CHAPTER ELEVEN: Hidden truths

The plains they saw here was a sharp contrast to that of the green fields they had witnessed before. This place was a barren waste lands on the far end there were large clusters of mountains that spewed lava and ash in the air. The sky could barely be seen here through the dark thick clouds of smoke and ash caused by the volcanoes.

'This just keeps on getting easier and easier doesn't it.' Devlin said sarcastically as he gazed out onto this rough terrain.

'What is this place?'

'I believe they call here Roth but I must say this is probably one of the places I have not read about.' Avana confessed as she now wished she had so that they would be better prepared to deal with this new land.

'I cannot go on, you guys can leave me here with the horses and go on.' a terrified Cal uttered to them.

'Come on Cal. What is wrong with you, we cannot just leave you here by yourself.' Devlin insisted as he stared into her eyes. At that moment in time Calantha could have cared less with what he was doing she looked petrified of the area. She was more willing to take her chance in the Black Woods in the lake rather than venture into this country.

'Leave her alone Dev, she is a wood nymph remember. Wood and fire do not mix; we will just have to leave her here. I am sure she will be a lot safer here than with us.' Avana hissed at him not understanding how some one so intelligent could be so thick sometimes.

He begrudgingly saw her point of view an agreed with it. Avana turned to Adrastos removing all her shrink bags from his saddle. She took out not only food and water for him but for Calantha and the other horses as well enough to last a few days if needed. Nissa did not even bother doing that she just handed over one of her shrink bags allowing Cal to use it the bag filled with a variety of edible available goodies. She stated that she had two more bags just like that so as not to worry Cal who was in the process of handing the bag back to the original owner. So Calantha thanked here and taking the bounty that Avana had given her placed it in the bag for future use. Avana tried to get Isadora to stay behind with Adrastos but the bird obviously abhorred the idea. She sang mournfully and nipped at Avana till she finally caved in allowing the bird to come as well.

Janus and Devlin also removed their bags from their own horses. They laid the gift of weapons at her feet rather than food or water. A dagger from Janus and a sword from Devlin but these gifts were not necessary as Cal collected all the reins in her hand and repositioned herself a small distance away from her friends. She slowly began to change her feet turning into roots, her body into a trunk and her arms into branches. Avana grinned relaxed in the knowledge that the small oak in front of her would be safe.

Her attention now returned to Kavan who sat patiently waiting for them to proceed. Avana moved forward signalling to Kavan that they were ready to resume their mission. He swiftly walked to the head of the line leading the way into the unknown.

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The area was very warm due to the heat given off by the volcanoes. Occasionally Kavan would put his nose to the harsh soil sniffing for the scent of the one they were tracking. Kavan's head came up sharply as he picked up on the scent. He began sprinting forcing them to run after him Isadora flying above them. By the time he came to a halt they were all exhausted struggling to get oxygen back into their lungs.

Kavan had stopped at the base of the largest volcano, giving them just enough time to catch their breath before he proceeded to climb up the side of the mountain. It was steep and treacherous making it extremely hard to climb. Kavan, Nissa and Isadora had no problem getting up to the top. Janus, Devlin and Avana had greater difficulty as they were not blessed with the gift of flight or the agility of a big cat. After a great deal of effort they reached the ledge at the side of the volcano. Those who encountered difficulty reaching this area were panting heavily as they sat down for a break. At the side of the volcano was the entrance to a cave. What greeted them inside was not what they expected.

'Inside here is gorgeous.' Nissa exclaimed. Inside of the volcano the entire cave was made of a crystal.

'How is this possible?' Janus asked touching the sides of the cave.

'Well all this heat and molten rock could have spawned this.' Avana stated obviously in awe of the beauty surrounding her.

'Come let us go we have no time to waste.' Devlin growled breaking everyone from their trance. They continued to make their way through the cave which was like a maze. The colours and the heat in the cave were incredible as they got closer to the centre of the mountain some of the paths leading to huge rooms and chambers. It was at the entry way of one of these rooms that they heard the echoing of some voices.

'At last I can finally take over all of Serenity and give my brother exactly what he deserves.' a voice howled in pleasure.

'Who is that?' Avana hissed under her breath.

'I do not know but he is coming this way. Come on hide.' Devlin uttered as he pushed the rest of the group backwards into a small crack that they passed before. Nissa squeezed her way in first, then Janus, Avana and lastly Devlin who just managed to squeeze himself far enough inside so as not to be noticed by the owner of the ominous voice.

'Soon King Adalardo will be taken care of by the people of Merethia. A war between the two kingdoms will erupt and I will be there to pick up the pieces.' the voiced laughed a he revealed his plan.

'That voice sounds rather familiar.' Avana whispered as she struggled to get a peek of this man from behind Devlin scraping her arms hips as she twisted and turned to do just that.

'Shhh!' Devlin commanded, quickly silencing her.

'Wait someone is here!' the voice bellowed.

'Quick search the cave!' he ordered his minions who were close by. It was only then did this person come to light close enough for them to see who it was.

'Oh my goodness Devlin he looks just like you father and the monster is holding my orb.' she exclaimed rage building up inside her.

'Will you be quiet! Do you wished for us to be caught.' he hissed at her silencing her straight away.

'Guys just wondering where are Isadora and Kavan?' Janus questioned quietly, both Devlin and Avana turned their heads sharply to face him as the realised they had no clue.

'I do not know but I am sure they are safe and hidden away.' Avana told him returning her attention to look at this impostor.

