Tale of the Cursed Witch

21

Chapter 19: Spring Term Begins

Phoenix Wing Guildhall – Maura's P.O.V.

I'm glad the break is ending because I've missed my students and the guild. Walking into the guildhall, I see just about everyone talking amongst themselves about their holiday activities. I glance to the pool table seeing my students Jayde, Malani, Diego, Dexter, Maurice, and Olivia in an intense game; I'm glad Olivia and Jayde made it back in one piece although I sense something different in Olivia in the absence of the dark power that's been gripping her. They all wave at me causing me to wave back. I walk over to the sofas seeing the Mystic Masters (William, Trixie, and Valentina) having a worrying conversation about something along with Dawn, Hannah, Rosalinda, and Carmela. I try to eavesdrop on their discussion.

"Hold on," Trixie shakes her head hearing something worrying her, "you're saying the black dragon cursed a bunch of normal kids?"

"That's what I'm saying," Rosalinda confirms something from earlier in their discussion. "Fortunately, Val removed the curse on one of them with the help of this girl," she holds up her phone containing a picture of a little girl hooked to an I.V. drip. "This girl, Erin, is the newest member of our guild and she has the power to boost the potency of spells."

I watch the teens look at the picture but Valentina cringes at the thought of the other children Rosalinda mentioned. "I just wasn't strong enough to get to all of them," she sits down almost in tears. "The thought of those children laying in those beds like that," she starts breaking down

Rosalinda sits next to her letting her cry her heart out. "It's been like this for the last week," she tells William and Trixie learning this for the first time. "She's beating herself up for not being able to free all of them."

William hugs Valentina with a slight smile. "Trix and I aren't surprised given Val's history," he explains to the group. "Whatever you all encountered at that hospital strikes a chord with our girl here on a very personal level; unfortunately, it's not my story to tell." He looks around noticing me trying to listen. "Oh, hey Ms. Matthews," he directs everyone to me, "we didn't know you were here."

"Hey everyone," I greet the group seeing Valentina still in tears. "It'll be ok Valentina."

Valentina looks at me with those watery eyes obviously hurt by whatever she encountered at the children's hospital. "I thought I was strong enough to reverse that curse by myself."

"It's not your fault Val," William reassures her. "From what Rosa said, it might prove difficult to free those kids even with the three of us together; at least, not without a major power boost."

"I agree," Trixie agrees with William. I heard they started dating but there definitely is something more between them. "Given what we heard, the black dragon went all out to prevent us from reversing the curse." She turns to her boyfriend. "Wait, you don't think . . ."

"That this is the backdoor we read about in Basalan?" William finishes Trixie's thought. "It is."

Rosalinda and Carmela stare at one another. "Backdoor?"

"Long story but we learned quite a bit in Basalan; we'll explain once this meeting begins." William looks around causing me to look to the door as Cordelia enters with her group of students. "I guess everyone's here now." He does a quick scan around the main lobby. "Yup, gang's all here."

I pat William on the shoulder getting his attention. "I'll get things rolling," I walk to the bar tapping a glass getting everybody's attention. "Hello everybody and welcome back," I announce to a round of applause from the guild. Cordelia joins me at the bar. "Now, I understand some of you have learned some things over the break that pertains to our guild's situation with this black dragon and the missing school leaders."

"That's an understatement," Eric speaks up sitting next to Rachel and Lori. "From what I've found out, they're M.I.A. and school restarts in three days."

"They're still missing?"

"Yeah. I spent the break tracking down every lead I could but I only got as far as the Zana Mountains. Strange thing is the entire range is full of caves so I didn't go any further."

"Very wise Eric," I affirm his sentiment of what he learned, "don't tread where you can get lost." I turn to the rest of the guild. "Now, I only see fit to begin with our phoenix and we'll let the conversation go where it takes us." I step aside watching Serena and Lila stand in front of the main bar.

"Well," Lila speaks first as she and Serena hold up their guild symbols revealing a change, "first off, we got an addition to our emblems a few weeks ago." She shows off the changes to the emblem on both of their forearms. "We encountered a weird spirit who said Serena is my guardian who has to keep the headmistress from merging with the dragonfly."

Serena holds up this necklace with a sun symbol. "This is the Phoenix Sunstone that I had to obtain. This thing has taken my fire magic to a whole new level and the guy who gave it to me said that I can use phoenix-type fire magic."

"But what about this guardian thing?" Mikael speaks up for the those out of the loop. To be honest, it seems like everyone who learned something over the break learned the same thing. "I don't get how that works?"

"Basically, I make sure nothing happens to Lila per what we were told."

"That's what I learned," Candace speaks up getting everyone's attention. As she walks to the bar, I turn to my students and Cordelia's students listening intensely. "I went and paid the shaman that's been helping Trix a visit a while back and she said the same thing about me being Trix's protector. The shaman I spoke to said that Trix has the ability to tap into the power of all eight dragon masters."

"That's what we learned about my mom," Jayde suddenly speaks up surprising everyone. She runs over to Trix wrapping her in a hug. "She was able to speak to the dragon called . . . Burith, right Mom?"

