Daarook

The Elementals led Princess Ava to building A of the High School. This was the dorm for students in year one to year four. The ground floor had an assembly hall and a dining room, where all students had their meals. The first floor housed the first years and had rooms that accommodated four students. There were twelve rooms enough to house forty-eight students. The boys and girls had separate communal toilets and bathrooms. The other floors were for the other years up to year four. Building B accommodated the year five students.

The school year was nearly over and there were only thirty-nine first year students left. Everyone was having their dinner as the Elementals led Ava through the empty first floor dorm to a room. Her luggage and things had already been delivered.

Standing in the room looking out the window was an elderly female Centurion. She was much older than Ava's mother. The Centurion was of average build with her hair cut short. Her robe had one sleeve of yellow for Air and the other sleeve of green for Earth.

She turned and instructed the Elementals to leave them.

"So Princess. Welcome to the High School for Elementals. I am Centurion Kaskali and I am the Head Matron. From now on you are just Ava. No airs and graces. Royalty doesn't matter here. You are just another student. As you are early and don't officially start school until next year, you can use this room and you have the choice of any of these bunks." She indicated to the two sets of bunks on either wall.

"Tonight, your meal will be served here in your room, but from tomorrow you will mix in with the other students. They only have a few days left of the term and then there will be the end of year graduation ceremonies. During the Dark Winter you will be tutored by one of the Elemental teachers in preparation for next year. Take advantage of this time as it will give you a head start against the other first years when they arrive. Do you have any questions?"

Ava was nearly in tears again, but held her composure and asked.

"What do I call you?"

"Head Matron of course."

"When will I see my family again, Head Matron?" Ava asked tentatively.

"Well, I imagine at the end of next year during the Dark Winter." Kaskali walked out. Ava couldn't control her emotions any longer and threw herself onto one of the beds and bawled her eyes out.

Pukavan

All the important people of Pukavan were assembled, plus Captain Courtney and the returning archers. Ambrose and all his friends. Raum, Grimhilda and Jaymar were all in attendance.

Princess Sienna and her son, Prince Aravin sat at the main table. The hall was adorned with many decorations and the celebration feast was ready to begin.

The Princess stood up and a hush fell across the assembled guests. She called for Captain Courtney to come forward.

"I honour you and your archers, Captain for your gallantry in the defence of Gymbala." She stepped forward and pinned a medal to his chest. Next, she called up Rosalina. "Elemental Rosalina, you displayed bravery beyond your calling. Congratulations."

Next was Fineen. "Without your agility and great abilities, the Lizard Soldiers may not have arrived in time. Plus, I understand that you had a hand in stopping the thunderstorm. Well done." The Princess shook her hand.

"Of course, we owe much to Ambrose, who orchestrated the defence. But we must all pay homage to a young man that not only saved his father's ship, but all of those innocent women and children on board. Jaymar please come forward."

Jaymar was so embarrassed. He reluctantly approached the Princess. She stepped forward and hung a medallion around his neck. Cheers and applause rang out throughout the hall. Jaymar returned to his table and was embraced by his parents.

Princess Sienna sat down in her chair and Ambrose took to the floor.

"Your Highness, Jalen has returned from Kyeamba after gathering the latest news from a close friend of mine. Now we should let him speak."

Jalen was very nervous and timidly walked up and joined Ambrose.

"Aark, Your Highness and son." There were a few giggles in the crowd but others hushed them to be quiet.

Jalen continued. "Princess, the main thoughts of Dallas and Ambrose is that a senior Centurion must be behind the Dark Terror attacks and that Elementals are aiding them by creating, Aark, a thunderstorm to darken the skies."

A number of people in the crowd gasped at the news.

"Plus, a large animoid army has made camp in the high mountains. Aark. Uparta the former Lizard leader has taken a large number of his soldiers and joined this army."

This sent the crowd into a buzz. It was several minutes before Ambrose and the Princess could silence them.

