“Come Haylie, let’s help free the prisoners and rejoin our friends.” together they strolled casually back through the maze of corridors, which, not so long ago, had belonged to their enemy. Something definitely seemed different, the walls appeared to be less gloomy and the air less close, the dark less imposing and the stuffiness had subsided, it was as if a great weight had been lifted from the lands of Morgant and now it was free to breath. Elera and Haylie passed groups of prisoners who were headed in the opposite direction, a sign the others had got off to a good start and were doing well. The dungeons were almost empty by the time Haylie and Elera had reached them. Despite their lack of strength, Aden and Adiana’s parents were also helping to free and organise Merdock’s prisoners and it wasn’t long before all the cells, kitchens and cambers were empty.
“Well, not bad for a days' work” Ringmore sighed still wincing at his painful wound.
“Not bad at all,” Haylie answered, “killed the bad guy, well one of them, restored peace and freed all the prisoners and slaves”
“Look at us the conquering heroes” Ringmore said, throwing her arms around Elera and Haylie. Aden and Adiana stood with their family but Elera beckoned for them to join their circle.
“Come on there’s no way we could have got anywhere near Merdock without you two” Elera assured them and the pair of them laughed. Aden sent his parents to guide the other prisoners back down the mountain towards the haven of Esiris; the victorious rebels moved to follow, eager to rejoin their comrades.
“You four go ahead, there’s something I have to do first, and don't bother to wait for me” Elera ordered them, Adiana was intrigued.
“What are you going to do?” she asked
“I am charged with eliminating all evil from our world, no matter what the cost”
“Let me come with you?” she asked, a pleading tone in her voice
“Alright but I’ll need to borrow your bow”
With the promise of returning safely, Adiana and Elera slid back down the hole in the dungeon floor, while the others headed for the main gate and the easier route out, Elera lead Adiana back down the tunnel, however the journey back turned the former obstacles upside-down, they slid down the steep slope, that had taken ages to crawl up, in a matter of dangerous seconds, the steps that had been so useful on the way up were now jutted out at unusual angles and caused their feet to slip and bend awkwardly; it seemed it was going to be tougher going down the tunnels than it had been coming up. When they had almost covered half the distance of the tunnel, Elera suddenly stopped, turned to Adiana and held out her hand.
“I need your bow, and an arrow”
“What for?” she asked pulling her bow and a white flighted arrow from the quiver on her back.
“Well we can’t leave the castle up there looming over everyone like a bad smell, it still bears the imprint of Merdock's evil ”
“So what are we doing then?” Adiana asked, still quite confused, “how can a single arrow bring down a whole castle and from all the way down here?”
“Not a single arrow,” she whispered some strange words under her breath and waved her hand over the arrow which began to glow pearl white, “a silver arrow!” A stunned smile spread across Adiana’s face and Elera began to place the gleaming arrow onto the thin willow bow; but Adiana reached her hand out to stop her.
“Could I do the honours?” Her eyes were full of passion and the tattoos on her face gave her a tribal look of confidence.
“Of course, it is your bow” Elera handed her the bow and she drew the tensile string and raised it to her right cheek. Adiana breathed one long sigh. When she let go, instead of sticking in the wall like an arrow should have done, the silver arrow kept on travelling leaving an X shaped hole in the wall of the cave. They could see the tip of the arrow flying away form them into the heart of the mountain still glowing a brilliant white.
“Now what?” Adiana asked plainly
“Now we run for our lives” she stated
“What!” Adiana exclaimed
“We shouldn’t have stayed to watch it go, now the volcano’s about to blow sky high with us inside” Elera said panicking.
They raced through the rest of the tunnels, in front of them they could just make out the faint shaft of light from the cave at the end, they made a bee line for it. In the heart of Mount Morgant Adiana's silver arrow was sparking a chain reaction, the molten lava that had built up over the mountain’s years of sleeping, finally had a way out, but the arrows small channel wouldn’t cope with the force of lava pushing its way through it. The bubbling golden liquid began searching for other ways out and flooded through them like a raging torrent. The lava that had made its way through the arrows tiny shaft had expanded the gap and was now coursing through the tunnel behind Adiana and Elera.