"That's right," Trixie recalls her group's trip to Basalan, "but we'll get our chance to share what we learned when it becomes our turn." She turns to Candace nodding so she can continue.

"Thanks, Trix," Candace continues with her debrief. "As I was saying, the shaman also said something strange about how the world was structured."

Nico, Antonio, and Nikki walk to Trixie and Jayde listening to Candace. "Hold on," Nico stops the proceedings drawing irritation from the room, "back up a second. How is Trix and Jayde mother and daughter?"

Trixie slaps Nico upside his head. "You've got to be kidding? You know this story Nico."

"But I don't," Nikki tries to understand things herself.

I turn to William rolling his eyes. "Oh brother," he turns to Candace waiting to continue, "keep going Candace."

"Sure," Candace continues. "The shaman said that Adolis and Orzai were one community who watched over the netherworld."

"You're talking about the class system, aren't you?" William joins the discussion. "Those of us who went to Basalan read all about it.

"What class system?" Landon questions his best friend. "We never learned about a class system?"

"Clean your ears out man and keep up." William looks around the room. "I know we're doing a major info dump on everyone but it's important since the guild is involved." He ponders his last statement for a bit. "Check that, what we're sharing involves every student in the netherworld." He walks to the bar along with Trix, Jayde, and Olivia. "We learned about the class system during our time in Basalan along with a few other things along with the people from our alliance."

"Like what?" I inquire wanting to know their side of the story.

"For one thing, the team we were a part of won the derby." The room gives the team a round of applause. "Thank you. However, during and after the derby we learned a lot of stuff and some of it is along with what Lila, Serena, and Candance learned. During the first two days, we learned one thing," he glances over toward the younger kids by the pool tables. "Malani and Tess, you two have to pay special attention to this."

William's P.O.V.

I focus my magic conjuring my dragon seal. Zadeck emerges in a size allowing him to be in the room. "This is my dragon familiar Zadeck. He can't speak in his smaller form but I can hear him. It turns out that all eight dragon masters get a dragon familiar." I pat Jayde on the shoulder showing her dragon. "Jayde has hers in her hand."

Jayde shows her dragon to the room. "This is Nala, my rose dragon," she introduces her to the guild and the room. "I got her on the first day of the derby."

Jayde's friends storm up to her getting a better look. "Whoa," Diego lets Nala crawl up his arm onto his shoulder. "This is cool."

Malani turns to me watching Zadeck land on her head. "So, do I get one too?"

"I said all eight dragon masters get a dragon familiar," I explain looking out to the rest of our guildmates. "That girl Liz form the Nile Crypt Guild has a sky dragon and we also met a new dragon master – Montel Allen. He's the ice dragon master and a member of the Jungle Panther Guild who introduced us to some of his guildmates."

I can't believe you guys met another guild," Rachel pouts on another of the couches in the main lobby. She gets up walking to the bar. "What else did you guys learn?"

"I want to know how all those dragons ended up out there in the first place?" Lori questions the four of us who went to Basalan.

Trix leans on my shoulder. "That was because of this celestial dragon Burith. At the end of the second day, thanks to Allie's warning, we discovered the guy running the race was a shapeshifter from the dark guild Rovenlight. No need to say a fight broke out where Will and I broke the curse Burith was under freeing him from that shapeshifter."

"What became of the dragon?"

"He's with his true owner," Allie speaks up directing the conversation to her and Lana. "Burith is now in the hands of Brenna Calvin from the Primrose Stem Guild. The three of us have been hanging out during the break and we learned something too."

Ms. Matthews walks between everyone trying to get their point across. "Hold on," she speaks up halting the proceedings and the backtalk. "Let's go one group at a time." She turns to me. "Now William, I sense something different about Olivia's powers. What is that all about?"

I give a nod to Olivia. "I was getting to that when the questions started flying about other stuff. After the derby, we went back to this place called the Temple of Paladino where we learned about the stuff Candace mentioned about her and Serena. Then, we discovered more about Olivia's powers," I nudge Olivia to the center of the room. "Show them."

I watch Olivia stand in the center of the room as everyone backs away from her. She sprouts her mirror wings to the shock of everyone in the room. "Like this, Will?"

"That's good Olivia." I walk to her satisfied with the look on everyone's faces.

Lila gets a good look at her sister's wings. "What's the deal with her wings?" she questions me about her sister. "Why are they like glass?"

"They are glass, sis," Olivia tells her sister turning to me. "I'm a mirror phoenix, right Will?"

"Yup," I confirm the assessment. "Most of you know what happened the day Liv first shapeshifted, there was this light before she revealed her phoenix form. Well, it turns out that there was an illusion curse on Liv that masked her true form from everyone."

"Ok but what about the black dragon?" Lila continues her barrage of questions.

"Trix, Jayde, and I took care of that problem too. Once we purged the illusion curse, the lacrema laced in with Olivia's magic fell apart allowing us to remove and destroy it. The black dragon can't use our girl here to raise the dragonfly anymore."

Lila hugs her sister hearing my news. "That's great so we're safe now – right?"

