Laurel showed her new Pan the boundaries of her part of the
forest, telling him to never cross them. Everything he needed was
right here in the eastern quarter, she assured him, and he would
never have want of more. She instructed the flora and fauna, the
tricksters and faeries, to pay homage to him as the Lord of the
Forest, so that no living thing would pose a threat to her
days were spent frolicking through the woods, without a care in
the world. Vibrant faery beings were his usual playmates, always
showing him new places to investigate. He climbed up the highest
trees to bask in the rosy sunrise, or watch the birds soaring in
the clouds. Each rushing stream and flower patch possessed its own
unique spirit. He crawled into every nook and cranny, explored its
groves and burrows, befriending creatures great and small wherever
he went. Occasionally, he liked to watch the sunset cast crimson
overtones on the woodland peaks. But he rarely risked doing this
because Laurel had warned him to be in her cottage by dark, for
the chicken legs would raise high above the ground at night and
then he’d be in big trouble.
every evening when Lakai came home to Laurel, he could tell that
she wanted something from him other than playful antics and a
carefree demeanor. He did his best to please her by giving her
wreaths of flowers, and playing for her the lyre and flute, but
still she wanted something else. Her violet eyes followed him
around the bedroom like a hungry cat’s.
dreams were haunted by visions of lives other than this one. Some
nights he would dream of gardens under a crystalline dome, other
nights of an ethereal city in the treetops. But sometimes he would
dream of murky caverns damp with blood, and torn bodies piled upon
their own entrails. More often, though, he dreamt of a blue-haired
angel singing to him in his sleep, and the soft ringing of wind
chimes swaying in the breeze. He saw many more images, so varied
and numerous that they couldn’t possibly be from the same
lifetime, and yet felt right and true. Although he saw Laurel as a
mother, he felt uncomfortable talking about them with her.
so it was for several weeks.
Lakai’s curiosity was unyielding, and the confines of the
eastern quarter would not hold him back for much longer. His
dreams became more and more lucid each night, serving as vivid
proof of a larger world beyond the limits of Laurel’s territory.
Every day he came closer and closer to the region’s boundaries.
sunny afternoon Lakai was sitting on a boulder in a verdant forest
glade, playing jovial music on his panpipes. Dainty pixies danced
in the air around him, leaving glittering traces of light in their
wake. The breezy sylphs came to join in the merriment, raising
gusts of wind as they passed. Mingling with the buoyant melody,
Lakai heard the distant jingle of wind chimes. He put down the
panpipes, shifting his attention to the sound, immediately
recognizing it from his dreams. The gathered faeries looked to
each other in confusion as he bounded into the bushes.
even noticing it, Lakai breached the borders of the eastern
quarter, running past gnarled oaks and knobby willows until he
came upon a sheltered cabin. Wind chimes dangled by the front
door. This was a peaceful place, pervaded by a sacred silence.
crept closer, being careful not to step on any of the plants
growing around the dwelling. Tiptoeing up to a window, he wiped
off the dust and peeked inside. It was a modest abode that
consisted of one cramped little room. Labeled jars lined the
walls, and drying herbs hung on the windows and from the ceiling.
A large cauldron was suspended over the cooling coals in the
fireplace, and a single unkempt bed stood hidden in the corner.
stillness was broken by the serene sound of singing coming from
behind the cabin. Recognizing the voice, Lakai crept around the
house for a better glimpse of its source.
backyard overlooked a small pond, and the figure of a maiden knelt
at its shore, her hair the color of the darkening sky. Tidbits of
food mixed with flowers were spread out before her. She was
chanting praises to the forest spirits, requesting their help in
healing the wilted plant she held in her hands. Not wanting to
disturb her, he climbed up the trunk of a willow, gazing at her
from his perch in the branches that drooped over the pond.
water swelled and inched onto the beach, washing away the food and
flowers into its cloudy depths. The withering plant began to glow
with light. It straightened out with renewed strength and regained
its healthy green color. The girl opened her eyes and smiled,
hugging the plant to her heart. But as soon as she saw Lakai’s
reflection in the rippling waters, she gasped and scrambled to her
feet, hurrying in the direction of the cabin.
jumped out of the tree and caught up to her.
