Vovin

bridge

© Sue Vincent

The bridge between the exile of the Dark Hills and the tree city of the dragons Vovin was massive and ancient. Even the dragons and the elves had no name for it, nor did they know how it was built. It was wide enough to admit six golden dragons the size of Shay and Kaleen standing side-by-side, which was fortunate, since he was escorting his still weak and limping wife back toward home.

Danijel and Aidan were walking between them, the former feeling nearly as wounded and exhausted as her mentor.

Behind the dragons were the five Davidson children, and behind them was the Royal Vizier of Direhaven, Wynjeon, alongside the Mage Raibyr. In turn they were leading a troop of twenty elven warriors, the remains of Sergeant Petran’s meager forces replenished by hand-picked soldiers from the army’s main body.

“I can’t believe we made it.” Mandy was talking more to herself than anyone else. For months, they had fought the most deadly of foes, suffered immeasurably, and yet the five children were here, alive, and for the most part well.

Mandy wouldn’t tell anyone, not yet. The gift of healing was nothing short of miraculous, and she still didn’t know how she acquired it, but the healing came at a price. She was trying to hide her limp, the same one Shay suffered from, doing her best to conceal her fatigue, and the nausea that plagued her.

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The Fallen

fallen

© Sue Vincent

Jake saw Dani standing in a gorge between two cliffs holding Witherbrand in her hand. Her blade was covered with blood and she was surrounded by bodies.

“Dani, what happened?”

The seven-year-old looked around but couldn’t see his brother or sisters, that is, until he looked closer at the dead people on the ground.

“Dani?”

She turned and stared at him, but her eyes were so different. Pale, blue orbs gazed at him with malevolence, and she grinned like a predator who had just spied fresh meat.

“What are you doing?”

She wasn’t in a hurry. The teenager strolled almost casually in his direction. Her armor wasn’t what he had given her after his dream. It was red and black, like the demon’s armor, like Sahkr’s.

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Valley of Blood

splash

© Sue Vincent

Taylor watched the light from the campfire flicker reflected in his opponent’s all too confident eyes, as he picked himself up from off the ground again and raised his bokken. She was already in position, barely winded, while he was almost totally out of breath. He knew his brother and sisters were watching, but he couldn’t afford to take his eyes of his adversary. They practiced with wooden bokken because they were non-lethal, and for the most part, produced only bruises and welts, but it was still a hard fight, harder than he thought it would be.

Dani was six years older than Taylor, was bigger, stronger, and had a longer reach. Eventually, he’d grow taller, but that would take years, and right now, she had every advantage over him, including that of experience.

“You’re getting better, Taylor,” she taunted him. “I think you’ll make a fine swordsman someday.”

“What do you mean someday?” Suddenly, he raised his bokken over his head and charged.

She just laughed and dodged his clumsy attack, but that was really his trap. Taylor wanted Dani to think there was no way to beat her, but if he couldn’t defeat her with strength and skill, he’d settle for tricking her. Quickly, he swung his stick in an arc low over the ground, and hit her hard in both shins. Dani nearly lost her balance, which gave him a chance to score a blow. Even then, she managed to elude his bokken, but not by much.

The sound of two pieces of wood repeatedly striking each other filled the air, and every time Dani stopped to brag about how he’d never be able to stop her, he’d pull out another surprise.

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Duel at Orholt

waiting

© Sue Vincent

There was the clatter of two pieces of wood rapidly striking each other, occasionally punctuated by a boy’s voice crying, “Ow!”

It was after another day of hiking, another day in the wilderness, climbing steadily up from the seashore into low hills, heading back toward the Dark Hills which were in fact mountains.

It was after another meal cooked by campfire, and young bellies now accustomed to wild game were satisfied (except for little Zooey who insisted on only fruits and vegetables similar to what a mouse or rabbit might consume). A nearby stream provided fresh water to slake thirst and for much needed, if chilly, bathing.

By the light of the fire and the stars, the Davidson children sat watching the two combatants earnestly plying their trade, or trying anyway.

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The Uneasy Pact

shelter

© Sue Vincent

Dani was with the Davidson children, all of them dressed regally if somewhat uncomfortably, sitting under a grand silken tent, served drink and treats by elven servants, while the Queen of Direhaven, Janellize, sat in front of them next to the golden dragon Shay, the two of them marvelously displayed against the backdrop of a magnificent waterfall.

It was mid-afternoon, and Janellize had just begun her tale of the shared history of her people and the dragons, one fraught with conflict and distrust. But who was at fault and why now was the enmity set aside?

“For time out of mind, we whom you call Elves and the race of dragons have visited your world, but neither are what you imagine us to be from your legends.

“Only in certain lands on your world were we called Elves. In other languages, we have been referred to as fairies, gnomes, and dwarves. In centuries past, an ancient Christian prayer book used the term elf as synonymous with Satan, though other nations of that time, considered some of our people light while others dark in nature. We have also been considered rbhus, hobgoblins, nymphs, demons, and angels.

“Our people have been all of these and none of them, for in truth, we were never truly realized by humans. In fact, just as your world contains differing cultures and individuals with varying characters, so too do we, and thereby hangs our tale.

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What Secrets We Keep

mist at sunrise

© Sue Vincent

“You can’t escape us. This is only a temporary victory. Do you think we’ll really let you get to safety alive?”

Dani was standing on a cliff overlooking a dense wood with the mist covered valley beyond it. It was dawn and the pale blue sky was streaked with clouds, painted in long, ragged strokes.

She was dressed in blue and green, the ceremonial armor of Janellize’s people and silvery chain mail. Dani’s dark blond hair was bound in the back but she wore no helmet. Her sword was sheathed at her side.

Her adversary was also her counterpart, a twin of a sort, but a negative one. Her colors were red and black, which gave her chain mail a scarlet tinge in the morning, mimicking the sunrise. Her hair was also pulled back and tied, but was much darker, a deep brown approaching black.

Both of their eyes were sapphire blue.

“I’ve already escaped you. You are frozen in stone awaiting your final destination at the bottom of some water-filled abyss. I defeated you. I’m free.”

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Trial at Sakhr

carved

© Sue Vincent

Janellize’s gaze was fixed upon the dragonrider standing before her as were the other four elves, if elves they really were. Mandy kept looking in disbelief back and forth between the Mistress of Direhaven and her new found friend. What secret did the teenage girl possess that was a threat to Direhaven, to the dragons, and to her family?

“I don’t know what you mean, and how do you know my name is Danijel?” She was worried. Janellize was no one to trifle with nor did she seem the sort to make a mistake, at least one of great magnitude. She searched her mind, her memories, her feelings, and all she found was who she was and always had been since she was a child of three.

The dark-haired noble known as Wynjeon stood. “I think you’ll find that there is very little we do not know about those who have entered our city.” His eyes were a deep blue, like a frozen lake, his expression impassive like those of his Queen and the other nobles, and Dani knew that he was her chief accuser.

“What must I do to prove you wrong?”

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