Fwyddur

Year of the Dragon

"You there!" a small boy's head snapped up. "Tell the cooks to start preparing dinner!"

"Yes, Highness." said the boy as he scampered away.

The King smiled. Here he was, at the head of the table, of his own court. All around the table were advisors, two kings and five magic sniffers. Fae. When the King had heard that they were coming he had prepared the finest feasts in the entire kingdom.

"So, what are you here to talk about?" he said leaning in…

~*~

Hours later lunch was ready. A tall girl was serving the food. One of the oldest sniffers froze. "Who has entered the room?" he said in his annoying drawl. The King fought the urge to roll his eyes.

"Shawna, our scullery maid. Why?" said the King.

"She has magic." Shawna froze. Her heart pounded in her chest.

"Pardon, sir?" she asked.

"Years of this castle have taught you better than that!"

"It's okay Alfred." the King tensed. "Really! From you! A King! I'd expect more!" the King's face grew hot, but out of fear he said not a word. To be shamed in front of a scullery maid! He seethed.

The sniffer, who was a short-creature, looked up at the tall girl. "You have a lot of power within you." the girl shivered in fright. "Alfred, would you give this girl to me?"

The King though for a moment. We-ell…"

"It will bring you honor if she does well, and she will do well."

The King was still unsure. "We-ell…"

"Think of the gold she could spin you when she is finished her time…" the greedy look on the King's face told the answer before he did.

"Fine."

~*~

Shawna Fletcher liked horses. She had always hoped that some day she would escape from the castle and have her own horse ranch. And you know what the stupid thing is? She actually believed that her dream would come true. Now that dream was impossible. Now she was going to have to stay in the castle until the day she died!

Shawna sighed. I may as well enjoy the time while I have it. She thought. She opened the door of the cart and looked at the moving ground beneath her. Shawna glanced to her side where the horses were trotting. Shawna looked at the other side, then she paused for a moment. There was something about the horses. She furrowed her brow. She stared at the horses. And stared. The horses glanced at her.

"That's it!" she called. The horses have no blinders! The one that was trotting at the front nickered as though in irritation. Shawna studied the horses some more. All of them were straining forward as though pulling something but there were neither bit, nor reigns!

"Strange." muttered Shawna as she took note of it in her mind, saving it for some other time.

Just as Shawna was going back into the carriage she saw something. There was a mass of mushrooms in a circle up ahead. But there was nothing she could do and no one she could ask. So she just sat down, and waited.

But sitting down and getting ready for a long wait was unnecessary for the stopped merely a minute of two later.

"Shawnira! Get out!" said the sniffer from out of no where.

"My name is Shawna. She muttered, but did as he told anyways.

"Now, I know, don't lecture me about the mud." the little man wiggled his finger a bit and Shawna's whole body flew into the air into the circle of mushrooms she had seen earlier.

"What?" she said but was interrupted by a flash of blue lights.

Part 1

~*~

My name is Shawna. A strange name that people always comment on by saying, who made it? Things like that. I used to be a scullery maid, but now, now I'm not sure, all this is so confusing to me. Ever since a moment ago when the sniffer ( very rude one at that) carted me off my head has been spinning like crazy.

"Oof!" I said. The sniffer wasn't out yet so I got up as soon as I could. There was no way I was going to let that… thing see me on the floor, weak and defenseless. It's bad enough already that he thinks I'm afraid of a little bit of mud. Being a scullery maid does not include anything about being clean all the time, like it seems to with ladies. But clumsy too! I can't even think about it.

Merely a moment later he appeared, and walked out of the ring of mushrooms.

"Good. You fell on your feet. I hoped you would." this made my face grow hot. I was not a good liar, even when I wasn't lying. Hot face and all I followed him. As I was looking at my feet, I did not notice the beautiful scenery all around me. Gradually, I noticed the stone path under my feet.