shouldn’t be here,” she told him, pulling her hair over her
face like a veil.
am the Lord of the Forest,” Lakai set himself between her and
the entrance, “I can go where I want.”
away,” she growled, pushing him away and slipping into the
house, closing the door behind her.
stared at the door momentarily, then collected some pebbles and
started throwing them at it periodically. Saillie tried to ignore
him but had to admit it was getting rather annoying.
do you want?” he heard the girl shout from within.
dream about you!” he called back, “I at least want to know
door creaked open a tiny bit and she looked out. “Saillie,”
she said in a less irritated tone, “Don’t tell Laurel about
your dreams, and don’t tell her you saw me. Now go away!” The
door slammed shut again.
smiled, pleased with his apparent progress.
deftly sidestepped Jason’s clumsy dagger swing. To the King’s
credit, it would be hard to not look clumsy when compared to the
elf’s amazing agility. He tried to use the momentum of Jason’s
lunge to knock him over with a backhand, but the King’s other
arm shot up to block it instantaneously. Keramis had to confess
that Jason’s reflexes were quite impressive. His student was no
novice to begin with, and improving by the day.
Keramis hopped back, “You are getting much better. Your balance
and coordination are excellent, so is your defense. But your
offence could use a little work,” he walked towards Jason and
patted him on the back, “You are too reckless.”
got up from the ground, clapping her hands ardently. “Oh, honey,
you look so valiant!” she hugged him.
taught me other moves, too!” he said excitedly.
to see?” Jason asked her.
know I’d love to, sweetie,” Dinictis kissed him on the cheek,
“But Lynn and Raven have just arrived with urgent news.”
Lady Queen Dinictis!” a guard’s voice resounded across the
main hall, “Acora Lynn and Trellion the Raven are here to see
them in!” she yelled from the gardens, then turned to Keramis,
“Go get Lianna.”
elf ran through the back corridors to Lianna’s chamber and
knocked on the door softly.
did not come out of her room very often. For most of their stay in
the Crystal Castle, she preferred to spend her time in solitary
mourning. The first few days after Karaci’s death, she wept
anguished tears and sent wails into the night that outdid a
banshee’s keen. But being a trained fighter, she knew such
losses to be inevitable. She recovered her senses quickly, moving
into a stage of quiet acceptance. She would pray to the Iktu, the
ancient spirits of vengeance, and then she would find Kranti. By
North Forest Law of ‘life for life’, she was entitled to
retribution, and she intended to carry out just that. Putting on a
cheerful smile, Lianna opened the door.
and Lynn are here,” Keramis told her.
eyes brightened and she no longer had to fake the smile.
followed him into the main hall, where the Queen and King were
already seated in their royal thrones. Lynn sat on the steps by
them, with Elvina resting on his shoulder. Raven was kneeling
before Dinictis, his wounds healed and his clothes patched up like
came up to Raven and hugged him. “Good to have you back with us
again,” she whispered.
nodded in acknowledgement.
greeted his cousin warmly, then scanned the room, “Where’s the
winced slightly and looked away.
wanted to share some of the information he has brought back from
the Land of Truth,” Lynn interjected, sensing the tension.
me and Lynn know it already, I do believe he would tell it best to
the rest of you,” Dinictis smiled.
began retelling his adventures in the Overworld. He reported of
the dying dragon in the Land of Illusions, told about the trial he
underwent to gain entry into the Land of Truth, and recounted his
encounter with Gaisa. The latter profoundly touched Lianna, for
Gaisa’s speech rang true in her heart and gave her a sense of
Raven conveyed the words of the Aelis concerning Aloquin’s
plans, Aurora’s imprisonment, and Lynn being his father (drawing
stupefied stares from Keramis and Lianna).
you go back to the part about Nexus?” Keramis asked after he was
smacked him upside the head.
still not quite sure what Aloquin is trying to do,” Keramis
looked to Dinictis, rubbing the back of his head, “I mean,
you’re both immortal, right? Even gods can’t kill gods. Does
he want to trap you in the Land of Illusions like you did him?”
are right, gods can’t kill gods,” Dinictis clarified, “But
gods still can die. Aloquin and I are the Dragon Twins, our lives
are tied to Caldor’s. We are born with the Earth Dragon and we
die with it.
