Authors: Farah Oomerbhoy
We went over to look at the pegasus more closely. Before I could ask Kalen any more about it, a tall man with slick black hair ran up to us.
“Interested in this pegasus, eh?” he said, standing a little way from the horse. “Got this one at a real steal, I did. She was bruised, hurt, and caught hard by a band of goblins in the Cascade Mountains, she was.” The slimy looking man looked around suspiciously, as if someone was going to pounce on him any moment. “I can give you a good price for her, I can.”
All of a sudden, there were disturbing noises from outside the tent. People were screaming, and the pegasus-seller ran out to have a look. I looked at Kalen, but he seemed as confused as I was.
“The Shadow Guard,” shouted the pegasus seller, running back into the tent.
“What?” said Kalen. “In the forest? We must get out of here, and fast.” He took my hand and we ran.
My heart was racing, and I was suddenly afraid. How did the Shadow Guard know about the midnight market? Kalen had said I would be safe here. I was terrified at what Lord Oblek would do to me for escaping his dungeons if he caught me again.
As we came out of the tent, the happy, peaceful clearing was now a mess, with upturned stalls and tents that had been ripped and destroyed. Lanterns lay burning on the mossy floor, and everyone was running helter-skelter into the forest. Kalen went to help two dryad children who had fallen down.
Then I saw the reason for the screaming and confusion: the Shadow Guard.
Moving about the clearing like dark, menacing shadows, there were two of them, and their very presence sent shivers down my spine. They had pale white skin, and their hands were skeletal, with sharp, clawlike fingernails. I couldn’t see their faces, which were hidden under black hooded cloaks.
There were other guards with them, human guards in uniforms, and they were rounding up groups of fae. A small group of gnomes sat in a little heap, all tied up, and they looked absolutely terrified. Some of the older fae had engaged in a fight with a couple of the guards. Two were struck down by Shadow Guard magic and lay motionless on the floor.
I was aghast. They were killing people, and it was my fault; they were here for me. I didn’t know what to do. Should I give myself up? What if they kept killing these poor fae folk? They had done nothing wrong except allow me to stay.
Suddenly, sharp hands closed about me from behind. I tried to struggle, but it was useless. Whoever was holding me was too strong for me to move. I kicked and screamed, but nothing helped.
“Is she the girl?” I heard the guard who held me ask someone. I craned my head to see Oblek walking towards us. He looked at me with so much malice in his eyes that I had to look away.
“Yes, that’s her,” said Oblek, stopping in front of me. “You thought you could escape me, little girl. I told you the next time you tried, you would be sorry.”
“How did you find me?” I managed to say through the panic.
He looked over to the trees, and I saw Finn walking towards us. I couldn’t believe Finn had given me up to Oblek. I knew he didn’t like me, but why did he hate me so much and do something that caused so much destruction to his own kind?
“Tie her up,” said Oblek, grabbing me by my arm. “We take her to the queen.” He turned to Finn. “You will be well rewarded, Fae.”
I trembled. He was going to take me straight to Morgana. How would I escape now? What should I do?
Suddenly, there was a flash of white light. It shot past me and hit Oblek, who collapsed on the ground beside me. I was free. I looked around, but where should I go? And where did the light come from? My eyes darted across the forest, to the other side of the clearing. That’s when I saw him—the Black Wolf.
With his dark tousled hair, shining grey eyes, and ebony cloak rippling about him as he walked carefully and purposefully towards the guards, he looked like a sleek black panther ready to pounce on its prey.
Rafe held out his hands, and jets of white light shot out of his palms. The human guards crumpled like toy soldiers. But he now had the undivided attention of the Shadow Guard, and they slowly and confidently started closing in about him. For a split second, he looked over at me, his grey eyes shimmering with concentration. His eyes were hard set and brimming with anger.
“Run!” he said simply. His voice was powerful, strong, and one that you immediately obeyed, even if you didn’t want to.
“Run, Aurora, now!” he said again.
His sword glistened in the moonlight as he drew it from its sheath and prepared to meet the Shadow Guard. I was about to turn and run, but I couldn’t help watching him for a few seconds more. He was now battling both the Shadow Guards with his sword. It flashed and swirled like it had a mind of its own. I thought I saw a light surrounding him, and it flickered lightly with a faint blue hue.
