness. She knew exactly why this girl was here.

She wasn't supposed to, but she did.

She could only hope that this descendant of hers would be able to break the cycle that the Silver Dragon clan had been cursed with.

The older silver-haired woman was sick of it. It was like the extravagant balls her mother held every year. They lasted for two weeks and were extremely dull. It was the same thing over and over.

She turned her attention to the golden podium. The others, not even the gods, were unaware of how many times they had gone over this. Three generations of her people had come here to undergo the 'Test'. Each and everyone would pass only to die in the end.

All because of her foolishness.

Oh, how badly she wanted to alter the course of history so that no one else had to die. Yet, she could never get here fast enough. Always the same time.

She was always too late.

*~*~*

Athena smiled and stepped forward.

She was here. Finally, this silly charade would come to an end.

~No more stalling. ~ The goddess thought. ~Now it is time to do what I meant to do. ~

"Merlin," Athena laid a hand on the wizard's shoulder. "We have a guest."

Merlin stopped in his speech and smiled slightly.

"Well," He said in a loud mocking voice, "It appears that we have a visitor. Please do come out of the shadows. Grace us with your presence."

"As quick as ever, wizard."

All heads turned to look at the owner of this new voice.

Several of the humans screamed and a few of the unicorns reared up in terror. The fairies flew in an agitated state towards the safety of the dragons. The elves lowered their spears.

Everyone was tense and almost afraid of the silver-haired woman that had just stepped out of the shadows.

"Now, Athena, I believe it is your turn." Merlin said to the goddess, stepping next to the unicorn in almost submissive sort of way.

Athena shook her head.

"I don't get you wizard." She said as a pair of large gray wings grew from her shoulder bones, tearing through the material of her dress.

Flapping the new appendages, Athena lifted herself into the air and headed for the ground.

*~*~*

A sudden grip of fear wrapped its icy claws around Klavena's heart. Her eyes were pale, and her whole body was trembling again, as Athena feet touched ground. Gray feathers suddenly went flying in every direction as if a sudden wind was ripping the wings apart. In a short time the gray appendages were gone and the small feathers were scattered on the floor. Athena looked up and sent a chilling glare in her direction.

In the more rational part of her brain the silver-haired woman knew that the goddess couldn't see her. This was the past. She was just watching it all.

In all actuality she was safe in her family Keep surrounded by her family and the Dragon Seer as they patiently watched her unconscious body for any signs that would indicate that Klavena had passed the Test.

It wasn't her that Athena was glaring her. It was at her great-grandmother.

Tears welled in Klavena's eyes as she stared at the woman that stood in front of her. A woman that she had read about ever since she was a little girl.

Klorenta, the brave martyr of the Silver Dragon clan.

The five elven soldiers were forming a tight circle around Klorenta, their blades drawn.

Klorenta paid the soldiers no head. Her violet gaze was focused solely on Athena.

The gray-eyed goddess's lips formed an arrogant smirk.

"You fool. To think that you would dare to show yourself to me. You failed to destroy my creation. This is the end for you rebel. You dared ally yourself with that wretched Immortal, and now you and soon your whole family will pay."

"You assume to much, goddess." Klorenta murmured. The woman's face was still expressionless, but in her violet orbs Klavena could have sworn she saw a flicker of some dark emotion burning deep in their depths.

"You may kill me, but my clan will live own. As will the others. All of us that you have condemned will thrive under the guidance of our Savior."

Athena's lip curled up in an ugly fashion.

"You will all die out. Everything has already been set into motion. All who serve that wretched Immortal will be destroyed. Slowly. Painfully. You should be grateful. At least your death will be quick."

There was a sudden flicker of emotion at the goddess's words, a look of anger, and Klorenta's hands curled into fists.

"Don't underestimate us. I may have failed in my task, but as I said before, you will never destroy us."

Athena let out an animalistic growl. The goddess's lithe body was shaking in anger at the triumph that she could see in the silver-haired woman's eyes. Such confidence. Such arrogance and pride. She couldn't stand it! This woman wasn't even a full-blooded Silver Dragon and yet she had the nerve! Halflings were inferior to all living things. They should know their place, and yet!

"Kill her!" Athena suddenly shrieked, unable to contain her anger.

The soldier moved without hesitation. They had been waiting for this moment. Raising their swords high, the elves brought the blades down violently, in a synchronized motion.

Out of the corner of her Klavena watched this. Her eyes were wide in shock as the blades sliced through her great-grandmother's flesh, white blood pouring sluggishly from the wounds. Klorenta crumpled to the ground breathing heavily. Her eyes were raised upwards, looking for something.

Then suddenly, there was no warning. Klorenta and Klavena locked gazes. Klorenta smiled slightly at Klavena.

The younger woman went stock-still. This wasn't like it had been with Athena. Her great-grandmother wasn't looking past her. She was looking directly into Klavena's own eyes.

As if she could see her descendant standing right in front of her.

That's when Klavena felt it. The most intense pain. Never before had she felt anything like it.

The violet-eyed dragon halfling couldn't find the source. It seemed to be coming from everywhere. Her fingers. Her chest. Her belly. Her legs.

It hurt. It hurt so much.

Her vision started to dim and Klavena stumbled. Gods, the pain! In some detached sort of way Klavena briefly wondered if it was attacking her very soul. It hurt so much.