There was a loud knock coming from in front of me. Before I had a chance to look up, though, I bumped into the sniffer. His hand was still on the knocker when he glared at me. "Watch it." he whispered to me. I just looked down, ashamed. The door opened, and there, in front of me, was a purple man. He had deep blue eyes that seemed to know all. Hiding them were eyeglasses with a golden chain holding them up.

"Hm." he said nonlachantly. "Come with me." I followed him obediently. What else was I to do? "Folara!" a small girl looked up. She looked so young and naïve, I had to wonder, what could she possibly help me with. Then I remembered the old saying, 'Don't judge a book by it's cover.

"Good girl." said the man who I suspected was the Headmaster. "Follow us and Wait outside the door of my office and wait until I come out and give you further instructions."

"Yes sir." said the little girl. As the Headmaster went up ahead I stayed next to the girl.

"Who are you?" I asked the girl.

"Folara. Didn't you hear him call me?' she asked snappily.

"Who is he?" I tried.

"Headmaster Belle." I giggled.

"Belle?" Isn't that a woman's name?" I said, hoping for a friendly answer.

"It's his last name." no room for friendship here.

"How old are you?" I said trying again to make peace.

"Why do you want to know?" she retorted. I was starting to get angry. I had tried enough to be friendly. My blood rushed to my head.

"Fine. I'll tell you since you want to know so much. 114. Happy now?" I didn't respond for a moment.

"You can't be serious."

"You don't believe me?" she said looking at me in a way that somehow made me know she was being honest.

"I believe you." I muttered. She gave me a wry grin.

"Good." she picked up the pace, leaving me behind. "Well, come on!"

~*~

Just a little while later I was led into the Headmaster's office. Folara was waiting outside, no doubt with her ear against the knob.

There was the big guy. The one at the top of this whole organization.

"Hi." I said nervously. He looked at me sarcastically under his eyeglasses.

"Hm." he said unresponsively. I fought the urge to roll my eyes. Does he have anything to say but that? No really. What's with the 'Hm' business?

We continued.

"Being invited here is a special honor. You, are one of the few in the fantastic, powerful race of the Fae. Be honored." where was he going with all this, 'Be honored' stuff? I am no worse than Folara.

"Seeing as your mother was a faerie and you father was an elf" when did that happen? "You were put down for the school as soon as you were

born. Due to the unfortunate incident of your parent's death you were sent to live with humans. Since you had such fortunate coloring you would get along fine and grow up learning good manners. Which you have, from what I've seen so far. You may leave now. Folara will show you to your rooms." Now that I knew what was going on I gave Headmaster Belle a feminine curtsy. Although, I have to admit, I'm not sure what an unfeminine curtsy is.

As soon as I shut the door I turned to Folara.

"Tell me everything."

~*~

"Classes will start tomorrow, your classes are on a parchment in your room. And whatever you do, don't go to the men's side." Folara spun around sharply, her dark hair flying around her head like daggers.

As I turned the key to my bedroom I heard a noise from inside the room. It was a beautiful chirping sound. Then, to my surprise, there was a remotely human voice that mimicked it. I opened the door fully now.

There, in front of me was the most elf-like person I had ever met. She, unlike most of the Fae I had met, was rather tall. She had black skin. Black, not brown, but black. She was wearing black, and her black hair just blended into the rest of her.

She turned her head. Not one of her straight hairs flew as she turned. "Who are you?" her voice was so musical…

"Y-your new roommate, I think." I had trouble getting the words out. I felt as though I were being put to some kind of test. She nodded.

"And your name" she asked.

"Shawna Fletcher?" Yours?"

"Alanna." there was something rather mysterious about her. I had to wonder.

"Hi Alanna." I said putting my hand out to shake. She looked at me.

"Men shake, women don't. Put your hand down." I did as I was told, although I was starting to get annoyed. These Fae were bossy!

"Tonight we are having a co-ed dinner. Be there." she got up and left the room.

"Yes, highness." I muttered. I flopped onto the bed.