I was entranced; I had never seen anyone fight with a sword like that before. He was like a young Sir Lancelot, or more like Zorro with magic. I couldn’t keep my eyes off him. He was magnificent, and he had come back for me.
Just then I heard Kalen shout out, “My lady, over here.”
I turned towards his voice. He was standing amongst the trees on the other side of the clearing, holding the pegasus who looked like it was about to bolt at any minute.
I ran towards Kalen, my heart pounding in my chest. I glanced back just for a second to see Rafe now surrounded by the Shadow Guard. They had advanced in an attack and were shooting bolts of red fire at his shield. Kalen had started muttering a running commentary in my ear as soon as I reached him.
“Look at him move. Do you have any idea how much concentration it takes to hold a magical shield like that and fight at the same time?” Kalen was saying. “And this is not just any fight, he is battling the Shadow Guard.”
The pegasus had started putting up a fight; it obviously wanted to bolt away from the loud sounds. The other fae and Finn, had disappeared into the trees. Oblek had managed to revive himself and stood up unsteadily. The human guards were on the floor, and there was just Rafe and the two of us against Oblek and two Shadow Guards.
Rafe’s invisible shield was still holding, but his sword had fallen, and now red and white jets of light shot back and forth between him and the Shadow Guard. How long could he keep this up? I had to do something, help him, or he could die.
“Try and get on,” said Kalen, holding the pegasus. “She will not let me ride her, but maybe she will take you. If you are of the royal house of Elfi, the pegasus will carry you.”
The pegasus still showed no signs of calming down, and it was taking all of Kalen’s strength, such as it was, to hold her. She seemed to want to run free, but she was pulling in the direction of the fight instead of the other way around. I tried to calm her down and put my hand on her neck. My palm tingled faintly. Suddenly the pegasus stopped and was completely still. And then something extremely strange happened. I heard a soft musical voice in my head.
“Climb on, and I shall carry you, Princess,” said the voice.
I looked around, and back at the pegasus. Did she just speak to me in my head? No! That was impossible! But supposedly, so was magic.
“Yes, it’s me,” the voice said, “and we don’t have much time. Do you want to help your friend there or not? I’ll explain later.”
“Okay,” I said in my mind, tentatively pushing the thought out at the pegasus. I hesitated for a brief second. Kalen gave me a boost, and I jumped onto the pegasus’s back. Kalen looked at me with his mouth open wide. I guess I was of the royal line of Elfi, after all.
“Go,” said Kalen. “Get to Eldoren, and go straight to Silverthorne Castle. Tell your granduncle everything that has happened. The duke will know what to do.”
“We must help him,” I said out loud, looking over at Rafe.
“Do not worry, my lady,” said Kalen. “Rafe can take care of himself. You just get out of Illiador as fast as you can. He will meet you there.”
I nodded, as the pegasus reared once and cantered towards the clearing. I held on tight and concentrated on staying on. Suddenly I realized the pegasus was running straight towards the Shadow Guard.
Kalen was shouting, “You’re going the wrong way! You need to get away from this forest fast.”
“I hope you know how to create a shield,” said the voice in my head. “You’re going to need it now.”
“I can’t,” I gasped out loud. “I have no magic.”
“You may not know how to use your magic, but you do have it, or you would not be able to speak to me with your mind,” said the pegasus. “For now, I will shield you. Don’t worry, I know what I’m doing.”
“You have magic?” I asked.
“I am a pegasus, protected by the old magic of the fae. The magic of the Shadow Guard cannot harm me,” said the pegasus. “And my magic protects those of the royal house of Elfi.”
This mind-talking was weird, but I was quickly getting used to it.
“It’s you they want,” said the pegasus. “I will draw their fire away from the Black Wolf to give him enough time to escape. But you must hold on tight. Whatever happens, do not let go.”
We were nearing the fight. I could see Rafe’s shield wavering as the pegasus increased her speed into a gallop in one fluid motion. It was like riding on air, and soon we really were—we were flying. The pegasus spread her powerful wings and shot into the sky like a hawk, flying directly over the clearing.