"Wrong! Montel told our alliance that the lacremas belonging to the other dark guilds were destroyed before we left school for the holiday break. Now, I'm only guessing but that's why the school leaders have been missing for so long."

"You think there's another way for them to raise the dragonfly?"

"I'm counting on it. It might explain what Rosa and Val saw at the children's hospital. Anyway, after that whole thing with Liv, we read something that Candace referenced in her debrief – the class system."

Candace stands beside be continuing the explanation. "The shaman I spoke to lay mention to reinstituting the class system in the guild."

"Every wizard and shapeshifter we spoke to in Basalan would like to see the system put back together too," I add to Candace's statement, "but there are problems now that didn't exist the last time the system was implemented."

Rachel joins Candace and me at the bar. "We don't fit into any one thing in this netherworld," she confirms the conclusion I came to. "How can the class system work anyway?"

"I'm not sure but I do know this: things between Adolis and Orzai have to get better if this is going to happen and most of the guilds want this to happen."

"Why Adolis and Orzai?"

"They ran the class system the last time it was in place," Candace remembers her conversation with this shaman she spoke to, "but the split hit and the system fell apart."

"Neither side has gotten along since then."

Antonio walks up to us staring at my familiar. "Can the rest of us get a familiar like you dragon masters?"

"We don't know, Antonio. We're winging it so . . . maybe?"

"That's beside the point," Eric and Rachel speak up over the series of mini-discussions going on. "How would the class system work anyway?"

"Not sure yet," I tell him. "We need to talk to the Magic Council about the class system and how it worked back then. Maybe we can learn what went wrong last time – after we mend fences between Adolis and Orzai."

"And how are we doing that between school, potential assignments taking us away from school, our training, getting ready for the Intraguild Games," Rachel rambles on and on about everything we've got going on this term.

"One thing at a time Rachel. Let's not try and do everything at once and there's a lot going on. Let's start school in a few days and see where we're at once we start training. Oh," I remember something I heard in Basalan, "Carmela," I get her attention waving her to me. "Can you do that dream thing you do tonight? I need some information on possible spell combinations for the dragon masters. I know there aren't any books on the dragon masters so anything you can find will seriously help. I also need something on the black dragon."

"What are you looking for?" she questions me wanting to know what she's looking for.

"Is there any way for those he controls to summon the dragonfly spirit without the lacremas? I feel like I'm missing something in this puzzle and not everything's adding up."

"I hear you on the dragonfly part. I'll see what I can find out." She walks back to her group.

I turn to my girlfriend leaning on my arm. "Did we cover everything?"

"Wait," Trix speaks up getting everyone's attention, "Burith told me about my dragon familiar but I have no idea how to find it."

Lana raises her hand along with Allie. "That's on us," Lana mentions to the guild joining the briefing that has gotten side-tracked with all this information. "Burith told Allie, this girl Brenna we fought from Primrose Stem, and myself to find that dragon for Trix."

Allie holds up her hand revealing a star insignia with these three colored points. "My guardian Averie made the three of us a Celestial Trifecta. We were told by Burith to find this celestial dragon for Trix."

"Then I'll train you personally," Mrs. Morrow startles us with her voice. "I'm a celestial wizard and I can help understand your new status and the moves you can use. Plus, I get to understand how the trifecta works since it's the first time I've gotten to see one."

"Sure," Allie pulls her phone from her purse, "I'll call Brenna and see when she's available to come out."

I take a deep breath touching everything that that my group encountered in Basalan. "That's everything out of my group. Anybody else with something to share?"

"I think everyone's good," Ms. Matthews regains control of the meeting. "Let's take stock of what everyone learned during the break and decide on our next course of action as school restarts. First, our situation with the black dragon, the dragonfly spirit, and the Odeon Styx dark guild has changed. The school leaders who haven't been found are still M.I.A. The activities of the other dark guilds are picking up based on what happened in Basalan. Second, a major information dump on us revealed the former existence of a class system, a third dark guild's possible motive, the possible repositioning of the curse . . ."

"Oh yeah," I suddenly remember something from before the break, "I completely forgot about the meeting myself, Serena, and Felicity had with our new alliance before we left for the break," I remind the room restarting the discussion. "We're in a league now with the Crescent Knights, Nile Crypt, and Horus Eye guilds and we call ourselves the Dragon Keepers League. Our four guilds work together to protect Adelphia, Iruzan, Adolis, Orzai, Dalteva, and Ibiza."

"Speaking of Ibiza," Ms. Matthews cracks a smile, "I talked to the mayor there and agreed that our guild will be based there from now on as of next school year." Applause echoes through the room seeing our guild have a permanent home.

"The alliance wants to go after Eichenvale because their activities are dangerously close to Adelphia. There are news reports about a surge in the zombie and vampire populations while we were all gone for the break."

Ms. Matthews taps me on the shoulder getting my attention. "We'll get to it when we get a chance. Meanwhile, I know many of you now have training schedules to keep along with your student responsibilities but something came up right before the break." I turn to her reading an email from her phone. "I got an email from a jeweler in the town of Black Sol City requesting Jayde and Malani for a retrieval mission."