~*~

At the co-ed dinner that night, seeing as girls and boys were aloud to sit next to each other, I decided to sit next to a boy. The girls really seemed like an unfriendly lot.

How I met my best friend was rather strange, I have to admit. When I pulled my chair back and sat down, there was a loud noise as though I had farted…err, tooted, as Nona would say. Then everyone burst out laughing. Then I realized it was someone in my area. I looked around. The boy sitting next to me who was laughing the hardest, was a dark chocolate color. It was him that had done it. He had somehow made it sound like I had f-tooted. I felt my heart boil in anger.

This called for revenge.

But I, always being the practical one, decided not to give it to him. I rested my head in my hands. Fluttering my eyelids a bit, I said to him. "You think it's funny, don't you?" Chocolate-boy here could hardly contain his laughter. "Well let's see if you find this funny." I gave him a hard punch in the face. I gathered my things, not ever looking back. I tried not to cry, I really did, but I couldn't help it.

~*~

As the months went by I didn't find myself any friends, but according to my teachers I was an admirable student-for a woman. Soon I had learned all of it and was ready to get sent to my specialized classes. Before I'm sent, though, I have a special test in which the analyze my skills and tell me which classes I would be in. My test was this afternoon. They had only told me this this morning. I put myself to a major cramming session but found that I couldn't concentrate. So, I just wandered the feminine side of school for a couple of hours. When Folara came to get me she caught me pacing and shook her head.

"Come on." she said, I quickly walked to the testing room.

One thing I have to tell you about Fwyddur is that this school is a school of magic. That is, if you haven't gathered that already. The Fae are a people of a mix of faeries and elves. They are the connection between the two races. Different Fae have different amounts of power. Some, like me, have limitless power, while others, well, do not.

During my time here I found myself adapting to a French braid in my hair, black pants and a long-sleeved shirt along with a cloak. Very comfortable. Even though, of course, it was a man's outfit.

Oh yes, and people in Fwyddur are very sexist. But me, being me, have been proving them wrong by excelling.

I gasped as I entered the room. It was divided into five parts. One was summer, then spring, then winter, then fall. Then there was a castle-like place divided into two parts. Some of it was boiling over with lava, the other bit was the normal, cold floor of a castle.

"Shawna, good to see you. Come on in." said the Headmaster, who by now had some respect for me.

"This, is the testing hall. This Is where we shall test your skills and see which areas you excel in." As he walked towards me his boots clunked loudly, echoing about the hall. I stiffened. Now it was time to start. This was it. If I didn't pass the minimum I'd be put in the class with the least intelligent students. While thinking this I conveniently looked over the fact that if I had been merely adequate I wouldn't have been picked to do this so near the beginning of the year. But of course, I forgot this.

I decided to come out on the top. Even though, of course, there wasn't a scoreboard to show who was better than who. But even so, I still knew I was brilliant. One problem with that, though. It's not something you learn, it's not something you achieve. It's something you are born with, but you still have to exercise it faithfully.

"Ms. Fletcher?" said Headmaster Belle. "I have to believe you are not like this in class?" blood ran to my face. Smart move, Fletcher. I thought to myself.

"No sir." I replied loudly, not weakly, so as to hide my fear.

"Good. I hope I do not catch you daydreaming any more today."

"Yes sir." Headmaster Belle smiled.

"No need to call me sir, just call me, 'Belle'."

"Yes S-Belle." I said, laughing inside. I still haven't gotten over the fact that is name is Belle.

"The first skills we are going to be going over are pleasure and such. Now come with me." I took a deep breath. Hoo boy. That's when I realized he was still talking. My eyes wandered. Then I ran to catch up.

~*~

I rolled my head around my neck. Left, right, left, right. I wanted to scream my lungs out while those stupid people sat in that stupid room and stupidly sat down assessing me. It was driving me crazy! I was ready to pull my hair out when someone opened the door.