Klavena let out an ear-piercing shriek.

Air! She couldn't breathe! Why couldn't she breathe?

"I'm sorry."

Breathing hysterically, with tears streaming down her face, the young woman looked at the source of the voice.

At Klorenta.

Even as darkness started to dull her vision Klavena could still make out the apologizing look on her great-grandmother's face.

Klavena stared back blankly, her body trembling violently.

She opened her mouth to say something, but never got the chance.

For suddenly the pain was gone, and Klavena found herself floating in an empty, dark void.

The pain was gone.

Klavena let out a shaky breath, relieved to discover that she could breathe properly once more. Suddenly she felt very drained. Klavena was faintly aware of voices surrounding her, but she didn't care. She just let her eyes slide close, and sank into the peaceful oblivion of sleep.

*~*~*

Queen Jinira watched her daughter's body in worried anticipation. The convulsions weren't stopping and that wasn't good. The Seer had said that Klavena's body would seize two, maybe three, times if she passed the Test. The seizing was normal, he said,

But not this much.

She glanced up at the Dragon Seer, and her eyes hardened. Jinira hated the Seers, hated them with a vengeance. She had never minded them much before when her little sister had passed the Test, but ever since Alex's death……

The queen blamed the Seers and their stupid Test for the death of her youngest. It had happened only weeks after Alex had passed the Test. She had woken up one morning to find the boy's sheets soaked in blood, a severed head lying at the foot of the bed. Later on, her husband had discovered that a member of the Assassin's Guild had been hired to kill Alex.

Klavena had been the one to discover that Alex, himself, had hired the assassin.

Jinira never understood why. Why? Why, would Alex commit suicide? Why would he hire someone to kill himself? The Director of the Assassin's Guild had apologized for the brutal way in which Alex had died, explaining that all of their victims died in that way. The apology had made her feel a little better, but it didn't stop the nightmares from coming.

It had been a year since her son's death, and the nightmares still wouldn't leave.

She felt someone squeeze her hand gently and looked up into the eyes of her husband. Jinira rested her head on his shoulder, and Zelack wrapped his arms around her, holding her close. Their children had left the room moments before the convulsions had started so the King and Queen were left alone with an unconscious Klavena and the Seer.

Jinira kept her eyes on the Seer.

The Seers were of an odd breed. A blend of a Silver Dragon halfling and a Nigrescent Unicorn, they were small. Not even four feet in height. Everyone in Vekalt considered them to be sexless. The Seers had no predominate features that indicated if they were male or female. With their raven hair and white pupils, the Seers were hated by many and liked by none.

The Seer assigned to the Silver Dragon clan looked at Klavena's body with what seemed to be indifference.

Which actually wasn't to far from the truth.

How many times would they simply state that a Candidate had failed to past the Test and leave? Both the Nigrescent clan and the Silver Dragon clan had rooms that were filled with soulless bodies of those that had failed. They were kept alive by Healers if their families were unwilling to part with the body.

There were rumors that the Seers knew of herbs that could restore the Candidates' souls, but if they did the Seers were keeping it a closely guarded secret.

Jinira watched her daughter's body, gripping her husband's arm when the body suddenly stilled. She didn't want to lose another child to the Test. She had already lost six. Jinira didn't think she could bear to lose another.

A shrill shriek erupted from Klavena's mouth, and then there was silence.

The Silver Dragon Queen waited, her body trembling, for the Seer to speak.

Zelack hugged her tighter in an attempt to calm her.

Finally, after what seemed like hours, the Seer spoke in a bland voice.

"She has passed."

Relief flooded through Jinira's body at these words, but at the same time she couldn't help but feel worry. Alex had never screamed like that.

"Why did she scream?"

"She felt the martyr's pain." Again the same bland, uncaring tone. "This is why it is bad for women to be chosen as Dragon Candidates. I will take me leave now, milady. I must report this back to the elder."

Jinira didn't say anything as the Seer left. She just pulled away from her husband and knelt by her daughter's bed. She stroked Klavena's silver locks, worried about what type of effect the Test would have on her daughter. Everyone knew the story of how Klorenta had died. It was supposed to have been horrible, being stabbed to death and all. Would it affect Klavena emotionally in any way?

"I'll go tell the others." Zelack said.

She nodded, thankful for having some time alone with Klavena.

Jinira removed her hand from her daughter's forehead and fisted them in her lap.

Klavena, suddenly, out a second shrill scream and her eyes flew open.

Jinira jumped to her feet, slightly startled

Klavena sat up quickly and stared around. The princess breathed a choked sigh of relief when she recognized the familiar surroundings of her room. The pain was gone, as if it had never existed.

But she couldn't wipe that picture from her mind: the picture of her great-grandmother smiling at her while she was stabbed to death.

"Klavena, baby? Are you aright?"

Klavena looked over at the sound of her mother's voice, her eyes wide. When she saw the worried look on Jinira's face she completely broke down.

"Mama!" she cried, flinging herself into Jinira's arms.

She hugged her mother tightly as Jinira rubbed her back soothingly, whispering words of comfort.

The queen sat their for hours, holding her daughter like she did when Klavena had been a baby until Klavena finally slipped into a peaceful, dreamless slumber.