Still things were going to take a turn for the worst as an ash slug choose this time to make its presence known. This black creature with three red eyes on stalks eats the ashes of plants, animals and rocks that have been burnt to a crisp. They are harmless but produce a lot of extra slime to deal with heat of the fire and molten ash. It was this slime that announced its presence to Nissa who was not at all appreciative of this. The ash slug was at the top on the cave just above Nissa head. A long thick glob of slim fell from it on to her back causing a most unwanted reaction at this moment in time.

'Ewwwwww, ew, ew, ew. Guys I think there is something in the cave with us.' Nissa squeaked softly panic entering her body her hand reaching for the spot where she felt the slime that was there.

'Will you be silent!?' Devlin ordered her. She did as she was told if only for a few minutes as once again the voices outside the cave began to talk again.

'Sir there is no one about.' a frighten person said.

'I know I heard something, so go look again and harder this time. We cannot have anything ruining my plan!' The person in command shouted.

His servant needed no more encouragement as he darted off looking for any sign of an intruder. Unfortunately this was about the same time as the slug lost his grip on the ceiling bringing about his tumble to earth. Luckily for him he landed on a soft spot. Too bad for Nissa that it was on her head.

'Please guys; there is something on my head.' Nissa pleaded in a high pitched voice as she reached for her head.

'Silence!' Devlin hissed as he became more frustrated with her cries and the thought of being caught when they were so close to their goal.

'I know there is someone here and it will only be a matter of time till I find him.' the man snarled.

'Sir we still have not found anyone.' the servant reported.

A then scream echoed through the cave as Nissa had finally found out what had landed on her head. As she felt her head she had pulled the damp slimy ash slug into her hands huge globs of slime still in her hair. As she dropped the slug on the floor, she screamed pushing herself frontward leading to the rest of her friends being forced out of their hiding place. They came crashing down on the ground one on top of the other at the feet of King Adalardo's twin. They all looked up into his devilish face.

'Ahh here we go. I told you Amver, you should always trust your king.' the man said haughtily a puff of smoke then engulfed them then everything around them became dark.

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When Avana awoke she found that she was tied to an enormous boulder along with her friends who were still out cold. She thrashed about in an attempt to free herself but gave up when that oh so familiar voice returned.

'Do not try to struggle those ropes have been expertly tied and you have no weapons. There is really no way that you can escape. Tell me child what is your name?' he asked her as he cupped her chin. She glared at him with pure contempt in her heart of him after she broke free of his grip. She said nothing but rather looked defiantly into her capturer's eyes.

'Do not worry I know your name just wishing to be polite. The name is Avana isn't it.' He told her, Avana looked a little shocked at him.

'Forgive me but it seems that I have the advantage here my name is Kalan the brother of your beloved King Adalardo but I do think that you figured that on out on your own. After all we do look so much alike.' he told her a bit of venom dripping with every word.

'Why did you steal my orb?' Avana sneered at him jerking herself forward pulling at the ropes as she did so. This not only woke the others but gave them some bad rope burn as well.

'All in due time my dear. Ah I see your friends and my beloved nephew decided to join our little chat.' he snickered as he looked at her groggy companions.

Devlin glared at his uncle while Nissa and Janus struggled with the ropes. They gave up trying to get loose after Avana informed them of how impossible the task was as she had been try for what she deemed to be forever.

'Who are you? You look like my father but I know you are not him. You are far too cruel and vile to be him.' Devlin barked at this mystery man.

'Well spotted nephew, I knew I was going to like you are indeed brilliant.' Kalan told Devlin.

'I am not your nephew.' He vented wishing dearly that he was free of these ropes so that he could attack him.

'You think so. I am sorry to tell you that you are very wrong.' Kalan laughed, he then proceeded to tell Devlin and the others a story that Devlin had never heard before.

It began a long time ago before anyone there who was listening to the story had even come into existence. Many, many years ago in Montar there was the birth of two twin princes, Prince Kalan and Prince Adalardo. Prince Kalan was born first and in so doing was crowned, crown prince of the kingdom. Yet in comparison the two princes were extremely different.

Prince Adalardo was kind and a very gentle person only showing fury when the lives of his people and loved ones were in danger. Prince Kalan on the other hand was cruel, mean and cared about only one thing the pursuit of power. It was in an attempt to get this power that a scheme was hatched by this evil prince. To do this he needed the Merethia orb so that he could obtain the other lost treasures created by the lose race of Serenity. Prince Adalardo over heard his brother's plan and went to his father. The King of Montar only wished for peace throughout Serenity. Realising that this son could never help keep the continued peace throughout Serenity he stripped him of his title and banished him forever.

'So you are my uncle and the reason that no one ever speaks of you was because of your banishment for your evil deeds.' Devlin said numbly praying that what he just heard was untrue.

'That is right after I was banished all were made to make a promise that my name would never be uttered in Montar ever again.' Kalan said bitterly.

'So if you wanted revenge why did you steal Avana's orb thing?'

'Oh my young prince I did not steal anything, your father did that.' he cackled as he watched the colour drain from Devlin's face the fire once there extinguished his body going limp in disbelief.

'My father would never do that' he muttered under his breath in defence of his father.

'Well you are wrong and right in the same sentence. Your father stole the orb but it was I who got him to do it.' At this point Avana would have gladly given any thing up just to do so grievous bodily harm to this man his deception and devious nature causing great harm to all those involved.

'How did you manage to that? His majesty would never willing participate in something like this.' Janus told him all eyes now fixated on this horrible person.

'Ah so glad you could join the conversation. Well some twins have always had a special bond. We share each others joy and can feel each others sorrow. Yet Devlin's father and I always had a special trait. We would always know exactly what the other was thinking. When I was banished your father set up a very powerful mental block against me one that I could not break through. It has only been in recent years that it has begun to crumble, over the guilt and despair of my banishment. So I influenced his mind into taking the orb for me and giving it to one of my helpers.' he boasted to the four of them.