Malani walks up staring at her teacher. "Where is Black Sol City? I've never heard of it."

"It's a trading post town in the mountains," I tell her remembering the location, "and it stands as a go-between from here on the coast to the badlands west of here. What's going on there?"

"They want the girls to retrieve some rare gems from a ring of jewel thieves. I don't know why they're sending 11 and 12-year-olds to do something that the authorities can't handle."

"There must be a supernatural part to this they aren't saying."

"That may be the case but there's no way I'm letting my kids go down there by themselves."

Val raises her hand getting our attention. "Then Will, Trix, and I will go with them," she proclaims, to both my and Trix's surprise. "I got an email yesterday from a friend of mine in Kerval wanting us to do a quadruple exorcism on a possessed family."

"That's not far from Black Sol City," Trix concludes same as me, "so I guess we will go."

Ms. Matthews shrugs feeling a sense of defeat. "Alright, I'll allow it but only after the kids have a week in class."

"That's fine by us. We want to get in the swing of things before we go up there anyway."

"Fair enough. Back to my third point: we have a massive amount of work ahead of us before the year ends. We still need to set up our guild's new headquarters in Ibiza, and get ourselves ready for the Intraguild Games. Ok then, meeting adjourned." We slowly disperse from the guildhall.

Five Days Later:

IME Training Field – Tessa's P.O.V.

Being back at school is a bit weird with the principal of the big school still missing. I have a tough time following what's going on with school, the guild, and everything else regarding my friends. I stand next to Malani as our guild breaks off into groups to begin training in various forms of magic. This new teacher, Miss Weldon, scares me but she's intent on training us dragon masters – especially that William guy who doesn't look very happy about this arrangement. I remember working with William and Jayde during the whole thing in Ibiza but this feels . . . different.

"Okay everyone," Miss Weldon speaks to us dragon masters like Mrs. Morrow does to my class, "I've seen your moves and I have to tell you I'm very impressed with the younger ones." She walks directly to me making me nervous. "Tessa Cosgrove, the shadow dragon master," she speaks so those around me hear her. "Your powers come from Zhora, the Shadow Dragon. You could turn light into darkness with a flick of your wrist. The legends speak of Zhora's ability to manipulate the shadows of his enemies bringing them under your control."

Now, I'm intrigued because I don't know much about my powers beyond casting shadow magic. "What it's called?"

"That particular move is called Shadow Gaze and the other is called Midnight Mimicry. Why don't you try it?"

I crack a grin turning to Clive. "Ok," I walk over to him focusing my eyes. "Shadow Dragon: Shadow Gaze!" I cast my spell watching Clive suddenly go stiff under my control. "Let's have some fun," I hold out my hands letting a second new spell come over me, "Shadow Dragon: Midnight Mimicry!" I let these black strings stretch from my fingers connecting me to Clive. "Come on Clive," I call to him knowing he can't move on his own, "let's dance," I manipulate my hand forcing him to do whatever I wanted. I cause him to dance like the fool that he is and act like a crazy person.

"Hey," Clive snaps at me having no control over his body, "what are you doing?"

I turn him upside down to a roar of laughter from my group and the group he's training with. "Having some fun," I yell spinning him around like a top. I grow tired so I let my spell go letting Clive relax. He storms to me madder than Angela was at that prank he pulled. "Sorry, I was trying a new spell."

"Come on, Tess, I thought you were better than that?"

Miss Weldon walks up to me. "She was doing that move at my instruction," she explains to him and his group of Olivia, Angela, Diego, Dex, and that girl Rachel. "It's important to expand what you know so you'll be more effective in battle and your class."

Clive scoffs at the explanation walking back to his group. "Whatever, don't turn me into your puppet again."

"Sorry," I call out feeling a splash of water on the back of my neck. I turn around seeing Will working on a new move himself as Jayde and Malani watch him intensely. These seven serpent heads fly out from his dragon seal in a pattern before they quickly fade. "That's pretty," I tell him breaking his concentration.

"What are you working on?" Miss Weldon questions him to his moves.

"I'm working on a new spell," he explains taking a deep breath.

"I thought the seven serpents was a common move," I mention keeping my eyes on his hands.

"It is. The generic name for the move is called Dance of the Seven Serpents. Every person who knows water-type magic knows the move. What I'm trying to do is put my own twist on it."

Malani stares at him with this puzzled look. "What do you mean?"

"He's changing the spell to fit his magic style," Miss Weldon answers her question. "With every spell you learn, you can change it to fit you."

"Exactly," Will continues, "and what I'm doing is a new fusion spell called Scylla's Dance to the Depths. When I get it right, this move will not only form an ocean cocoon but hit the opponent with seven serpent strikes."

"That didn't look like the Neon Shuriken thing you did in Ibiza," Jayde inquires him on that move we both saw him do in Ibiza.

"Same goes for me," I add to Jayde's comment.