"Thank god." I muttered. The person who was assessing me was old and gray. He had one of those huge moustaches. He just looked so tired and worn out, yet at the same time strong and all-knowing.

All he did when he came up to me was hand me a small cotton envelope with my marks sewn onto the cotton sheet inside of it. "Go." he said. His voice was so low and deep. It sounded like an earthquake. I nodded, hardly containing my excitement. As soon as I was out of sight from the office I ran the rest of the way to the library. The first thing I did when I got inside the library was rush to my favorite spot. It was a window seat, as I like to call it. I slipped the lid. Slowly I backed into the corner and took out the content of the envelope. My hands shook as I read it. I read it again and again, and as soon as I was sure what it said was true I gripped the sheet tightly and screamed with all my might. I felt myself shiver with excitement.

I am a Fighter. A Fllwr. (Notes: V-dd-oar)

~*~

As soon as I entered the room everyone shut up. My face went hot with embarrassment. I wish I were a rock. I glanced around the room to see who my new peers were. My eyes settled on one person in the crowd. It was Chocolate-boy. I glared at him as I sat down in an empty spot in the front row.

Someone walked into the room. It was a he, like everyone else in the room. Besides me, of course.

His skin was a fleshy white colour and he had a few freckles. His hair was a dimmed red. The red hair was rather common with the Fae, but it was his eyes that really caught mine. They were red like the flames of the earth. They really seemed like flames the way they danced about.

"My name Saydle. No need for Professors. For, as we will be spending all our time together we may as well get on a first name basis. If you want to be, anyways." he looked around to see is there were any questions. He picked a tall blonde boy with his hand up.

"What did you mean by, 'as we will be spending all our time together'?" he asked.

"What is your name?" asked Saydle.

"Maydrid." said the boy.

"Well, Maydrid. I meant exactly what I said. We will be sharing a hall together. Unfortunately for some of you, all of you will be sharing a dorm with at least two people. If there are no questions?" he paused for a moment to see if there were any. "Then we will play a game. I know some of you might think you are too good for this, but this is just to get to know each other. What you do, is say your name and three things about yourself. Yes, you too Maydrid."

Eventually it got to Chocolate-boy. "M' name is Baird. Em, I'm a guy. I, uh, m' name means, eh, minstrel. An' uh, I'm 15." he lifted his eyebrows to Saydle as though in cocky defiance. Saydle just rolled his eyes.

Soon after it was my turn. "I am Shawna. I am eternal, I know humans although I'm not a halfie. And I will surpass every one of you." I looked straight into Baird's eyes. "And that's a fact." I sat down.

"Well then," said Saydle. "I will show you the hall. And I must emphasize this, no one else must enter." we all nodded. "then come." he said and walked down into a route. He stopped at a painting.

"Do not go past the place I will show you. Understand?" everyone nodded again. "Now, here is your key to get in and out." he held up twelve leather strings with beads carved from bones of one individual animal.

"These necklaces are to be worn proudly. It shows that you are a warrior. See these beads?" he said shaking the necklaces. Everyone nodded. "They represent the animal you are most like." he handed them out. I looked at mine. Beside the huge fang were circles on either side. I looked more closely at them. Carved into them was the spirit of the wolf.

I am a wolf.

~*~

I went to sleep soundly that night. And I would have slept soundly too. That is, until I woke up. I was woken up at 4 a.m. Of all times! Guess by who. Baird.

"Shawna! Shawna!" gone was the phony accent he had held all of yesterday.

"What?" I answered groggily. He kept shaking and shaking me until I finally got fed up with it and awoke.

"What!" I started to say but Baird put his hand over my mouth before I could say it.

"You don't want everyone to wake up, do you?" he whispered. I glared. Finally he took his hand off my mouth, assured that I would not scream.

I tapped my foot, and raised my eyebrow.

"What?" he asked.

"You can' possibly expect me to leave the room in my nightgown." I said under my breath. His ears were rosy.

"Sorry." he said as he turned his back. I quickly got into my black outfit.