The Shadow Guards looked up, and their shields faltered. Rafe hit both of them squarely in the chest with powerful bolts of white light. They fell to the ground, but Oblek raised his hand, a ball of red fire growing in his palm.
“Now,” said the voice in my head. “Hold on.”
I closed my eyes and held on tightly to the pegasus’s neck. I was scared, but I knew I had no choice.
Just then I heard Rafe shout, “No!”
I looked down for a second, in time to see a jet of red flames shooting towards me.
“Be calm,” said the voice in my mind.
I felt a jolt hit my back, but there was no pain. I was still on the pegasus’s back, flying out of the forest. I vaguely made out Rafe’s dark shadow disappearing into the trees. I had done it. I had escaped, and most importantly, Rafe was safe.
I clung on tightly to the pegasus’s neck as we rose up over the trees of Goldleaf Forest and flew towards the Cascade Mountains.
“That was very well done, Princess,” said the pegasus, a calm voice in my head.
I smiled. I had only just caught my breath, and my heart was still racing. I never imagined that pegasi could talk.
“How did you know who I was?” I asked the pegasus, pushing the thought out to her.
The pegasus answered in my mind. “When you touched me, I felt your power. You are unmistakably of the royal line of Gwenfar-Ith-Aran of the fae. We pegasi have our own magic; I could see who you were, just the same as if you were telling me.”
“Can you talk to everyone like this?” I asked.
“Only to the royal fae,” she said simply.
It was an amazing and exhilarating feeling, racing through the sky on the back of a magical winged horse. The pegasus’s powerful wings soared through the air. Soon we had cleared the forest and were flying higher and higher towards the Cascade Mountains.
“Where do you want to go, Princess?” said the pegasus, “I can take you anywhere you wish after we rest.”
“I need to go back and see if my friend Kalen is okay,” I said, “and Rafe as well.”
“That I cannot do, Princess,” said the pegasus in my mind. “Illiador is not safe for you now. The Shadow Guard were all over the place. Pixie Bush is where they will search first.”
“But I need to know my friends are all right,” I said, a little worried. Right now the pegasus was the only one who knew where we were. Without her I would be lost.
“Your friend, the little fae, will be fine. Do not fret, dear one. And the Black Wolf can take care of himself as well as the others. He will see to it that the fae are safe. I know of him; he may be a mage, but he is a friend of the fae.”
I resigned myself to the fact that I wasn’t going to be taken back to Pixie Bush. My only choice was to go to Silverthorne Castle and meet my granduncle, the duke.
“I need to go to Silverthorne Castle in Eldoren,” I said politely. “Do you know how to get there?”
“Yes, of course,” said the pegasus. “But why do you need to go to Silverthorne Castle? Better yet, just show me why. It’s quicker that way.”
“What do you mean?” I asked. “How can I show you?”
“This is fae magic. Just put your palm on my neck and think about the events as they happened, and I will see it, too,” said the pegasus.
I closed my eyes, and put my left palm on the pegasus’s neck and thought about Redstone Manor, my adoptive parents, Christopher, Cornelia, Count Oblek, the tapestry, meeting Kalen and Rafe in the dungeons, Finn’s treachery, our escape to Pixie Bush, and Mrs. Plumpleberry’s healing salve and sound advice.
“That is quite enough,” the pegasus said. “I will take you to Silverthorne Castle. But I must rest a while; the magic I used to protect us from the Shadow Guards magic has weakened me.”
“Okay,” I said, relieved that at least I didn’t have to ride through the mountains for days with Kalen. I would have had to travel with Rafe too, though, and it would have been interesting to spend more time with him. I guess it was not to be. I was still a little apprehensive about where we would sleep that night, because the pegasus needed to rest. Some people may like camping under the stars, with wild animals around, but I did not. It was not really my idea of a good time. Flying to the castle on the back of the pegasus was absolutely the best thing that could have happened.
“Can I ask you something?” I asked hesitantly.
“What do I call you?”
The pegasus laughed, more like a neigh, but I could feel her emotions. It was amazing.
“My name is Gwyneira, which means, ‘white as snow’ in the old language of the fae,” she said.
“May I call you Snow?” I asked. It sounded like a wonderful name for a pegasus.
The pegasus laughed. “Yes that is acceptable,” she said. “I like the name Snow.”