'Why did you need the orb? Why not just hunt down the other treasures first?' Nissa questioned bring up valid points.

'It is very simple my dear the rest of the gifts have been carefully hidden away no one else know where they are. No one else except the royal family of Merethia.' He told her gleefully as the parts of a giant puzzle began to fall into place.

'What is he talking about Ana I do not understand?' Nissa cried a feeling of betrayal welling up inside of her.

'Why sweetheart, Avana is one of the only descendants of the ancient people that created the gifts the knowledge of there whereabouts passed on from generation to generation thought I don't think Avana has been privy that information yet.' He told her softly.

'That is impossible I heard the story all of them died only their princess was left after using all her energy to hide the treasure did she pass on as well.' Devlin told him with great conviction a smirk on his face.

'Oh yes most of the story is true but for the part where the princess perishes. For you she did not die along with her kinsmen after hiding the treasures she was set to die but faith seemed to have lent her a hand as she was found and nursed back to health by an old man. The only thing with her the Merethian orb the one treasure she planned to take with her to her final resting place. The old man was in fact a duke who had no children so he took this beauty as his daughter.

So it was that she fell in love and wed your young friend's Avana's ancestor giving to him the gift of the orb that keeps Merethia so lush and rich. Since then all the girl in the line are the only ones taught how to use the orb to its full power as well as the secrets of the other treasures an honour to the princess. But that matters not to me for even a faction of the power used can cause great destruction if used in the right hands.' Kalan laughed loudly.

'With it I can rule Serenity, so as you can see I have some work to do. I will leave you children here to have some fun bye for now.' he said leaving in his wake a silence among the group. Till Nissa choose to break it.

'Why did you not tell me that you had ancient blood running through your veins' Nissa accused Avana hurt that her friend had chosen to keep something like this from her.

'I honestly did not believe it mattered.' Avana told her bluntly as she had never really cared about that part of her heritage only what people thought about her now.

'Any way we need to get out of here before Devlin's uncle uses my orb to his benefit.'

'He is not my uncle but she does have a point. We need to get out of here. Maybe if we all wiggle together we might loosen the ropes.' Devlin told them.

'Well it is worth a try.' Janus said and he began to wiggle. Avana, Nissa and Devlin all began to move trying to get the ropes to loosen but to no avail.

'It is no use the ropes are too tight or the stupid thing could be enchanted.' Nissa sighed.

'We can not just give up.' Avana moaned in helpless frustration.

'Well unless you go a knife or a dagger on you. I am guessing that we are out of luck.' Devlin retorted banging his head on the rock.

'Ohhhhhhh! There has to be a way out of this, if we do not do something soon it will be too late for your father, Devlin.' said Avana on the verge of tears at the hopelessness of their situation. Seeing that her promise to King Adalardo my very well be broken. At that thought the tears that Avana held back began to flow freely. Tiny sobs could be heard escaping from her mouth from time to time her tears glittering in the light given off by the lava flowing close by.

'Do not cry Avana we will get out of this, you will see.' Janus spoke trying to calm her. Unfortunately this did not work as she continued to cry and even harder now as she was lost in her thoughts.

'Would you stop all of your blubbering.' Devlin told her sharply wanting her to be quiet so that he could think.

'It is not as if as if all of this is your fault.'

'Devlin stop being so mean to her. Let her cry if she wants to.' Janus scolded him.

'No he is right this is my entire fault. The only reason your uncle knew to get into the temple was because I showed your father. If I had never done that none of this would have happened.' Avana cried almost hysterically now.

'You did what! This IS ALL YOUR fault my father is going to die because of you!' Devlin screamed at her.

'That is it I have had enough of you. This is not Avana's fault, she is not the one with the crazy family, you are. Oh yes by the way she only showed your father the orb because she trusted him and respected him. And another thing she would have never agreed to marry you if it weren't for him you crazy little bug so be quiet.' Nissa hollered at him finally fed up with Devlin's attitude. She then moved her hands to strike him. To her immediate surprise her hand did leave her side thus hitting its intended target.

Devlin was left completely stunned for an extended period of time a bright red mark appearing on his face. An apologetic Nissa stuttered numerous sorry, saying that she was unaware that her hand would actually reach its target.

'How did this happen?' a more composed Avana questioned wiping the tears off her face. The answer she looked for soon found her in the form of a lick on the face. Kavan was at her side licking away all her tears. Isadora was perched on the large rock which they were tied to cooing happily.

'Well at least now we are free.' Devlin said as he found his tongue rubbing at his sore cheek ever so often.

'What are we going to do now?' Nissa asked rubbing at her wrists.

'Well we can not just stand here and wait to be caught. Maybe we can get Kavan to show us the way he came in and maybe we can plan something outside.' Avana suggested.

'Good idea except for one thing they are going to notice that was are missing. The moment they figure that out they will start looking for us.' Devlin told her unwilling to met her gaze.

'No they won't because they will never know we are gone.' Janus said quickly as if struck with an idea.

'What you want us to stay tied up. Have you lost your mind?' Nissa vented still not calm from her previous rampage.

'No I got something better, a Tinage Medallion.' Janus told her.

'A, what?' Nissa asked intrigued by this object.

'A Tinage Medallion is something that traps a picture of the last thought you had in your mind and plays it for all to see. It is good when you want to get out of boring ceremonies and stuff like that.' Janus grinned as he thought of all the times he had used it.