the new dragon embryo was destroyed in this world by Jason, its
mirror in the otherworld is still alive and growing,” she went
on, “That is why Aloquin appeared old when he escaped from the
Land of Illusions. He was aging with the dragon, dying.”
can see why he’d be ticked off,” Keramis admitted.
wants to kill me by thrusting me into the otherworld at the moment
of Caldor’s death,” Dinictis explained.
seems that this astral castle is a key element in Aloquin’s
plan,” Lynn spoke up, “If the Mistress of Illusions built it,
then I’d wager it’s no ordinary astral castle.”
built it from the Forestside Kingdom, Aloquin can open a portal
inside it from Kayintas,” Lianna reasoned, “They must be
Dinictis nodded, “Connected by that very castle. Aloquin is able
to teleport anywhere he pleases, but his troops can’t. The
castle is a strategic waypoint to unite his and Onedia’s
it is more than just that,” Lynn resumed his original thought,
“Aloquin has put his portal there, which means that he intends
for the final showdown to take place inside that castle. Why
there, of all places? Because it would give him some kind of
in battle on his terms would be disastrous,” Dinictis concurred,
“That is why we should launch a two-pronged attack. We need to
send a small team to the Forestside Kingdom to find the magical
blueprint of the castle and dismantle any traps it may contain.
Unfortunately, the only way to pull that off is by doing it while
our main army distracts Aloquin’s, forcing us to fight by his
rules until the Forestside team completes its mission.”
and Lynn had their speeches perfectly synchronized, having planned
them out ahead of time. They now fixed their gaze on Raven,
Keramis, and Lianna.
Who’s going to be on the Forestside team?” Keramis asked,
guessing the reply.
you three are,” Lynn grinned in amusement, “You have the
stealth to sneak into the Forestside Castle, Lianna has the faery
sight to guide you past magical traps, and Raven can serve as
backup if you happen to run into Kranti and friends.”
is there for more than just that,” Dinictis corrected, turning
to Trellion, “It appears that the Warrior Spirit did not
appreciate being exorcized. He wants you back and has gone as far
as allying with Aloquin and kidnapping your girlfriend to lure you
blushed; this was the first time anybody defined his relationship
with Aurora in that manner.
God of War fighting for Aloquin does not bode well for our
cause,” she continued, “Yugashii ensures victory for those he
favors. You must get him away from the battleground, convince him
to switch sides if you can, but above all, distract him.”
is important to look as inconspicuous as possible,” Lynn warned.
“I’d go,” he smirked, spreading his arms wide, “But I’m
afraid I’d look a bit out of place.” Elvina tugged on the dark
elf’s stark white hair to emphasize the point.
Raven, you’re married,” he told them.
and Lianna gave each other weird looks.
you’re their son.”
Keramis snarled in outrage.
Lynn looked her up and down, “You’ll need a dress.”
I’m older than them…” Keramis grumbled, still recovering
from the initial shock.
take that tone with me, son,” Lianna ruffled his hair teasingly,
recoiling her hand just in time to avoid his sharp teeth.
anybody asks, you are a simple peasant family traveling to the
capital, Iyutel, for a better life,” Lynn informed them, “You
will have to go through the Enchanted Forest to get to the
Forestside Kingdom. Rumor has it the place is haunted, so rely on Lianna’s vision to steer you clear of danger.
the way,” Lynn added, “Lakai left for the Enchanted Forest
about five days after we got to the East Forest. Might as well
pick him up while you’re there.”
dear,” Lianna looked concerned, “The poor kid all alone in
Lynn shook his head at the notion, “He has faery sight and the
protection of the Sidhe, he’s fine. Follow the faery roads; they
will lead you to the Seelie Court. Tell the guards that you are
friends of Lakai and ask them where he is.”
these crystals,” Dinictis gave a crystal each to Raven, Keramis,
and Lianna, making sure to include an extra one for Lakai, “Wear
them and you will understand the speech of Lossi’s natives and
they will understand you. They can also be used as transmitters by
holding one in your hand, thinking of me, and speaking into it.
to contact me firstly when you get out of the Enchanted Forest,
secondly a day before you plan to infiltrate the Forestside
Castle, and thirdly when you are inside the Forestside Castle, at
which point we will attack Kayintas with as big an army as we can
Keramis, and Lianna nodded in agreement.
of luck to you!” Dinictis exclaimed, “May your journey be safe
and your mission successful!”
bowing to their Queen, the three marched for the door. Raven only
looked back to Lynn, who smiled at him proudly. They walked
through the Open Field, and then the South Forest, swiftly nearing
the Enchanted Forest.
dreams were not only becoming more lucid, but also more detailed.