"You can turn around now." he did. Then he scampered out of the room. I grunted, then ran after him. I ran and ran, only directed by the brown boots ahead of me. Finally he stopped and his form became clear.

He was just looking at a stone wall, one of the many in the castle.

"What are you doing?" I asked him.

"Looking at something." he glanced back at me. "I'm figuring out the pattern so I'll be able to get onto the other floors." he smiled. "I mean, if we're going to be friends we may as well tell each other stuff." I was about to ask him about getting out but the last thing he said stopped me.

"Who said anything about being friends?"

"You came with me didn't you?" he said.

"Yes, but-"

"If you didn't trust me enough to be friends you wouldn't have come down here."

"Well if you want to be friends you sure haven't shown it much in the past."

"Yeah, well, I didn't then." he said.

"So, after five months of torturing me you expect me to just, poof! Be friends with you?"

"I really need practice in this." he muttered to himself, obviously used to people begging him for friendship, not the other way around.

"Look, I don't want to be enemies and-let me start me start again." he took a deep breath. "I'm sorry. We're going to be stuck here together-" I cut him off.

"With other people."

"With other people, but I'd hate to be enemies. I mean, if we are, it's going to hurt me worse than it is you."

"And why is that?" I asked. Meanwhile I was thinking, Not bad.

"Because, how am I possible supposed to beat you in a match. I'd rather be with you than against you if you know what I'm saying." I grinned. Not bad, not bad at all. I think, with him around my ego's going to get far too big. Either that or the other way around.

~*~

"C'mon guys, and Shawna!" yelled Saydle in the training field.

"Why?" asked Matriarch. Or Triar as we call him. Saydle just grinned.

"I'm going to show you the dangerous parts of the castle. Past the wall."

"How?" asked Triar. He had a thing about the five W's and how.

"I'm going to do a wall-passing spell."

"A spell to pass through walls?"

"Yes." said Saydle. "I will teach it to you now, and afterwards you won't have to do the ritual again."

"Ritual?" groaned Maydrid, or May. Baird snickered. He wasn't very fond of May. Mostly because he and May had a fight on the first day about whether elves or faeries were better, and boy could Baird hold a grudge.

Saydle lifted his hands in the air. "Repeat after me. Do exactly what I do. Vdri nachtorei vli nedorach!" everyone repeated after him. Then he started drawing numbers and letter in the air that stayed imprinted in the air. When he said the last word and drew the last letter, the glowed blue. When we said ours, they did the same. The blue started to fade. We just stood there gaping. This was the first major spell we had done.

"To activate is," said Saydle. This got our attention. "To activate is, say Vdor. Everyone got it?" everyone nodded and murmered the word and carved it in their minds. "Then follow me." said Saydle as he turned around. I watched his cloak swirl around him.

"C'mon!" said Baird pulling me along.

"I'm coming! I'm coming!" I muttered as I felt him drag me. It's a good thing I have a warrior's grace, or I would be tripping right now.

~*~

We were standing at the wall. Baird and I glanced at each other.

"Vdor!" said Saydle and walked through the wall.

"Vdor!" we all called out and one by one walked through the wall.

Walking through the wall was unlike anything I had ever felt before. It was like a momentary chill, a momentary buzz, a momentary heat, and like purifying yourself while spinning through clouds. I felt dizzy.

"Are you okay?" asked Baird.

"Yes." I said. It was the truth, now I felt as though nothing had happened.

"Don't worry, it's only like this the first time." there were a few sighs of relief. I looked around to see who they were.

"Be careful here. This is the most dangerous place that you will probably ever go in your lives. There are beasts like you could never imagine. They are not like the ones outside. They think and speak like we do. They are very powerful, but each one has a weakness. But it is you that must find out what that weakness is.

"One more thing before we go upstairs, whatever you do, do not become afraid. Master your fear like I have taught you.