'Hey how come you never told me about that?' Devlin moaned while Janus removed the medallion from around his neck.

'Well to be honest, if I told you about it before I would not have been able to use it with you.' Janus admitted as he looked as friend.

'You have used that thing on me?' Devlin asked angrily.

'Well yes sometimes when you have all those girls around you. You tend to get to umm..... How should I put this? You tend to get a bit proud of yourself, and begin to speak your praises. So I just activated it and I could skip that part. I always returned before you finished, you never knew I was gone.' Janus admitted looking down at his boots ashamed by what he was saying.

'Now everything makes sense. I wondered how his friends could put up with him and his ego. It is a good thing this fiasco happen or otherwise you might have of just killed him.' Nissa murmured to her friend getting an elbow in the tummy for all her words.

'OWWW. I am just saying that if this did not happen you would have been married to that fool. You know that really hurt.' she cried as she rubbed her tummy.

'Now is not the time for this.' She told Nissa firmly though acknowledging what Nissa said to be true.

'Janus, how does this thing work?'

Thankful for this distraction from his friend's scowling face. Janus quickly explained how the medallion worked. They all gathered around it, and then Janus told them to think about the moment before they were released by Kavan. How they struggled attempting to break free. Then they were ordered to touch the medallion with this thought in their minds. The medallion then sent out a large bit of light that caused them to be temporarily blinded for a second or two.

'How in the world did you slip away using that?!' Nissa exclaimed rubbing her eyes.

'Devlin must be dead not to notice that flash.'

'The flash only happens when numerous people use it.' Janus shrugged.

'But look it worked.'

To the others amazement they could see exact duplicates of themselves struggling to get free of their ropes. Nothing more was said taking a hint from Avana, Kavan began leading the through a maze of tunnels in this volcano, till they reached where they first started. Then instead of leading them out he turned down another tunnel, he lead them to what seemed to be a crystal throne room. On a crystal throne sat none other than Kalan, Avana's orb in his hands, tossing it from hand to hand as if it were simply a child's play thing. From their hiding place Devlin attempted to lunge forward to retrieve the stolen artifact so that could free his father, before it fell from the enemy's hands. He was held back by three pairs of hands. One pair over his mouth, another holding his right side the other holding his left.

'Do not do this if you do this now they will know we escaped and I will never get the orb back.' Avana begged quietly this made Devlin slump down.

'Well what are we going to do?' Devlin asked with a smile after they removed their hands from him.

'Well do we have any rope?' Avana asked just then Isadora flew by them carrying the girls shrink bags.

'Do you have to ask?' Nissa giggled as she pulled out a silvery rope that was almost invisible.

'It is made of unicorn hair.'

'That will be great.' Avana said softly with a smile for a moment looking up to the ceiling.

'Wait forget about that I have a new plan and we will not have to lift a finger all we have to do is stand back and watch the fireworks.' she snickered.

'What are you thinking?' Nissa inquired grinning all the way knowing that her friend probably came up with an ever so genius plan.

'You will see.' Avana cackled. She then beckoned forth Kavan and whispered her plan into his ear. The creature grunted and walked forward to carry out the plan Isadora riding on his back.

'I think for our own safety that was should wait outside.' Avana told them as she proceeded to sneak out the cavern the others trailing after her. Hiding in a crack she waited.

'What in the world? Guards come in here now we have a pest problem.' Kalan snickered loudly. Numerous guards went past the friends' hiding place and straight into the throne room. They pressed their bodies up against the wall so that they would not be seen.

'There is no escape now my pretty pets.' Kalan hissed confidence dripping from his every word. The next thing that was heard was a deafening roar and screech combined. Then screams could be heard as the crystal stalactites on the ceiling of the room started to fall.

When the area was tranquil once again Avana came out from her hiding place going into the throne room. Sitting on the throne now was a contented Isadora and Kavan under Kavan's front paw was the orb. Trapped in between the fallen stalactites were Kalan, his men and fire sprites all unable to move.

'Look who can not get out now Kalan, never underestimate you opponent.' Avana cooed sweetly as she looked at him.

'You are a unique one I will give you that but like you said never underestimate your opponent. Eithne! Sugar!' Kalan called out loudly Avana went and got the orb from Kavan as she waited to see whet happened next.

'Letting your little pets come to attack us.' Janus laughed.

'Pets they are, yes, but they are far from little.' he grinned as the ground began to shake beneath them.

'It is time for us to go now!' Avana screamed as she placed the orb in one of her bags, Kavan darting past her in order to lead the way.

'That is right my dears run away.' he laughed.

'Oh no, you don't.' Avana said suddenly as she formulated a new plan in her head grabbing Kalan's hand she had him touch the inside of one of her bags. He instantly disappeared into the little pouch. As soon as he was safely in the bag she took of running after the rest of the gang leaving all of Kalan followers trapped between the fallen spikes. The shaking was now accompanied by two loud roars. Eithne and Sugar were definitely not the tiny pets they thought they were. Avana ran even faster meeting up with her companions as she did so.

'We really need to go Eithne and Sugar do not sound as sweet as can be!' Avana shouted as she ran along with them.

'Excuse me but what exactly are we running from?' Devlin asked as they dodged falling pieces of crystal.

'Not sure but that rumbling does signal danger.' she laughed trying to lighten the mood, the light of the entrance of the cave a few feet away. They ran from the exit and started to slide down the step mountain side each getting several cuts and bruises on the way down.