He saw faces, heard names and voices. Sometimes he wondered if
they were the reality, and his waking the dream. He tried to block
them out but they would not be silenced, making themselves known
even in broad daylight through vivid hallucinations. Finally, he
could not deny their truth any longer; everything clicked. The
visions fell together perfectly, arranging themselves in
chronological order, to form a clear picture of who he was and why
he was here.
now saw Laurel in a new light. He realized that she had been
keeping him prisoner all this time, and feared her learning of his
newfound knowledge most of all. He did his best to hide his
unease, but could tell she already suspected something was
different. Having nowhere else to turn, he went back across the
boundary to Saillie’s cabin.
heard noises coming from within the house, and a look inside the
window confirmed that she was home.
he knocked on the door. There was a loud racket of crashing jars,
and then quiet. “Saillie!” he called again, “Saillie, I know
I’m not Pan! Please talk to me.”
door flung open and the girl grabbed his wrist. “I dream of you,
and you are real,” Lakai said, being dragged into the room,
“Everything else I dream must be real, too.”
seated him on the wooden floor and sat opposite him. Her indigo
hair parted to reveal the faint outline of a crescent moon on her
forehead, and she gazed at him with concerned, silvery-blue eyes
that glimmered with faerie fire.
have a beautiful singing voice,” Lakai smiled, completely lost
in her twinkling orbs.
helps things heal and grow,” she waved her hand at the potted
plants that rimmed the walls, “I deal with herbs so it comes in
handy. But you did not come here to talk about botany. Tell me
name is Lakai,” he said, “I was raised by the Sidhe, and later
given to the Acrelan faeries of Caldora. I came back to find my
parents only to learn that they were killed. To help me get out of
this forest, the Sidhe gave me foxglove to trick Laurel into
letting me go–”
it was for the wrong spell,” Saillie cut in, “Faery foxglove
is used to combat ‘essence of beast,’ but she didn’t cast
that on you.”
did she cast?” Lakai dared to ask.
hesitated, considering how to phrase the answer. “What do you
know about Pan?”
know Laurel tried to make me think I’m him.”
Saillie shook her head, “He’s more than that. Him and Laurel
are the Lord and Lady of the Forest, the God and Goddess of all of
Lossi. Their union birthed all the races and all the other gods
into being, and they showered their children with the cornucopia
of nature’s bounty.
after being parted by Onedia’s curse, they have become mere
shadows of their true selves,” she went on, “Laurel searches
the forest for her lost Lord, for the undeniable piece of herself
which is now gone. They need each other to be complete, and their
separation is the reason for their nature being as warped as it is
now – for Laurel being reduced to a simple woodland witch, and
Pan… well I don’t even know where Pan is.”
is true that she enjoys turning people into beasts,” Saillie
continued, “But once in a while, somebody comes along who…”
she looked him over, then cast her eyes down and blushed, “Who
she finds particularly attractive.”
erases their memory, and keeps them as a stand-in for the real
Pan,” Saillie explained, “My father was such a man, serving as
her consort for several years. But, though the duration is
different for everybody, Laurel’s spell slowly wears off over
time. The speed of your recovery was unprecedented, might I add.
Once cast it can never be cast on the same person again for the
psyche develops an immunity to it.
day my father, too, succumbed to the reality of his dreams, and
when he tried asking for his freedom, she killed him on the spot.
He was not the first and he would not be the last. Laurel had many
partners, all of whom remembered their identities in their own
time, and all of whom were killed when they did.
is good that you came to me with this,” she said with a wry
grin, “Laurel and I are not the best of friends – having your
mother kill your father does that to a relationship.”
do I do?” Lakai asked, trying to hide the fear in his voice.