"Continue Jalen." The Princess encouraged him.

"Aark. In light of the assassination attempt on the High Princess Anastas and the supposed influence of a senior Centurion on the Dark Ones. Aark. We, ah, they have concluded that forces within Daarook itself must be behind these events."

Once again, the hall erupted as many people either voiced their anger or engaged in calling out for action.

Ambrose then took over. "I have more puzzling news. Recently, I received disturbing information about the Head Master of the High School for Elementals, using a secret tunnel behind Daarook." The hall collectively gasped. "Maybe, he is using the maze of tunnels to access the Well of Darkness. I still don't know." He fell silent, but the hall had gone crazy.

Princess Sienna, eventually managed to quieten the hall.

"This is indeed alarming news and I call on all my advisors, to meet with me tomorrow to discuss our response." She paused then added.

"But for now. We are here to CELEBRATE. Let the feast begin."

Everyone cheered.

The Epilogue Kaemoora

Captain Rawslee was wearing a bandage around his wounded head and one of his arms was in a sling. He was being escorted to a chamber where Prince Xavier and his son, Prince Tolgarn were talking to the Centurion Fenzio.

"Captain Rawslee, you look worse for wear." Quipped Prince Tolgarn as Rawslee entered the room.

"Your Highness. Pinemarsh is destroyed. I came as fast as I could. It was a massacre. I only just managed to escape with a dozen men."

"Destroyed by whom?" Prince Xavier already knew the answer.

"Animoids came out of the mountains. We couldn't hold them."

"Where are they now?" Prince Tolgarn asked.

"They have retreated back into the mountains after burning the city to the ground. They slaughtered many, as they tried to escape." The Captain explained.

"Well, clearly not all. You Captain have survived." Scoffed Tolgarn.

Ignoring the young Prince, he added. "There is more. On my way here, I received a report that a company of Lizard Soldiers attacked and destroyed Bundamook. There are hundreds of refugees on their way here."

"WHAT?" Prince Xavier roared. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Lizard Soldiers here? Call out all the militiamen, double the guards. Send urgent word to the High Prince Anastas for reinforcements at once."

Both Princes stormed out of the room, leaving Fenzio to question Captain Rawslee further.

The Well of Darkness

Head Master, Tahmore was standing two steps up from the floor of the Well. Calzar was standing in front of a group of Dark Ones.

"The Dark Winter has just started. I have been patient and you have licked your wounds long enough. Now it is time to begin raiding again."

There were a few growls from the crowd, but Calzar called for quiet.

Tahmore continued. "Go back and hit Gymbala again. This time I want you to destroy Gymbala. They won't be expecting a full attack a second time. Then, I want you to concentrate on the area around Falsbrook. Don't commit to a full attack on the city, but terrorise everyone outside the city. I'll be back soon to hear your report." He turned and commenced his climb up the steps back to the tunnel.

Gymbala

Centurion Rookardi and Centurion Pryborg had arrived within a day of each other. They had both spent several days questioning the Mayor, Elemental Arkana and many of the militiamen, the remaining Pukavan Archers and numerous people from the town.

Even though they detested each other, they now sat opposite each other at a corner table, in a small tavern.

"It's clear that the renegade Elemental was here." Concluded Pryborg.

"Yes, and he seemed to be one of the organisers of the defence." Rookardi was puzzled. "Plus, there seems to be a boy, who reportedly saved women and children on a ship."

"It is puzzling because nothing is clear or consistent. Elemental Arkana was very evasive when questioned." Pryborg observed.

"What do you make of the Lizard Soldiers coming to assist in the defence and apparently tipping the scales in the town's favour?" Queried Rookardi.

"This is a major event and one that Daarook needs to know about immediately. I have my messenger birds and I will send one today." Pryborg added.

"What's next?" Rookardi looked closely at Pryborg.

"Pukavan is next for me." Pryborg stood up and left Rookardi considering his own next move.