'Alright we did it.' Janus said triumphantly lifting his arms to the sky. A short while later a loud explosion was heard as Eithne and Sugar made their debut. As Avana guess these pets were anything but sweet. They were two identical fire dragons, volcano dragons to be exact their scale black in colour, their eyes had an amber colour. They were both as big as a school bus, each of them had long snouts and each had two rows of razor sharp teeth where creatures went in but not to come out. They were blessed with wings and a tail that if swung at you would knock you all cold. The only thing that was missing was for the moment was the fire breathing.

'Oh come on doesn't anyone want to give us a break haven't we been through enough.' Nissa whined as she saw them exhausted at the amount of monsters and deadly creatures they had to face.

'There is no way we can run they will catch us the minute we reach any open area that's for sure.' Devlin stated quickly as he summed up their precarious situation.

'Well I guess I am going to have to capture them.' Avana told them without any hesitation.

'Avana are you nuts those are DRAGONS we are talking about. You can be killed!' Devlin told her.

'Well I have to try some thing we cannot stay here forever so are you all in.' She responded.

'You do not have to tell me twice.' Janus joined in.

Using the rope that Nissa had offered earlier, Avana formed a lasso. Nissa did the same with another length of rope following her friends lead. Avana then instructed everyone of the plan. They were broken up into two teams with Janus and Nissa on one side of the bottom of the mountain and Devlin, Kavan and Isadora on the opposite side of the two friends at the bottom of another volcano doing the same thing. They each wrapped the rope around a large boulder to use as an anchor and waited for Avana. They only had on shot at this fire dragons were extremely smart and learned quickly. They could not be caught using the same tactics twice.

'That is a great plan except I will be the bait.' Devlin announced not want Avana to risk her life so that they might have a chance to escape.

'Devlin please do not try and be difficult now. If it makes you feel any better I would allow you to do it but since I would not be strong enough to hold them back even with the help of Kavan you must hold the rope ok.' Avana pleaded, with a quick nod of understanding Devlin took a hold of the rope and allowed Avana to do her part.

The dragons had taken to the sky looking for their missing master and still had yet to spot the friends. Moving from her spot from behind the bolder Avana ran forward so that she would be easier to spot. Jumping up and down, waving her hands and whistling out loud to gain their attention. Once spotted loud roars signalled the commencing of the chase as the dragons dove down then turned horizontally as they went in pursuit of this little bug of a person. Avana ran towards the two boulders at a break neck speed. A few times she was almost caught as they snapped at her only mere inches away from her back. This gave her the added boost of adrenalin that she needed to out run them. The moment she past the boulders the rest of the crew sprung into action. Each lassoed one of the dragons, pulling tightly on the rope with all their might there hands burning as they struggled to hold onto these strong beasts. Grunts of pain and determination could be heard as the two sides held their ground the boulder preventing all of them from slipping on the ash covered earth.

Looking back almost cost Avana her life as she tripped and fell on to the hard ground. Turning around she came face to face with these monsters, she held up her hand in defence waiting for the inevitable pain as she was bitten. This did not happen thankfully as the rope tighten preventing them from going any further. Avana just collapsed on the floor with relief. The others ran up to her dragging her away from the creatures' reach.

'If anything else happens I am just going to give in and let them have me I way to tired to continue like this.' she sighed, her body extremely weary.

'What are we going to do now?' Nissa wondered out loud.

'What do you mean?' Janus asked as he looked at Avana who had refused to get off the floor.

'We are miles away from home and we spent most of our time getting here. We may be unable to make it back in time.' Nissa stated what everyone else had missed.

'She is right, we forgot about the time limit. How are we going to make it back in time?' Devlin began to panic as he realised that they did not have enough time to make it back in order to save his father.

'How about you fly ahead Nissa and take the orb with you after all you did reach the Black woods in record time.' Janus suggested.

'That is a good idea Janus except I don't think I will have the strength to fly all that way and I will have to take the path around the Black woods taking me even more time. Not to mention what would happen if I got lost. There is no way I could go on my on the risk is too great.' Nissa stated bringing to light some very valid points. The three friends got to work trying to put their heads together to come up with a solution to their problem.

While they talked Avana listened from the ground at their many ideas none of them proving a good match for them. Words flew around but there was not a proper solution in sight then Avana looked up and saw the answer to the dilemma they faced. While the rest of the group began to become distressed Avana moved into action. Rising from the ash covered ground Avana took the shytricks out of the bag and released them.

'Come on sweethearts those bad girls need cheering up.' she spoke to the tiny creature. Chortling a bit they took off dancing around to dragons who snapped, blew fire at them and tried to eat them for a good while before giving up just enjoying their company. The longer they watched and played with the shytricks the friendlier they became till Avana was sure they would accept the proposal she offered. Inching slowly up to them she stretched out her hand to her great joy they began to lick it. Once their job was completed the shytricks returned to their glass home.

'Eithne, Sugar if it is possible I hope that you can help me. I need to get home fast and you all are the only ones who can help. If you help me I will gladly release you to go and do as you please.' Avana offered, both dragons looked at each other for a while almost as if sending each other a hidden message. After a moment of hesitation the two dragons leaned forward gently licking Avana's face. They were so powerful that they both actually lifted Avana off the ground leaving a trail of slime left on each side of her face.

'You have got a deal.' Avana laughed.

'Hey guys we have got a ride.' Avana told her defeated companions who were sitting on the black earth.

'You must be nuts those things just tried to kill us.' Janus exclaimed.

'We will be fine the shytricks helped calm them they will be fine now.' She informed him, Devlin wasted no time his worry for his father out weighing the concern for himself. He moved to towards the dragon on the right named Eithne. She gently bowed her head and picking him up by the back his clothes with her mouth placed him on her back when she showed slight signs of hesitation. Janus loosens the ropes from around the boulders and then removed the rope from around each dragon's neck. He then gave the ropes back to the owner who placed it back into her bag.