"Is anyone incapable of coming with us?" no one raised their hand. We were all determined to do this, and do it well. "Good. Now follow me." he swept his cloak along with him up the stairs that had just appeared out of nowhere. Baird and I just looked at each other, eyebrows raised. Then we followed. As I climbed I felt my skin crawl. Not the most hopeful of signs.

At first it seemed like there was nothing wrong with the place, besides it's dire need for a cleanup and a dusting-over. I sneezed. It echoed loudly.

Everyone glared at me. Saydle just smiled. His little flames danced happily.

"Now we're in for it." said Gan. I rolled my eyes. Gan is so pessimistic.

"Well, sorry." I muttered. Gan glared. He really, truthfully thought he was so talented and that everyone, including Saydle should bow down to him, I mean, as if! Gan often made my blood boil.

"Maybe we should head back…" said Lib thinking aloud.

"No, there is no reason for us to turn back." said Saydle smiling.

"Why not? You said this would be very dangerous. If it's so dangerous why would we be doing it in the first place?" I said standing up for Lib.

"Because you must learn control. The things here are very dangerous, yes, but will be more so if they escape."

"Escape?" asked Maydrid, always the curious one.

"Yes, escape. See, that wall we passed through used to be a gateway for them to come down and have their daily snacks, but people, as you may guess, did not like that so they built a wall. That wall has protection from all of their spells and of their power. It has protection against everything, except that one spell that we just conjured up today." Saydle looked around at us.

"So then unless they know the spell, we're safe, right?" said Baird.

"Actually, no. Someday in the future the protection will become obsolete and they will be able to go through." said Saydle.

"How the heck will it become obsolete?" said another boy, Daft. He was a bit of a rebel. But very smart. "What about the fact that the older the spell, the stronger the spell?" he said in defiance. A couple people groaned. He and Saydle always seemed to have debates at the most inappropriate of times. Like during dinner. Before each and every one of them Saydle would say, "Listen carefully, you might learn something." and of course, we did. But then again, we had no choice, did we? Yet we usually did learn something. The strange thing is though, is that Daft never studies. It just seems as though he knows without ever having to learn it. It's creepy. And he figures out some way to be rude about it at the same time. Truly remarkable.

"I don't have time for this right now Daft. We can talk about it after we finish this. But I will answer your question. It could become obsolete if they invented a new spell that we don't know about that would get them through the wall. Luckily, they are rather uncreative, but do not think they are unintelligent. They can smell what you feel, taunt you. They know your deepest secrets. Be careful." he said looking at Daft. His face had gone as pale as Princess Starfall at my home castle.

She was prissy, stuck-up, and thought the fresh air had spores. She had never been outside yet acted as though she knew everything. Even the way the sun felt on your face. Or the beautiful sight of dawn rising in the morning. But she didn't. She couldn't. For Princess Starfall had never been outside.

I stared at Daft and narrowed my eyes. I peered at him trying to figure out what it was that he was trying to hide. He, noticing my eyes stiffened up. He took in a deep, ragged breath, trying to mask his oh-so-obvious fears. Well, they were for everyone else in the room anyways. I, on the other hand, was still clueless. I huffed, and I puffed but, I still didn't get any answers.

"Well," I said trying to change the topic, "We're here so, why don't we get a move on?"

"Good idea Shawna." said Saydle feeling the tension. He walked to the head of the group. "Follow me! If I'm going to fast, alert me and I will slow down the pace. Everybody got it?" he asked.

"Got it!" we all answered in a strained cheerful way. Debll glanced at me in that odd way of his. Baird thinks he has a crush, I think he's crazy. Debll glanced again and I just raised my eyebrows as though saying 'What?'. He blushed and looked down. I grunted and moved up the line. I nudged Baird at the side.

"Okay, fill me in, what's going on?" I said quietly.

"Daft's mother has secretly been working for the minister for many years now. Everyone knows it, but no one wants to report it." he said.