"When it comes to fusion magic," he explains, "always learn new moves one step at a time. Never try and rush a fusion spell – you can get badly hurt and/or hurt somebody else. That's why I'm a little hesitant to show you three how to do fusion magic but I think you guys can handle it."

"I know I can," Malani stretches with this big smile. "I can't wait to start. What do we do first?"

Miss Weldon puts her hand on Malani's head settling her down. "Didn't William just say to go slow? Fusion magic isn't something you can master in a day or a week."

"It takes a long time to master," Will speaks to us, "but I can show you a few tricks I learned from my dragon."

"Before you do," Miss Weldon steps between the four of us, "why don't you show me what you done to this point?"

Will stares at her for a bit before nodding. Holding out his hands, this swirl of water forms in front of him. The stream splits into seven serpents forming this weaving pattern coming to a point about thirty feet in the air. "That's the dragon's cocoon," he calls it explaining his spell, "and the seven serpents will strike the opponent from seven random places while submerging the individual in water under intense pressure."

"That's hardcore," I watch him begin to add his light magic to the spell. The water gains this bright neon sheen that I saw with his other move in Ibiza. "Wow," is all I can say feeling my powers tingle at the sight.

"Got it," William mutters conjuring his dragon seal letting the finished spell fall into it. "Done."

Malani walks up to him amazed over the display. "So, is that how you create a fusion spell?"

"It is," he tells her turning to us, "it's harder than I made that look. I've been working on that since before the break."

"Is it easy to combine spells like that?"

"Depends on what you know. With the right combinations . . ."

"Hey Will," Carmela's voice echoes over the training field with a folder. "I got the information you requested."

William takes the folder from Carmela glancing through it. "Thanks, I'll read it later." He puts the folder into his backpack lying next to this tree near the woods. "Now, where were we?" he looks at Jayde trying to copy his spell. "Oh yeah, remember to take it one step at a time Jayde," he reminds her.

"I know, Jayde focus on forming this giant rose with her power and this pink light.

I hold out my hands generating the spell I used earlier. Being from Orzai, I use my right hand to generate this red light I didn't know I could until now. I don't give it a second thought and combine the red light with my shadow magic. This crimson smoke cloud appears in front of me. Out of consciousness, I notice my red wings out the corner of my eye as they deepen in color.

"Whoa Tess," William's voice echoes in my ear, "keep it up."

I maintain my focus turning to the two guys standing next to our group. I let the spell's name come to me. "Shadow Dragon – Fusion Art: Crimson Light Transfer!" this strand of crimson colored energy rushes toward both guys wrapping them in this aura that only I can see. This red energy flows from them and into me. "Whoa," I feel the rush of magical energy into me, "what a rush," she powers down.

"So, the legend is true." William's voice rings in my ears. "You are a crimson light keeper?"

"What's that?"

"I don't remember the whole story but my dragon Azarel once told me about Zhora and the crimson powers he had with the ability to either syphon, link, or transfer powers and abilities from one person to another."

"I had no idea. Zhora never taught me any of that in the time I was with him. I guess he didn't have time."

Miss Weldon puts her arm on William's shoulder. "Anyway, I think we should get back to our training." We all nod returning to our previous positions.

Lana's P.O.V.

The show the dragon masters are putting on make things interesting for the rest of us trying to get our first training session of the semester in the books. I'm with Allie who managed to get Brenna out here to see how our guild does things and train using our enhanced celestial powers. Mrs. Morrow stands in front of the three of us directing us in a triangle. "Okay girls," she continues her instruction as we keep attention, "point your guardian keys in the center and recite this oath: Power of the stars, grant us your strength to bring victory in this fight. Open the gates of the heavens and bring forth the power of the stars: Shining Star Shower!"

We chant the oath given to us as our keys touch causing this bright white energy to radiate from the three of us forming these bright stars to appear in a space generated by the power of our spell. "Whoa," I look around watching these stars strike the field in front of us. "This is cool." Our spell powers down revealing the deep scars to the ground around us.

"Well done, girls," Mrs. Morrow nods her approval of the progress we've made in one afternoon mastering what makes the three of us tick. "I do believe you three are capable of summoning the celestial king to this world."

Brenna looks around at the rest of our guild training in their groups. "Whoa," she shakes her head cracking a smile, "no wonder you beat us in Ibiza."

"Will you get over that already?" Allie tells her. "It's in the past."

"How can we?" another voice gets our attention. I turn seeing Isadora walking up to her best friend. "From what I've seen, we would've gotten our butts kicked whether we were prepared or not."

"Hey Izzy," Brenna hugs her best friend, "what are you doing here?"

"Checking on my best friend. I haven't seen you since the break started. Why are you with the Phoenix Wing Guild?"

"Training, girl." Brenna holds up her hand showing her new markings, "plus I'm bound to these two as this trifecta."

Isadora checks out the markings on all three of us nodding. "Damn, I go away for the break and find out everything's changed. I mean, here you are training with our rivals. We still have the Intraguild Games."

"That's not for another few months. Besides, you see how hard this guild works to get stronger. Your fellow dragon masters are working on new magic," Brenna points over to the four dragon masters in our guild working with Miss Weldon. "You might benefit from hanging with them. Now that I think about it," a thought crosses her mind, "I think the guild would benefit from training with these guys."