'Kavan we can't take Adrastos or the other horses with us. I am entrusting you with the challenge of bring them home safely, I know you will do well and you will bring them home safely now go.' she conveyed to him, he just purred and with one swift lick of the face was off to do his duty. Avana got on the dragon with Devlin, Isadora riding on her shoulder, Janus and Nissa took the other dragon. When everyone was seated they took of bridging the gap between the volcanoes and the Black Woods in five minutes a trip had taken them an hour to cross. Setting down close to Cal they slid off the dragons Calantha instantly changed back at the sight of her companions. She ran up to Devlin first imprisoning him in a great big hug she then did the same with the rest of her friends.

'Come on we have to leave now.' Janus said to her as she released him from her embrace.

'But what about the horses we cannot leave them here alone?' Cal asked petting Adrastos as she spoke.

'Do not worry they will be find Kavan is coming and he will bring them home. Ok.' Avana informed her.

It took a bit of persuasion but as soon as Kavan was there Cal decided to leave with the rest of the group. Each owner gave their horse a tearful goodbye especially Avana who hugged both Kavan and Adrastos tightly not wanting to leave them at all. Kavan let out a little growl which all the horses took notice off. Then one by one they melted into the darkness of the woods all in pursuit of Kavan leaving there masters behind with the dragons.

Calantha got on to Eithne along with Devlin of course while Avana now sat with Janus, Nissa and Isadora. They were off in a flash rising above the earth and all the dangers they had witnessed. They stopped for no breaks and rode on for three day straight passing all the lands that they had been to everyone of them looking beautiful from above like little miniature play toys.

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At Avana's home her father was becoming very agitated there was no news of his daughter or the orb. The countryside and the forest were dying due to the lack of water. Many were suffering both people and creatures it was almost too much for the old king to bear.

'The time is almost up my dear I fear that they might come to late.' The king told his wife.

'Do not say that my love. You will see Avana will return home soon but you must have faith in your daughter.' His wife responded as they both sat in the throne room gloom and despair surrounding the countryside around them.

'I am worried about her we have heard nothing about her since she left our woods only that she was with those traitors' he growled.

'Worry not my dear she can fend for her self.' she told him again as she embraced him.

At that time his daughter and indeed all of her friends had returned home landing the two dragons in what use to be the lush grass fields close to the castle's stables. Now the grass was withered and dried just like much of the scenery lost without the power of the orb. All of them dismounted the creatures coming to stand in front of them Isadora sent flying to Avana's room.

'Thank you both so much and now you are free to do what ever you wish to do but if you ever need any help return here and we will look after you.' Avana told them unsure if they understood her. Once again they looked at one another and with small grunts and moans they communicated with one another. Turning back to face they group they kneeled slightly almost as if they were bowing before them. Then they once again took to the sky leaving a trail of white smoke behind them.

'Come on let's go' Avana whispered to the other immediately she set of running towards the stable gates passing through the great archway. The place was strangely deserted as many of the servants and guards were either out looking for the orb or helping the those in need in various towns and villages close by leaving the place virtually empty as if no life existed there at all. Only when she was inside did Avana stop to talk to them again.

'Nissa, you take Devlin, Janus and Calantha. Go and find my father most likely he will be in the throne room. Take them and explain to him all that has happened ok.' Avana ordered her best friend taking off in a hurry to another place in the castle.

'Ana where are you going you cannot just leave us?' Nissa called out to her.

'Do not worry nothing will happen. I just need to do something first before I can see him.' Avana shout over her shoulder, hey cape flying in the wind the shrink bags hitting at here sides as she ran. She soon disappeared into the castle's inner walls leaving those behind her to carry out her bidding.

'Come on let us go and brace yourself for this might not be pretty.' Nissa warned them then she took the lead taking them down the path with the linden trees to the magnificent corridor. It was only Calantha who took all the beautiful artwork in for the rest of the group was tense afraid about what awaited them on the inside of the throne room. The climbed the staircase at the end of the hall making their way down numerous halls and up many stairs without being stopped. Soon they were outside the throne room and at this point Nissa stilled.

'What is wrong why don't you go in?' Janus asked as he saw her hands tremble as she raised them to open the doors.

'We should wait for Avana the king will be very angry if we enter there without her.' Nissa mentioned softly.

'We cannot wait let us just, we have to go in now.' Devlin said as he pushed passed Nissa and opened the doors forcefully.

'My dear king Vante we have returned. I asked that you release my father immediately.' Devlin instructed the king. The guards that were located around the throne room surrounded the group while the king's anger became known to all.

'How dare you! You barged in here without the orb or my daughter and expect me to do as you say.' He bellowed loudly causing his queen to gasp out loud her eyes still searching behind the group for any sign of her daughter.

'I told you?' Nissa whine in an all knowing voice into Devlin's ear.

'You were right ok but now if not the time for this.' Devlin murmured from under his breath. What happened next shocked them all especially Nissa who had not even imagined that the king would have responded in this manner.

'Guards arrest them all accept Nissa. To the gallows with all of them as far as I am concerned I want nothing more to do with Montar or its inhabitants or allies.' the king said warily not wanting to deal with them any more. While they were being lead away Nissa pleaded with the king to listen but he refused just turning away from her. It was while she was crying that a gush and a roar were heard as the water from the waterfall began to flow again. Everyone ran to the widows forget whether or not they were friend or foe. The waterfall outside thundered magnificently where ever the water touched new life began or old life was healed.

