Outside the walls of Esiris, all was still and quiet, the clip clop of the horses gently trotting hooves was all they could hear, it was a while until Haylie broke the silence.
"It's so quiet, but it's not the same silence as before, it's peaceful and calm not, dark and foreboding, like it's given up its dark secret and can finally breath."
"The land is taking a sigh of relief like all it's peoples, it knows the dark one has gone and now it can flourish and spring new life." Aden replied
"Beautiful. You are a hard man to read Aden, I feel I know very little about you." Haylie stated
"I'm a private sort of person, shoot me!" He joked
"No I mean like um, what do the tattoos on your face mean?" She asked trying to come up with a suitable question for her mysterious comrade.
"They are given to us by the city sorcerer when we become of age, for us that's sixteen, they all have different meanings."
"This one," he pointed to the black shape below his let eye, "means courage and this," he waved at the circles below his right eye, that gradually got smaller and smaller as they curved around his jaw, "means mystery."
"Wow, so what do Adiana's mean?" Adiana road up on the other side of Haylie and answered her brother's question.
"My right one," a triangle underlined with circles that curved up around her right eye, "symbolises freedom, and the one above Aden and I both share, because it means twins," Haylie looked and low and behold, Aden and Adiana both had an upside-down V beside their eye, Aden's on the left, Adiana's on the right, "and the left one," she continued pointing to a hollow arrow shape, "means nobility." And as Haylie watched her riding along beside her, she noticed that she did indeed hold herself like a noble.
"They are supposed to portray our characters as they truly are" Aden enlightened Haylie
"Well I dare say yours definitely do you both justice."
Their first destination was to be Palistare, to return Fredrich and his army to their families to indulge their own celebrations. They were greeted by trumpets and more cheers of congratulations and were paraded and herded through the main street to the palace steps, Fredrich leading the way. When they reached the steps to the grand palace doors he flung himself from his horse, flew up the stairs like a flash, threw open the castle doors and kept running until he reached the end of the great hall where his father sat upon his throne; his ailments seemed to have subsided and when he spoke he spoke with all the majesty and wisdom his son remembered from before the illness.
"My son returns to me unscathed and victorious."
"Father we have victory indeed, but of course I am scathed" He joked
"Where are your comrades? I wish to convey my gratitude." Then all eyes of the court turned to the arched doorway and they watched their saviours and two little Imps enter the great hall and bow before the king, "my friends you do not bow before Palistare, Palistare bows to you."
"Oh not this again" Haylie sighed
"Oh come on Haylie get used to it, you're a hero now." Whispered Ringmore. The king rose from his throne and stepped off the platform on which the magnificent dark wood seat stood, he stood before his son and placed a firm hand on Fredrich's shoulder.
"My son for many years you were blind to the troubles of others, the troubles of our neighbours, but a series of unexpected events has opened your eyes and changed you, you have become a man worthy of your title. You are now ready to claim mine."
"But father I do not think I am ready." He looked away from his father and faced the floor. The king let out a short, friendly laugh and he smiled.
"Then I know you are," Fredrich looked up at his father, behind his great grey beard his pearly blue eyes were beaming down at him, and they embraced one another, "it is time Palistare and all the lands of Lardinia knew it too." He lead Fredrich through the others and members of the court who followed them out through the open doors. Once outside, the king asked Fredrich to kneel in front of him on the steps and he did as was asked. The magnificent king removed his crown from his silvery head and, speaking in the ancient tongue of the wolf lords he placed the golden crown upon Fredrich's bowed head.
"By the powers vested in me, now being of proper age, of noble heart, and my rightful successor I now crown you Fredrich Rolwick Valman lord, protector and king of Palistare." Fredrich rose from his knees and his father graciously moved down two steps from his son so that his head was just inches lower than his sons. The crowd looked up at their new king and they accepted him with shouts of "Long live the victorious king." Fredrich beckoned his friends to his side and lorded each one of them there and then, naming them all lords and ladies.
"Joy makes people do crazy things." Adiana exclaimed
The coronation celebrations went on into the night but the celebrations of the great victory - as it would come to be known - would continue all year long. But Elera wanted to press on to their final destination, the great city of Falinal. So once more, when the morning sun filled the eastern horizon, its light illuminating what they could only assume was the remains of mount Morgant, the Silver Dome, they set out together riding, now with a king amongst them, through the lands and forests of Palistare into the realm of Falinal. The land seemed to whizz past as Haylie glimpsed the placed she had been, the Silverline forest, and she even caught a glimpse at the stone walls of the garden of Andromeda heights. Then, after many long hours of riding, on the horizon there appeared a great silhouette, as they drew nearer, the enormous city stood tall and proud, even more so as it was the city of the Lardinian Empress, even though an Empress had not graced its walls for many years its people were still the most respected and noble in all of Lardinia. As they drew nearer to the city another great land mark came into view, and Haylie started to feel like she was on some tour of the land.
"That is one big lake" Haylie exclaimed
"That," said Elera, slowing to drop back beside Haylie, "is Lake Arrowmett; it's sourced from the Aromere River through the waters of the Silent Stream."
"Why is it called Lake Arrowmett?" Haylie asked, she had grown so used to asking questions, it seemed to have become a regular thing and Elera was only to happy to answer them with some sort of historical account.