Saillie advised, “Don’t do anything! If you try to run away
she will hunt you down and kill you before you ever glimpse the
outskirts of the forest.
should be leaving now,” she told him, glancing out the window,
“Evening is approaching and Laurel will get suspicious if you
are not back by sundown. But come here again, I’m sure we can
figure out a way for you to escape,” she put a hand to his
cheek, “I saved you because I knew there was something special
about you, I won’t let you die now.”
smiled, and nodded weakly.
Lianna, and Keramis walked briskly through the Enchanted Forest
along a well-trodden faery path. They had entered the woods in the
afternoon, but now the sky was getting darker.
are several things you should know about tricksters,” Lianna lectured, walking in the lead, “They, like faeries, get their
power from the Land of Illusions. This means that if they appear
to you in the physical plane, the most harm they can do is scare
If you encounter them in the astral planes of the Land of
Illusions, their deceptions can be very real,” she held up a
finger, “You have to remember that the Land of Illusions does
not follow the same laws as our rigid physical plane. There,
thoughts are things. If you are afraid, your fears will manifest
as reality. If you think yourself helpless, you will become it.
They will pick up on your fears, your slightest weaknesses, and
use them against you.”
grudgingly recalled his encounter with the fake Gaisa.
only defense you will have against a trickster in their home plane
is the sheer power of your own will. That is, how much you believe
their illusions – and they can be very convincing!” Lianna
stressed, “Think of it this way, when you’re asleep,
you don’t question the happenings in your dreams no matter how
absurd they are. That’s the kind of ambiance their trickery
induces. This is to make up for the fact that their guises are
never perfect, they all have minute flaws detectable only by the
most attentive observer.
I nearly forgot. There are ways they can indirectly harm you on
the physical plane,” she added, “Tricksters have a symbiotic
relationship with the changelings – physical creatures who can
alter their shape. The problem is that changelings are rooted in
place. So tricksters lure their victims to a changeling ally –
disguised as a log, a rock, or what not – who finishes them
to interrupt,” Raven said softly, “But if you’ll excuse me,
I need to go find some bushes.”
need to go to the bathroom,” Raven mumbled.
we’ll just have to come with you and watch, won’t we now?” Lianna
sure you can lay off this one time, Lianna,” Raven assured her,
“I’ll be right back.”
put her hands on her hips and tilted her head to the side.
“Famous last words!” she called after him as he disappeared
into the brush.
bother,” Keramis snickered, “He had his mind made up before he
back through the bushes, Raven felt an odd tingling sensation wash
over him. More importantly, Lianna and Keramis were not where he
left them, neither was the faery path. In fact, the whole forest
looked vaguely different. The trees were twisted at weird angles,
and some of the leaves had more points than they normally should.
tried calling for his friends, tried walking around and calling
for them, but nobody answered. Giving up on that, he resolved to
explore his surroundings. The forest was dark, but not too dark
for his elven sight, which enabled him to see clearly in the
night. Strange, indistinct noises sounded from the shadows; some
as plain as the rustling of leaves, while others more akin to
dying shrieks. Frankly, it sounded a lot like his North Forest
ears perked up at the sole distinct voice that moaned from the
O, won’t somebody help me!”
his sword, Raven decided to investigate and followed the voice
into a small clearing. An old, wrinkled little man stood in the
center, trying to wrench his foot out of a hole in a tree stump.
the elderly man begged upon seeing him, “O, won’t you help a
frail old man, son?”
stalked up to the trapped man.
wicked tricksters!” the man rambled, “They caught my foot in
this blasted stump and left me to be torn apart by the monsters
that roam these woods!”
paced around the stump, assessing the predicament. The foot was
lodged deep inside the crack, but the gap itself looked rather
clean and even, with no splinters or jagged edges.
you put that sword away, son,” the old man eyed Raven’s drawn
faery metal sword warily. “A thing like that can give someone my
age a heart attack,” he said with a nervous chuckle.
stopped pacing. He shot a quick look at the old man, then back to
the stump. The man’s eyes widened in disbelief; normally people
tried prying the crack open with their hands, or pulling on his
ankle, but Raven raised the sword overhead and swung it down,
splitting the stump in half along the fissure and leaving his foot
bless you! Bless you, son!” the man exclaimed, straddling the
stump to hide the fresh blood oozing from the gash, “You have
rescued me from a terrible fate!”
sheathed his sword.
for your reward,” the man grabbed his hand and turned him away
from the stump, tugging him towards the forest, “I will lead you
to the grand faerie court of Elfame, where you will be given a
magical item of your choice!”
nodded and went after the man, figuring that he can meet up with
Keramis and Lianna there.
the marvels you shall see!” the old man went on, “Truly it is
a privilege for a mortal such as yourself to behold such wonders!