They were all staring at the sight tears of relief in their eyes when a figure came strolling up behind them. This person went straight for king Vante hugging him around the waist as he looked down at the person he cried tears of joy hugging her back.

'Avana my sweet little girl, I was so worried.' he cried.

'Avana my baby, I missed you so much.' her mother told her as she tore from her father's embrace placing a kiss on her forehead and held her tightly before pulling her away.

'You are in so much trouble you will not believe. You are grounded for the rest of your natural born life.' Her mother screamed at her yet the tears of mirth still flowed from her eyes.

'I know,' she sighed out loud pretty much figuring their reaction ahead of time.

'Father please let King Adalardo go he had nothing to do with the thief of the orb. It saw really his brother who did it, see! Avana exclaimed as she opened her shrink bag exposing a miniature Kalan who was jumping up and down at the bottom of the bag in anger. Avana handed over the bag to her father allowing him use of it.

'So I see child well make haste, go and set the king free. I will take this one and put him in a special prison. Who knows I might just leave him in here.' The king laughed cruelly taking the bag from Avana. She smile at him before running away and seizing Devlin's hand dragging him behind her as she made her way to the dungeon down below. The servants and guards who were close by flowed into the halls bowing before them as they made their way to through the halls all happy to see their beloved princess alive and well.

Once in the room with the door way to the dungeon Avana caressed the statue's pendent revealing the hidden stairs. Taking Devlin through the catacombs Avana took him up to his father's cell ignoring the cries of the guards asking for an explanation to what was going on. In the area where the king was Avana once again so the large burling guard she recognized him from the burns he still had on his face and arms. A memento from their first encounter by passing this person Avana retrieved the keys she then moved over to open the door to one of the cells. The man before them looked broken and frail his clothes were dirty, his hair unkempt and looked as if he had lost some weight.

'Father' Devlin whispered hoarsely to the withdrawn figure as her entered the room.

'King Adalardo, it is Avana we came her to set you free. We have proven that you did not take the orb.' she told him gently sitting next to him and stroking his hand.

'Avana is that you I was so worried about you child' he said as he cupped her face his unkempt hair getting in the way of seeing her properly.

'Yes your majesty it is I. Your brother was the one that stole the orb in order to frame you but worry not your son captured him and brought him to justice.' she eagerly told him not taking an once of praise for her self.

'Oh he was always trouble forgive him he just cannot help it.' he told her softly, his gaze moving away from her face to Devlin's the first real smile coming to his face.

'I will leave you two, one of the guards will lead you out to your room I know there will be a banquet in celebration tonight. You two will need to get ready and I know that you have lots to speak about. I will take my leave.' she said as she left them.

Walking slowly in the halls she accepted hugs and kisses by everyone who passed. Inside her room she locked her door moving to the bath room for a nice long bath to rest her wary limbs from all the adventures they had seen.

*****************************************************

It was late in the evening when she emerged from her room dress in a simple green dress with gold trim that resembled the red one she had worn when she met with Devlin. The only jewellery she wore was the locket and her chain as well a simple diamond stud and a charm bracelet. She roamed the halls without any specific purpose in mind till she met up with Cal and Nissa. Both girls wearing a simple blue dress they all headed to the dining hall together after all they had been through they seemed to find comfort in each other's presence none of them having to say a word.

As expected a banquet was taking place in thanks for all the good that had occurred. The colours of red and gold draped the banquet hall. Devlin's father sat next to Avana's father each of them beaming from ear to ear. Avana sat opposite Devlin, Nissa sat opposite Janus and Cal sat opposite a duke of Avana's court. They all ate and drank their stomach full before moving on to the ballroom for dancing. Before the music began King Vante's got the attention of all those gathered. King Adalardo joined him calling their respective children to the front of the room.

'Setting aside all bad blood King Adalardo and I have decided that we need to...' King Vante started then he paused looking to Devlin's father to continue.

'To join the two kingdoms as planned through marriage. It is our way of cementing the bond between the two kingdoms and to forget the past grievances that we have had' King Adalardo finishing, applause and cheers broke out throughout the room. To Avana's surprise she did not mind one bit her apprehension about the marriage long since gone as she remembered the kind of person Devlin really was. She to began to clap a little tingle of happiness growing inside of her out of the corner of her eye she say Cal's mouth drop open in sock but at that point she could have cared less..

'Wait please, wait I cannot enter into the bargain you all have made.' Devlin announced causing a hush to fall over the room.

'What are you saying my son?' His father asked confused at the new development.

'Avana is a free spirit and I know that given a choice she may not have chosen me to be her ideal husband and I could understand why at our first meeting I treated her horribly, my manner not improving over our other meetings here at the castle. Over these past few weeks I have seen a different side to her one that impresses me and warms my heart. Still my care for her and her people runs deep and if after two years she has chosen no one else to be her husband I will happily marry her. But if during that time she finds some one else that makes her happy I will gladly step aside to ensure that her happiness this it my promise to you.' Devlin told her as he held her hands in his own. There was a collective sigh from all the women and ladies of the crowd jealousy now running rampant. How could she not want to marry some one like that they would never know.

'I will agree to your terms sir.' Avana finally spoke as another round of applause broke free.

'I suggest that we should all dance to celebrate. Start the music.' King Vante said a bit of disappointment still in his voice as he greatly wished to see the two families joined together. With his her hands still in hers he led her to the dance floor dancing with her gently he spun her around and around laughing as they with one another all the tension that was once there now totally gone.

'Thank you Devlin you did not have to do that. I know what going again your father's wish was not something that you wanted to do.' she whispered to him as they danced.