"Yeah, right," Isadora blows off the suggestion, "we're plenty strong without their help."

Brenna walks to her friend dragging her toward William who has his back to our group. "Tell that to our friends who got their butts kicked by that dark guild we came across two months ago," I her hear her drawing my interest.

William's P.O.V.

I overhear Brenna mention something to her friend about a dark guild as they walk to me. "What up Brenna?" I turn to Isadora cracking a smile. "Hey Izzy," I nod to her seeing her nod back. "What brings you to IME?"

"I'm checking on my friend here but she's good. Now that I'm here, I need to talk to you about something."

"What is it?"

"Recently, some of my friends came across this guild called Blackenwhale." I perk up hearing this because it's the fourth dark guild we've yet to hear from. "They defeated a few of them but now they're in the hospital in bad shape."

"I'm sorry to hear that and I hope your friends make a full recovery." I hate hearing about people getting hurt because of the dark guilds. "What did they learn about that dark guild's activities?"

Izzy ponders the thought for a second. "Well, those who were injured mentioned something about a source of black magic somewhere near Black Sol City."

"That's weird but we might be able to check it out. I'm heading there next week with my friends for an exorcism and to help two of our younger guild members with a retrieval job."

"I thought you should know since you guys are obviously stronger than we are."

"Thanks, but your guild is just as capable as ours is in dealing with these dark guilds. Have some faith in your friends like your best friend does in you."

Isadora pulls me into a hug. "Thank you," she rests on my shoulder for a few seconds before breaking, "losing to you guys was the best thing that ever happened to our guild. Don't get me wrong, Primrose Stem will climb back to number 1. Count on it."

I shake my head grinning like a madman. "We'll let the Intraguild Games decide that." We shake hands as she walks off.

Trix walks up to me with this jealous look. "What was that about?"

"We . . . have an understanding as dragon masters. No need for you to pull any pranks on people. Besides, she told me about something in Black Sol City that warrants our attention when we go help Jayde and Malani with their job."

"That's what I thought," Trix plants a kiss on my cheek. "Nobody better touch you or they'll deal with me."

"Noted," Landon cracks up laughing along with Wiley and Eric.

Lila's P.O.V.

It's funny following everything going on in the training field. Watching the dragon masters learn new spells, Allie and Lana working with the girl from Primrose Stem, and now Serena and I are working on our combined fire-type powers. We stare at this target we set up thanks to Dex, Morrie, Mike, Antonio, and Nico since we all use fire magic. "Okay girls," Nico waves to us next to the target, "we're ready whenever you are."

Serena and I lock hands staring at the target. "Time to see if we master this Phoenix Flame we learned about," Serena smiles staring at the target. "Let's do what we learned at Mr. Verlander's."

"I'm with you," I smile back. We stand next to each other about forty feet from the target. We close our eyes letting the fire energy between us build to a level that won't hurt everybody. Our eyes shoot open seeing the flames around us. A magic circle appears in front of us with our guild's symbol in the center. "Phoenix Wing: Delta Strike!" we call out watching the flames shoot from our hands forming these flaming wings that hit the target destroying it.

The smoke clears revealing the target is completely obliterated. "Damn," Antonio stammers out seeing the charred remains of the target that was set up, "I had no idea you two got that strong in the last month."

"Yeah, well, that's what happens when you find an artifact in the human world and meet a man creepier than the teachers around here."

"That's about right."

Serena holds up the sunstone with this smile. "Thanks to this, we can do all sorts of fire-type moves long as we're together."

"That's the way magic works," I admit leaning on my best friend, "and I'm still the fastest person here."

Antonio blows off my comment. "Yeah, in the air. I'm the fastest on the ground."

I give Antonio this look I give my friends back home when they say something smart. "You didn't just say that?"

The group gathers around us knowing a challenge is coming. "Yes, I did."

"Bad move, dude," Nico back Antonio away from me before this situation gets ugly. "The last person who challenged Lila ended up humiliated and naked."

"She's as bad as me when it comes to pranking people," I hear Trix's voice echo in my ear. Turning to my left, she walks up with William and the other dragon masters, "but even I'm not foolish enough to challenge Lila to anything based on speed."

"Duh, you guys aren't fast enough," Antonio continues his boasting of his speed which is starting to piss me off; I was on the track team at my old school. "I know I am – now."

"Oh boy," Nikki shakes her head knowing this is not going to end well – for him, "you need to stop now before you end up with your foot in your mouth."

"Not until Lila races me once around the track in human form."

Serena cracks up laughing about Antonio's challenge. "You're not serious about this?"

Antonio stands defiant over his suggestion of a race. "Oh, I am."

"You're so dead. Lila was on the track team at our old school in the human world and she's faster than everyone in the guild. You're asking for your ass to get kicked."

"I just want to race."