Mountains of gold and silver, gems the size of your head, beings
of beauty untold…”
and Lianna sat on the ground by the faery path, still waiting.
long could it possibly be taking him?” Keramis fell back on the
ground in boredom.
don’t think he’s coming back anytime soon,” Lianna muttered,
leaning against a tree trunk.
stared up into the canopy.
should have come with him,” she turned to him.
faery metal harm tricksters?” he asked.
any magical weapons can.”
he’ll be alright,” Keramis yawned.
now we have to find him and Lakai!” she whined.
tiny pixie buzzed onto the scene, zipping here and there in short,
rapid spurts. It flew up to the resting elf, yanking on his hair,
pulling on his shirt, and humming in his ear.
pixies,” Keramis said irritably, trying to swat it aside.
sprouted tiny claws and scratched his hand.
Did you see that?” Keramis recoiled his cut hand, “It
pixie laughed at him in its silvery voice and scratched his other
that the way you want to play?” he growled. Keramis’ eyes
flashed amber and his teeth grew sharp points as he transformed
into his lupine form. Baring his fangs, he leaped after the pixie,
who flit away in panic.
Lianna stood up.
chased the pixie around in circles, pawing and biting at it all
the while. It whizzed about hectically, before swerving to the
side and away from the path, with the wolf right behind.
Lianna shouted, tramping after him, “Kera, come back here.”
was too engrossed in the hunt to hear her, pursuing his prey with
reckless abandon. Lianna saw faint lights weaving together an
etheric web not far ahead, and the pixie was heading straight for
she yelled, “There’s a–”
before she could utter a warning, he had already jumped through
the barrier and disappeared along with it.
a wall,” Lianna completed the sentence, then slumped down to the
grass with a frustrated sigh. “Lynn expects me to watch those
two? Hah!” she hollered at the nearby trees. The trees stood
silent, offering her no sympathy, and the reality of her
alone-ness began to slowly sink in.
found himself in a sun-dappled forest. The pixie had vanished but
he did not notice nor care. A warm sense of nostalgia enveloped
him as he pranced blissfully between the blossoming trees, taking
in the familiar smells that his heightened senses could perceive.
He felt like a child again, untouched by the harshness of the
world, carefree and uninhibited by society’s expectations and
prancing led him to a sunny clearing, where he saw a young
Kentabri practicing combat maneuvers with a scimitar. Crawling
into some bushes, Keramis carefully watched for his target to get
within range. When the timing was right, he pounced onto the
tamunid and mauled him to the ground.
play!” Keramis licked his friend’s face cheerfully.
don’t want to play with you anymore,” Kentabri pushed
him off roughly, “I’m friends with Kranti now!”
bipedal, leonine figure stepped out from behind a tree trunk and
Kentabri hurried to his side. “That’s right, elf,” the young
Kranti sneered, “Who would want to be friends with you?”
Keramis took a step back, but Kranti’s thugs emerged from the
forest overgrowth, forming a tight circle from which there was no
would want to be friends with a weakling?” Kranti smirked,
“With an insignificant, helpless little runt who can’t even
protect his own friends?” As if on cue, the entire gang of goons
broke out in rowdy laughter at the last statement.
stung Keramis profusely, but it also reminded him of the
resolution he recently made to not let such taunting get to him.