"So? She's just working for the minister." My eyes darted from side to side. "What's a minister?" I whispered.

"He's a man that gets wisdom from Athena." my eyes lit up. I loved Greek Mythology.

"Like, the Greek goddess Athena?" Baird looked at me strangely.

"No… the tree. The source of all life. Not a human. Or, whatever a goddess is anyways."

"Athena is a tree?" I said unimpressed.

"Yes. The source of all life."

"Oh brother." I muttered. Every time when I thought I knew them by heart the Fae would just come up and surprise me. A tree. A tree. They worship, a tree. I just shook my head, hardly able to contemplate it.

"Why?" I asked. Baird blew up a few strands of hair in annoyance.

"Because from the trees all life was born. Duh! And who was the mother tree? Athena!" he said sarcastically.

"Don't get cocky with me." I said with my hands on my hips. Baird just laughed. I hate it when people laugh at me. I grunted, arms folded.

"Sorry." he said, knowing my touchy temper.

"It's okay." I said smiling again.

But my smile didn't last long. The next thing I heard was not Saydle, nor Daft, nor Baird, but a roar. A loud, fierce, ear crushing roar. I caught my breath in fright, then breathed as Saydle had taught us.

"This is your first lesson, do what your instinct tells you to. Show me what you have learned."

What have I learned that would be of use here? I thought to myself. Calm down! I scolded myself. My heart was thumping like crazy.

The beast crept from the shadows, his yellow nails were the first thing I saw. Then his arched back, then the spikes that protruded from his back. It was red. It had a snarl on his face that showed it's gleaming yellow teeth. It stood on it's hunches and roared so loudly that I had to wonder how I hadn't heard it before.

I pulled out my sword. It was like my wand. I though of it as the wand of Merlin. Or, sword anyways. As I pulled it out it gave off no light for it sensed my need to be discreet. I tried to step closer to it, but it turned rapidly to face me. I stumbled backwards in fright. I prepared myself. I wanted to be the one to slay the beast. I backed against the wall so as not to be seen. It was too dark to see much, yet there was still a shadow dancing on the wall in front of me. I saw a figure creep up and stab the monster in the belly. I felt my heart sag. It was not killed by me, it was…. I went back to the group to see who it was. I gaped. It was Shost, the quiet boy in the corner. The one who sat and listened, never saying a word. A few guys gave him friendly pats on the back, all thinking, if only that had been me.

"No one be disappointed that it wasn't them, we'll all get our chance." said Saydle. "Despite the beast's size, that was one of the less challenging ones. Understand? They are not all that easy." Shost blushed, for he had taken an easy one. The first, yes, but one of the easiest. "Now let's move along." said Saydle as he and the group went further. I decided to try and kill one where the others weren't there to steal my kills. I wouldn't venture far, I told myself, I would just go off to the side a little bit then go back to the group. That's what I'll do. I thought.

I walked through. The hall I was entering now was starting to get a cathedral sort of look. I looked around with wide eyes at the stain glass windows, and the beautiful painting of animals and people. But there were horrible things here, too. Like the work of art which showed the most horrible beast of them all. Underneath it was labeled, The Demon and that was it. Nothing else. I stared at the painting. This Demon fellow looked a lot like a bat. He had dark, brooding eyes and instead of a bat's wings, there were the wings of an angel. But black. As though the angel had fallen into coal and the coal had infected the whole beast.

I walked down the hallway some more. I entered a large hall. It looked as though it had been used for something. Maybe there had been a community that had lived in this castle once! And this was their cathedral! I grinned, having made an assumption. Then this place must be blessed. No harm would come to me here.

I wish. Merely a moment after I thought that, there was a loud hissing sound. I screamed. If there was one thing I hated, it was snakes. What was really there was worse. It was the Demon. He was so much more horrible in real life. He looked starved-and I could tell it was a he-yet blood dripped from his fangs. He swept down to me as I shook with fear. I turned around to run away, but the door slammed closed.