They had just managed to squeeze back through the cave entrance where Elera found a sudden burst of magic and transported them off of the mountain’s rumbling surface, just as the hot liquid exploded out of the cave and cascaded down the side of the mountain. The two girls appeared safely on the ground and joined the others where they watched in awe as Merdock's castle was sucked into mount Morgant in a whirlpool of fire and ash. Evil was gone, the black magic vanquished and the victorious heroes breathed a sigh of relief, then suddenly fell about laughing at the impossible thing they had achieved. The journey back across the battle field to Esiris was silent as each of the five friends contemplated the profound effects the death of their greatest adversary would have on their lives, then Haylie remembered a question that had been niggling at the back of her mind for some time and she turned to Ringmore, limping slightly on his injured leg.
“What was Merdock talking about before Madelia killed him? And please just tell me straight”
“It’s not a pretty tale” he said solemnly
“Tell me anyway” she pleaded. He took a long deep breath then began, “six years ago, when Merdock captured the last of the dragons he hired the ten most skilled tamers and trainers in the land, he threatened to destroy their families and villages if they refuse. He ordered them to train the beasts to fight and do his bidding. He grew attached to one of the tamers in particular and made him his right hand man. The man gave him a gift of a silver elfish dagger, which he saw in use more times than was necessary. But after a year of watching Merdock destroy and conquer he drew the line; the man begged his lord to cease the blood shed but Merdock saw his begging as a sign of weakness and betrayal so he took the knife his friend had given him and killed him with it.
The man's son had been a great supporter of Merdock, but having witnessed his father's death at the hands of his king, he craved revenge, Merdock ordered the boy's execution, but having a more than decent knowledge of the castle’s interior, he managed an escape and made his way to the dragons hold. The boy freed the dragons which were never to be seen again but he was caught in the act and escorted straight to the executioner. Once again he had to use his knowledge of the castle to get away, he overpowered the guards and used a secret tunnel to make his escape, a tunnel Merdock had shown him as a sign of trust. His sword had been taken from him upon his arrest and the guards presented it to Merdock informing him that the boy was dead. No one ever heard from or saw the young tamer again so everyone was led to believe that he had died, even the soldiers who had told the lie to start with finally believed he was dead.”
“But he didn’t die, did he? The boy in the story is you isn’t he Ringmore” Haylie concluded, Ringmore nodded.
“I went into hiding, kept myself to myself, even changed my name to keep out of sight; you know what they say, out of sight out of mind. I thought if I hid long enough they might forget me. I was only eleven.”
“So what was your name?” She asked realising what he had just said.
“My name was Zafrone Rider, my father was a rich respected member of Merdock's court before he died and I turned tail and ran, six years later and my revenge was stripped from me.”
“Your father stood up for what he thought was right, as you have.”
“And we both suffered the consequences.”
“But if you had spent so long in hiding, ashamed of who you were, why did you agree to come with us?” Haylie asked fascinated.
“I wanted to see if I could finish what my father started and stand up against Merdock again and obviously I did” He gestured to the still erupting volcano behind them.
“Well I’m proud of you Zafrone we faced our fear and sent it packing.”
“We did, and please call me Ringmore, I don’t want to have to repeat my story if you understand.”
"Of course sorry. What was your father's name?"
"We were from the small city of Astilon, my father's name was Riodane Rider, he was respected for his skills and talents, the whole city adored him, and with one word Merdock was able to corrupt him."
"Sounds like he was a very honourable man Ringmore"
"He was" The others caught up with Ringmore and Haylie, and they walked the rest of the way through the blood stained battle ground together, swords and spears lay abandoned on the ground, shields splintered and shattered by their owners, arrows littered the scene as if they had grown out of the earth, the level of destruction was immense, and as the fog cleared the scale of the battle that had transpired was revealed, as far as the eye could see soldiers were being helped to their feet and others were returning to the boarder, the victors were greeted at the edge of the camp by Fredrich, Killga and the roar of cheers and shouts of congratulations. And the deafening clamour of Dracon’s roar, the elders stood slightly apart from the rest of the soldiers, Adlem beckoned Elera to join them.
"You have done well young enchantress" Redles announced
"Thank you my lord," Elera said with a bow, "but victory could not have been achieved without the help of my companions"
"Quite right," Salmont interjected, "I daresay Merathwart was impressed by their tenacity also" They all looked at Merathwart who merely smiled and nodded approvingly.
"You could come with us, Elera? We would give you a proper place in the palace" Redles offered, Elera looked back at her friends basking in the adulation of their peers, she smiled.
"I am grateful for your offer but I must decline, my duty has always been to the safety of Lardinia, now she is safe my duty must be to myself" The elders all nodded in understanding, Elera bowed respectfully and returned to her friends as the elders disappeared.