He scowled in reply. Resolution he recently made? Was he reliving
his past all over again? No, that couldn’t be it. His real
memories rushed back to him in one mighty surge.
the faeries couldn’t make you stronger!” the half-were said
between laughs, “Your wolf-form is a joke! You call that a
werewolf? More like a puppy!” His brutes cackled inanely, until
he waved his hand to quiet them.
to put you in your place once and for all, dogboy,” Kranti
flexed his claws.
half-were’s thugs began to tighten the circle around Keramis at
a slow, steady pace. “Dogboy! Dogboy! Dogboy!” they chanted,
their eyes gleaming with unbridled brutality.
pain or doubts that Keramis had concerning the mock reenactment
quickly faded, replaced by an all-consuming rage – a fury
straight from the darkest pits of his psyche. Though these may
only be tricksters, this was his opportunity to put an end to his
fears here and now. Seething with anger, his already-lupine eyes
Dogboy! Dogboy!” the thugs droned, closing in on him.
a wolf,” Keramis said in a low growl.
he snarled, his fangs becoming longer, sharper. His muscles bulged
and his auburn fur turned dark brown. Standing upright, he grew
taller, his snout extended, and his ears came to resemble horns.
he roared, glaring at the thugs with amber eyes that blazed like
twin flames against the dark fur. They backed away in alarm from
the fearsome beast, their guises wavering. Keramis flashed a
toothy grin before lunging into their midst.
tricksters scattered in terror, their illusions flickering out as
they ran. He chased them about wildly, viciously snapping at them
with his bared fangs, and swiping at their frail forms left and
right. They scrambled on their hands and knees, desperately trying
to get away from the demon wolf; frantically trying to reach
sanctuary in the Unseelie Court. Keramis blindly pursued them
through underground caverns, and followed them into an Underworld
palace, before finally pinning a handful of them to a wall.
Please spare us!” they pleaded in their squeaky little voices.
will make this simple,” Keramis breathed, pressing on them
harder, “Let me keep this as an alternate wolf-form, or I will
paint the walls with your blood.”
grant it! We grant it!” they replied without a second thought,
“Just please let us go!”
amused leer spread across his canine maw.
went after the little old man through bejeweled gates that opened
to the sound of a haunting melody played by the sentries on dainty
flutes. They walked through crystalline grottos and a grandiose
Underworld city bustling with life, until at last they entered the
magnificent castle at the center of it all.
great hall was indeed a wonder to behold; made of iridescent
marble that gently radiated music sung by an ethereal choir. Its
floor was decked with extraordinary wonders: mounds of sparkling
silver mixed with hills of gleaming gold, all strewn with a
dazzling array of gemstones of all the colors of the rainbow.
Beautifully crafted weapons and armor peeked out from among the
riches, studded with precious stones and adorned with interlacing
you shall be granted audience with the Faery Queen, son,” the
old man smiled oddly at him, “And from her seek your reward.”
uproar of lupine howling and petrified screams resounded from the
rear of the room. Before long, several hysterical Sidhe nobles
scurried in through the back hallway, being chased by a terrifying
werewolf. It dove after them, biting at their hair and clawing at
their clothes. Upon seeing Raven, the wolf changed back into an
elf, vigorously spitting out hair and casting the Sidhe aside. The
amber fire in his eyes cooled and their natural violet-blue color
are you attacking the faeries, Kera?” Raven asked vacantly.
aren’t faeries,” he answered, looking back to the nobles.
course they’re faeries,” Raven blinked blankly, “We’re in
the Seelie Court.”
isn’t the Seelie Court,” Keramis walked up to him, “And we
should be getting out of here.”
go just yet,” the little old man whispered.
setting switched to that of a dimly lit cave, and they heard a
disturbing noise from overhead – a slithering, slimy, hissing
noise that put their hair on end. Though common sense advised
against it, their survival instincts forced them to look up
instantaneously. The ceiling was alive with a swarm of beings,
continuously shifting from one nightmarish monstrosity to another.
They crawled over each other, merging together and dividing with
fluid grace. Raven and Keramis watched them breathlessly. Gazing
at the living ceiling long enough would surely drive one mad.
creatures licked their chops eagerly, their eyes shining with vile
mischief. Their talons clenched and unclenched in anticipation.
And then, all at once, they swooped down on the two elves,
uttering unearthly shrieks and wails. Raven and Keramis shut their
eyes and clung onto each other tightly. They, too, screamed, but
their cries were drowned out by the shrill screeching of the
trickster horde. They felt as if they were falling, falling,
falling straight through the floor and into oblivion…