"Long before Merdock's rule, an assassin broke into Falinal castle to try and murder the Empress, her loyal bodyguard fell to the assassin's hand, but before he could reach the Empress' chambers the alarm had been raised and more guards were on his tail, he made his escape through a window and rode, fast as the wind to the far side of the lake, where he presumed he would be safe for a time. Meanwhile the bodyguards son, Hanin, upon finding his fathers body, took up his bow and from the top most tower fired his fathers bow and shot the assassin through the heart and knocked him clean off his horse. Hence the name Arrowmett, because of Hanin's accuracy the arrow met the assassin's chest." They were riding around the edge of the lake to reach the gates of the city when Elera pointed out a statue of an archer on a rock just off the banks of the lake.
"Is that him? He looks like Robin Hood." Haylie laughed at the similarity, but the others just stared blankly at her, "oh right, forgot your legends are different to ours, Robin Hood was a legendary marksman with a bow, he robbed from the rich to give to the poor. But many people believe it's just a story."
"Well stories and legends must spring from some kind of truth."
"Yeah someday you'll become an old legend, told as a bedtime story to children." Ringmore prophesied.
They trotted on around to the gates of the city mammoth and the crowds roared with excitement. Falinal, was even bigger and grander than Esiris and Parantsel joined together, there were thousands of people surrounding them and more leaning out of windows and over balconies trying to get a better look at the conquering heroes. This time they lingered in the crowd and talked with the people of Falinal about the battle and Merdock's demise. They talked and mingled for hours until a man in long cream robes parted the crowds and beckoned the nine of them up to the palace, a vast looming structure constructed from white marble. Two enormous pearl white doors swung open to allow them entrance to the palace.
Inside the polished marble walls were cold to the touch but they were warm and welcoming to the odd group of friends, the imps bright colours reflecting off of the walls filling the space with red and green light, reminding Haylie of traffic lights. The man in the long robes led them silently, to what appeared to be the throne room, the walls were lined with spiralling columns, the walls decorated with tapestries and behind the throne itself, three stained glass windows reached from floor to ceiling, their pains seemed to move with the dancing light outside. But the party were greeted by no King or Empress, instead the old man stood beside the throne of white marble and ivory, covered in silk throws, perched in the centre of a white velvet cushion upon a gilded pedestal, was a silver crown of ivy leaves and white roses. Then the man spoke.
"Lardinia has decided the next Empress shall be one of you." He gestured to the four girls standing before him, his voice was aged and his face wrinkled, but he was surprisingly sturdy in his stance and speech. He scanned the girl's faces staring in awe at him. Haylie now dressed in royal purple robes that had been gifted to her by the kink of Esiris, however, her black skinny jeans were slightly worn in places, and the golden Ventura Sword rested at her side, hung from a white belt, with a gold buckle. Killga wore similar robes to Haylie but hers were the dark emerald green of Esiris, her curved sword also hung from a white belt. Elera, on the other hand, was dressed in snow white robes, so white that she almost blended into the white marble room, her long cloak brushed the floor behind her and her long blonde hair cascaded down her back. Finally Adiana, her uniquely Sherome style cloak wrapped around her shoulders, a faded leather corset wrapped around her middle, tightly laced up animal skin boots, the bow and quiver she wore completed her rugged image.
"Wait a minute," said Haylie splitting the awkward silence, "you want one of us to become the next Empress? But none of us are royalty, except maybe Killga."
"And I'm just a lady." Killga reminded Haylie.
"The Empress of Falinal has never been of royal blood. For thousands of years she has been chosen by the people and when she vacates the throne another is selected based on character not her blood." The old man informed them.
"So which one of us do the people want?" Adiana asked.
"The Enchantress," they turned to Elera, "and the other worlder," they turned to Haylie, "however only one can claim the throne."
"Then Elera should take it." Haylie stated
"But Hay" Elera began but Haylie cut her off
"But Hay nothing I don't belong here Elera, I have travelled with you for a long time now and you are more than worthy of the title, even if you're too modest to admit it."
"I'll second that," said Ringmore in his gruff, cheerful voice from somewhere behind them, "besides she was fighting for freedom long before she rounded up all of us."
"But I don't know if I could handle the weight on an entire city on my shoulders" Elera tried to argue.
"Oh come on," said Haylie, now starting to get annoyed with Elera's modesty, "just who was it that convinced me to stay here, persuaded Ringmore out of hiding, found Killga, organised our entire mission, recruited the Lardinian elders, led the sneak attack against the Morgantian army, found the secret tunnel into Merdock's castle and reduced it to a pile of ash?"
"Well me, but if I do this, I'll do this for the both of us, understand?"
"I wouldn't want it any other way." Haylie smiled and hugged Elera tightly, she walked cautiously over to the old man, who had been waiting patiently for an answer, and knelt cautiously before him while he retrieved the silver crown from the throne, and, holding the crown above her head named her.
"Elera, Empress of Falinal." he placed the crown onto her gleaming blonde head and her friends applauded and rushed to her side, sweeping her off her feet onto their shoulders. They rushed outside to present Lardinia with yet another ruler.
"Two coronations in as many days, it's unheard of." Ringmore laughed with Haylie as they emerged from the palace carrying Elera aloft, she seemed to glow alongside the polished marble in the brilliant sun. The crowd had grow restless waiting for the much anticipated Empress and now their energy was released and the magicians in the crowd set off fireworks and sent rays of shooting stars into the sky, in celebration of the final stage in restoring peace and prosperity to Lardinia. Elera, now safely back on two feet, stood surrounded by Haylie, Ringmore, Killga, Ebah, Grungen, Fredrich, Aden and Adiana, her loyal friends who knew deep in their hearts that she would be a good Empress.