I rub my forehead not getting anywhere with this dickhead. "Fine Antonio," I agree to the race knowing he's gonna get embarrassed, "if you want to do this then let's go to the track. I'll make this quick since track tryouts are in twenty minutes and I need to save energy." I start toward the track feeling like I'm going to show Antonio why no one challenges me to a race. We see people gathering around the track for tryouts realizing time is fleeting. I turn to my friends waiting for this to happen. "We better make this quick because of the tryouts and I intend on making this team."

Antonio walks to the track stretching feeling confident in his abilities. "Let's go already."

I shake my head not wanting to do this but he won't let up until he's humiliated. "I can't believe I'm doing this," I take my sprinter's stance since I am going for track. "Whenever you're ready," I glance at Antonio who cracks a smile.

Adelphia Children's Hospital – Erin's P.O.V.

Chemo . . . sucks. I hate being stuck to this drip that makes me sleep for hours on end. I'm doing ok but I hate being stuck to a drip. The best thing like about walking around is seeing the friends I've made here and they're the best. I walk into the room where those poor kids lie in a coma. "No change," I mutter to myself looking these people over. I see this dragonfly symbol stretch up their arms scaring me a bit. "I hope the big kids figure something out to help you," I whisper to this girl I always sit next to when I come in here. I see this girl's skin look pale – almost like the vampires I met in Dalteva. I brush her hair when this strange blue glow gets my attention. "Huh?" I look at her left wrist as this glow as this symbol, the same one I have, engraves itself on this girl. "Whoa," I stare at the emblem as the glow fades, "the Phoenix Wing Guild emblem. I guess she's either a wizard or shapeshifter."

The doors to the room open causing me to jump. My sister walks in with her friends and this older black woman I don't know. "Nora," I run into my sister's arms glad to see her. "I didn't think I'd see you today."

Nora looks at me those big green eyes. "I had to come check on my little sister," she smiles breaking the hug with me. "I want you to meet someone," she pulls up this woman next to her. "This is Ms. Matthews, a teacher at the primary school who's our guildmaster. She wanted to meet you."

Ms. Matthews shakes my hand noticing the emblem on my arm. "Hello there," she greets me with this smile that eases my tension. "I see you have our guild's emblem."

"Yes ma'am," I answer back showing her the emblem I got a few weeks back. "I got it while helping Rosa and Val with these other kids," I point to the nine still . . . asleep as I say. "They're cursed but I did help Val with one of them." I remember what I saw on that one girl. "Oh yeah," I pull the woman over to where I was. "I was checking on them when our guild's symbol appeared on this girl," I point out our guild emblem on the girl whose hair I was brushing.

Rosa looks at her mark drawing a smile. "She's right," she turns back to the rest of us, "this girl is in our guild. I wonder what her name is?"

The doors open again and my doctor, Dr. Peter Wesson although I like to call him Dr. Pete, walks in with a stack of folders. "Dr. Pete," I run into his arms all happy to see him; he's treating me for my blood disease I still can't pronounce. "Why are you in the cursed magic wing?"

Dr. Pete looks down on me with this smile that always puts me at ease. "Hello Erin, you're looking good today?"

"I'm feeling much better than I have in the last few weeks but chemo still sucks."

"It's good for your systems but remember to be careful. Your immune system is weakened due to the chemotherapy you're undergoing."

"I know."

Dr. Pete walks to the girl I've been sitting next to. "Her name is Ariana Valentine," he tells us her name, "and she's a shapeshifter."

"What creature does she change into?" Val inquires standing in front of Ariana's bed.

Dr. Pete reads her folder finding an answer. "It doesn't say in her file but her blood is consistent with two other patients of mine," he turns to the big kids standing around me, "and I believe you know them as the Davidson sisters Lila and Olivia."

"She must be a phoenix."

Rosa walks to Ariana's bed standing next to me. "I know how to find out," she turns to me with a smile. "Erin, I could use your help."

"Sure," I grab Rosa's hand and turn to this girl. Val grabs my other hand. "Val?"

"Can you boost me too?" Val asks me to do something I'm not comfortable with.

"I . . .," I stammer out unsure about this, "don't know. I've only boosted one person at a time but I've never done two different boosts at the same time."

I feel my sister's hands on my shoulders. "Listen Erin," she whispers in my ear. "You got this. Your enhancement magic is one of a kind. Focus on your energy."

I always loved my sister's words of encouragement; especially since I've been going through endless rounds of chemo. "Ok," I close my eyes focusing my magic in two directions: a red flame booster for Rosa and my purple flame booster for Val so she could use her anti-curse spell. "Do you know something that can reverse this curse, Val?"

"Not really. The guild was training today and one of our guildmates found out what happens when you talk too much. Besides, Ariana here is in our guild and I want to talk to her."

I keep my focus letting the purple flame fill my right hand before engulfing Val as she conjures her anti-curse magic circle. "Magic Booster: Split Boost – Curse Removal and Spirit Identity!" I call out hoping I get this right.

I glance at Val conjuring her anti-curse seal drawing a smile. "Thanks Erin," she smiles turning her focus to Ariana. "Here goes nothing: Curse Breaker: Black Mind Release!" she casts her spell causing Ariana to gain this purple glow. The blackness of her aura disappears as I see the dragonfly on her arm also fades away.