I ran anyways. Which wasn't a smart move as it left me cornered. His body was following me. Until he landed. There, just, there. My heart thumped so loud I thought it would fall out of my chest. Why can't everyone hear me? Why isn't anyone coming to find me? I thought. I felt tears well up in my eyes. Don't cry! Don't cry! I thought reverently. If I was to die, I had always wanted to die a hero. Not, a sniveling coward.

"Please, please don't hurt me." I whimpered. I couldn't hold them back anymore. The tears of knowing you're about to die. The river. I saw my life flash through my eyes. How arrogant I had been. How selfish. And how extremely stupid! I wished fervently that I was back home. Serving. Hardly living. Even that was better than this death.

His jaws came down on me. I felt the blood drip on my head. Drip. Drip. Drip. My jaw trembled. I want-I want Chocolate-boy! I thought.

"I want Baird." I whispered tearfully. The Demon stopped.

"Who is this Baird you speak of?" his voice was deep and rumbling. I could feel the floor under my feet shake.

"He's my best friend." I mumbled.

"Why then, did you come here alone?" he said, sounding more like he was speaking a demand, rather than asking a question.

"I was-" say it Fletcher! Do it for life! He knows what you think and feel!

"Don't you know?" I was speaking to the Demon. This has got to be a dream. I thought.

"Yes, I do, but tell me yourself." he said.

"Why should I?" I asked, in one last act of defiance.

"For if you do I shall let you free." he said calmly. I didn't know why I chose to trust him. He was a monster for crying out loud! But I did.

"I was jealous."

"Of who?" he asked, rather like a priest in the repentance box.

"Shost. He made the first kill." he tensed, but did not do anything.

"What did the monster look like?" he asked.

"It was red." he smiled, his fangs showing. I shivered.

"Good. The weaker they are, the warmer their color is." I looked at his black. I bit a lip. Hoo boy.

"So you wandered of alone?"

"Yes. To make my own kill without any interference." Now my quest for my kill seemed rather stupid and arrogant.

"Thank you for telling me." he said. He bent down his neck. I could feel his breath blowing down his neck. And he bit me.

~*~

The next thing I knew I was riding one my favorite horse from the stables back at home into the stars. I embraced the night, but heard a voice.

"Not yet, Shawna. It is not yet your time."

And so the horse went in a straight line, then plummeted to the earth.

~*~

I woke up in my room, everyone crowding around me.

"What happened?" I asked groggily. They looked at each other. Lott nudged Bran and Bran nudged Shost who shook his head and nodded to Baird. Baird sighed.

"You had…. Disappeared. We didn't know where you were. We searched for weeks and weeks. One morning when I went on a night watch to see if you would come back, I tripped on something as I walked through the wall. It was you." That talk with the demon must have take a long time. I thought. "We carried you back to your bed and, yeah. We waited a couple hours…" his voice faded. His eyes were fixated on the two little holes on my neck.

"How did that happen?" he asked me. I knew what he was talking about.

"These?" I asked touching them. I winced. They hurt. "I-" I had to make u something quick. Something told me I shouldn't tell them about my meeting with the Demon. Tell them you poked yourself when you fell down the stairs with your Fllwr necklace. I heard a voice in my head tell me. It was the Demon. I knew it.

"I poked myself when I fell down the stairs."

"Oh." said Baird, not really believing me, but dropping it anyways. "I'm glad to have you back." he said as he offered me a handshake. I took his hand.

"Agreed." Baird looked at me oddly. He held the handshake for a moment longer, but then I heard him think, what the heck and gave me a big hug. I hugged back, tears falling out of my eyes again. Last time! I thought to my self.

"Group hug!" called out Lott, the prankster of the group. Everyone laughed, but hugged anyways.

Live well. And use the gift I have given to you, but use it well. I heard the voice say to me. What is the gift? I wanted to ask, but I didn't know how. I settled for the answer I knew would be given.

You will know in time, young one.

By

Liarra