'I wanted to be happy; you deserved to be happy Avana. You really are a special person plus I would most likely hurt myself if I was married to you.' He joked to her.

'OWWWW.' he moaned loudly as she stamped on his foot.

'I was just joking.'

'I know so was I.' she smile sweetly as she looked down at his foot.

'Come let us go on the balcony, I have something I want to give to you.' she told him. Obediently he followed her on to the balcony to a secluded place where the could still be seen but no one would know exactly what they were doing.

'Here this belongs to you.' She told him as she took his mother's locket from her neck. Opening his palm and placing the locket in it.

'Where did you get this?' he asked in a disbelieving voice.

'Please do not be angry your father gave me in the first time we were engaged that is what he went to get when he disappear her did not want to say anything just in case he hurt your feelings.' she told him. He studied for her moment then did something totally expected. Taking her hand in his he placed in back in her possession.

'My father trusted you with it and I do to. From the looks of it you rarely took of since you received. The dirt and grime speaks volumes to me and shows that you appreciated and cherished it even if you did not care for one of its owners. So I thank you it is yours keep it I trust that it will be well taken care of. It belonged to a wonderful woman and now it belongs to another wonderful woman I know my mother would have wanted nothing less' he told her rising from her side taking her hand and placing a kiss upon it before leaving her with her thoughts.

*****************************************************

After the ball Avana found herself staring up at her ceiling from her bed. A soft knock came from the door, Avana beckoned person to enter. It was Nissa coming to wish Avana a goodnight.

'So how long are you grounded for? Avana asked Nissa.

'Till my grandchildren have children, what about you?' She asked in turn.

'For the remainder of my natural born life.' she sighed.

'I know it sounds funny but even with all the trouble we got into I would do it all over again.' She laughed recall all the good times they had had on the journey.

'I seconded that motion.' Nissa giggled.

'So when is our next adventure?' she as her plop in down on Avana's bed next to her.

'What are you talking about? Haven't we gotten in enough trouble already? What gives you the impression that I am planning something else?' she questioned Nissa.

'Come on Avana there is always something with going on you.' she snickered. Avana just winked at her mischievously and curled up in her bed Nissa seeing herself out.

*****************************************************

It was a whole week before the horses and Kavan finally returned all were tired and hungry. Then another week elapsed before Devlin, Janus, Calantha and the rest of their accompanying court finally left for home. During the extra time they staying Devlin and Avana grew closer as they talked more to each other while Calantha had finally given up on the idea of having Devlin as her husband. Janus and Nissa also formed a stronger bond and were seen often in Avana' s gardens together. When the time came for them to part the girls cried bitterly wishing that they did not have to be parted from their friends. Devlin and Janus stopped their tears by promising that they would return to visit them soon. It was after these words that the group headed off towards their homes and people. Leaving behind them those they had changed for the better.

*****************************************************

'Guards, guards let me out of here don't you know who I am? I am king Adalardo personal friend to the king. You all will be in great trouble if you do not release me.' Kalan ordered to the guards sitting outside his cell as he banged on the door trying to get their attention. They took no heed of his words but rather they continued on with their game of cards in the dim light.

'Oh they know exactly who you are so why don't we give up on trying to deceive them shall we?' a voice from the darkness hissed. Kalan struggled to see who it was but the figure kept well hidden so that they might not be identified. Kalan had never heard this person before and in his current situation he did not want to be made fun at.

'They are thick but not that thick headed.'

'Have your fun now who ever you are but know this very soon my minions will be freed and they will release me then we will cause havoc through out Serenity.' Kalan spat at the figure.

'And how do you thing they will stand up against the combined armies of both Merethia and Montar. Chances are they will fail and your life will be ended, who only survive now because the king Vante wants you to suffer.' The figure cackled loudly and yet the guards made no move to stop him. It was almost as if they did not hear him or the conversation that was taking place. As Kalan played over the being's words in his mind a shiver went down his spin for what he was saying was true.

'I can see you are now realizing how dire your situation is. Still you are a lucky man I am here to make you an offer that you will be unable to turn down.' The figure offered. The defeated Kalan saw no other option so hear had already made up his mind to take up this person's offer but still he wanted to hear what it was.

'What is it?'

'It is quite simple actually you pledge your loyalty to me and when the time comes we will take all of Serenity under our control' the being stated.

'How will I be sure that you will not double cross me?' Kalan questioned though his interest was indeed perked.

'You can not be sure of that but this is a one time offer take it or leave because by the time you get out. I am sorry let me rephrase if you get out all your troops will be loyal to me.' The figure sneered.

'So are you in or out?'

'I have no other choice, I am with you.' Kalan told the figure.

'Very good welcome to my army, general Kalan do not worry for your first task for me will come soon.' The being laughed before disappearing entirely, on his bed behind him Kalan found a gold ring with the emblem of a wind blowing the look of an ala a demon of bad weather known to destroy crops and cause pain to people. Yet those who are favoured by the ala save their lives and give them riches.

'Hmmm, what an appropriate symbol for my new saviour I can see that my luck has finally changed. Watch out brother I am coming to get you and this time no one will be able to help.' Kalan laughed as he lay on the bed throwing the ring in the air before slipping it on to his finger and shutting his eyes.

***************************************************

Oh my goodness I hope this does not spell more trouble for Avana or her friends. As we can see Avana's life is just full of adventure and I know it is far from over. I wish I could sit here and tell you what is going to happen next but I hear one of the elders calling me and if I stay here and continue talking to you they will most definitely punish me then I will never be able to finish her story. I do hope I will hear from you again so that we may pick up from we left off. Bye for now.