"Now I can get into her aura," Rosa cracks a smile as a different seal appears in front of her. "Animal Spirit," she calls out causing Ariana to gain this blue glow like her guild emblem, "Reveal Thyself!" she casts her spell causing her aura to form this bird I've never seen before.

"What is that?" I question Rosa hoping not to break her concentration.

"It's as we thought," she answers me back watching the aura fade, "it's another phoenix but I don't know what kind of phoenix she is."

Not able to hold my spell anymore, I stumble backwards only to be caught by Ms. Matthews. "Whoa," I feel drained from using two boosters at one time, "I'm never doing that again."

"You'll get there as you get older," Ms. Matthews tells me with that teacher's smile. "I have to say that your enhancement magic is truly unique and adding you, and Ariana, to the guild makes us stronger."

"Thank you," I struggle to my feet seeing Ariana start to stir. "Ariana," I call to her opening her eyes to us, "how are you?"

Ariana slowly sits up looking at all of us. "Who are you?" she starts shaking. "Where are my mom and dad?"

Dr. Pete dials a number on his cell phone. "I'm calling them now little lady," he greets the now awake girl. "I'm Dr. Wesson and I've been looking out for you since you arrived last week."

Ariana stares at Dr. Pete with this blank look. "I've been here a week?"

"That's nothing," I lightly pat this girl on the back, "I've been here for several weeks."

Ariana looks at me completely lost. "Why are you here?"

"I have a blood disease I'm getting treated for," I tell her. "My sister and her friends have been looking out for you and the other kids since you came here."

Nora puts her arms on my shoulders. "My sister Erin here has been tending to you until you woke up," she tells her causing me to blush.

"Thank you, Erin," Ariana waves to me unaware of the guild emblem she now has. Glancing down, she notices the four-leaf clover and feathers of our guild's emblem. "When did I get this?"

"Just now," I point to my emblem. "I have one too along with everyone in this room other than Dr. Pete."

Ariana stares at the emblem on my arm. "Whoa, that's weird," she compares it to her emblem. "Why is mine different?"

"It's like mine meaning you're probably an angel like me," Val speaks up showing her blue emblem to Ariana. She suddenly grabs her forehead. "Wow, I'm dizzy," feeling the after-drain from her feel. She sits in a chair next to the now empty bed.

"Sorry, I can't control the rate of my boosts," I tell Val and Rosa about my lack of control over my power. "I can influence spells but not how much power the boost gives."

"You did fine," Ms. Matthews reassures me to my motives. "You'll learn how to control your powers better once your treatment finishes and you can start proper at IME's primary school."

"I'd like that."

"In addition," Dr. Pete walks to Ms. Matthews along with six nurses and doctors, "I want to offer my services as your guild's official medical team. Since I'm Erin's doctor and she's in your guild, I want to offer you myself along with the rest of my team behind me. This way, Erin can attend IME while still getting treatment."

Ms. Matthews ponders the thought for a few seconds with this big smile. "We'd appreciate it if you did. A specific medical team, with knowledge of the phoenixes and dragon masters we have, will be appreciated by everyone."

"Thank you for the invite."

"Sure. Our guild will be busy getting ready for the Intraguild Games later this term so, don't be surprised if the students in the guild pay you and your team a visit."

"I understand." Dr. Pete shakes Ms. Matthews' hand. "Get me anything you have on everyone in the guild so we know how to deal with them."

I walk to Ms. Matthews with my sister's hands still on my shoulders. "What happens now?" I question the adults talking to themselves.

"I want to know that too," Ariana adds to my question seeing the doors open. Two new adults walk in seeing her awake. "Mom," she hugs her mommy with tears in her eyes.

"Ariana," her mother breaks the hug seeing her daughter alive and well. "I'm glad you're ok. If anyone finds out you're a phoenix . . ."

Rosa taps the woman on the shoulder. "We already know," she tells her. "Your daughter is in our guild now and we have two phoenixes – make that three."

"That puts her in even more danger."

"Actually, your daughter's in the safest place of all – with us. As I said, we have two phoenixes already in our guild and we know the danger that comes with it."

"This phoenix we have is the reason behind our guild's name," Val takes up the talk about this situation. "We're called the Phoenix Wing Guild for the three who can shapeshift into a phoenix. Everyone in this room, except for the other eight young people still in a coma, are in the guild and now we have our own team of doctors."

Ariana's mother turns to the man standing behind her. "What do you think?"

"Let her join," he tells her without a second thought. "She's safer in a group like this if they're strong enough to free our little girl."

"Fine."

Ms. Matthews walks me over to Ariana. "Welcome to the guild Erin and Ariana. I'll see to it that both of you are enrolled at IME's primary school ASAP. The older kids can teach you how to use your abilities and powers in a responsible way."

I try to control myself beaming with this excitement about getting out of the hospital and going to school. "I can't wait!"

Ariana leans on me shaking with nerves. "I'm ready for something new," she whispers unsure of what's next but hey, it's life.

"I promise: you won't regret this."