Quintessence: Enchanted Bookstore Legend Five
from Chapter One: The Evil Tidal Pool
Jaw clenched and arm muscles tensed, Lyra pumped aura into her fist, which was closed around the Staurolite. The cross-shaped crystal at its center pulsed red hot in her palm. Power from her ancestors—four female Scribes—pressed hard against her fingers, begging to be set into motion against the evil alchemist. Aura flooded Lyra’s senses, bringing keen perception. She studied Eburscon, watching for the slightest movement.
His gaze fixed on her and the Unicorn Guardian in the surf below. He sat motionless on the back of a cimafa stealth dragon, hand cupping the iolite pendant outside of his dark purple cloak. The gem lay quiet. Only the graying braid at Eburscon’s back swept from side to side with the impatient contortions of the cimafa.
Inky clouds billowed around the members of the Dark Realm. The three cimafa were well camouflaged, visible only when they snorted through fiery nostrils and their sleek, long tails undulated.
The Black Dragon’s scales irridesced with light reflected off whitecaps riding on fierce waves across the Sea of Cogadh. Acid drool from his snout peppered the water, sizzling upon impact. His wings moved almost imperceptibly to maintain an aerial position, while his gaze locked on his nemesis, the Alliance’s leader.
Behind Lyra, the huge golden dragon, twice the size of his opponent, stood on the shore. The Imperial Dragon’s thigh muscles bulged and his wings extended, ready for flight. Muffled guttural noises escaped his throat, apparently still burning from the Black Dragon’s acid attack.
Lyra wanted to empower the golden sapphire apex of her wizard’s staff, but feared the display of power might initiate more strikes from the Dark Realm.
Behind her on the Unicorn’s wide rump, Kenzo’s aura shifted. The owl followed the Imperial Dragon’s cue and partially unfolded his silver-striped wings.
Wisps of the Unicorn’s white aura danced in the twisting, turning surf.
Nearby, the sea nymph watched the Pearl of Pendola she had protected for centuries. Its white nacre shined between the fingers of Eburscon’s fist. Before he stole it from her hand, she intended it as a gift for Lyra. The pearl would strengthen the power of the Alliance that protected the nymph and all kind dwellers in the Sea of Cogadh. Tears rolled down her pale cheeks. She slipped off the rocky outcropping into the churning waters now overtaken with evil. Her long blue hair briefly swirled at the surface before she dove deep.
A tremor of power moved along the Unicorn’s spine beneath Lyra. Pulsations of his aura pushed her nerves over the edge. Her own aura spilled reflexively into her staff, and she clutched his mane, preparing for the consequences of an onslaught of strikes from the enemy.
The partially eroded skin of the Black Dragon’s upper lip curled back to reveal rows of snaggled, dark teeth. “If you will not concede, then come into my land and try to get what you need.” He reared his long neck high, then coiled it behind him and snaked his body into a sharp turn in the direction of the Dark Realm.
Eburscon released a wicked laugh and leaned toward Lyra from his seat on the cimafa.
The Imperial Dragon responded and soared to a position between them. His tremendous wings, connecting far beyond his hind legs, completely shielded Lyra.
Warlord Oasth took an aerial position beside his leader. He spread his smaller drake-sized wings but snarled viciously, a mouthful of flames swirling between his teeth.
A violet laser, the color of Eburscon’s aura, shot to the shoreline and pelted the evil tide pool. The surface reflected purple rays at all angles, but no one dared to move toward it.
At last, wing beats sounded behind the wall of the two dragons protecting Lyra. Although breeze from dragon flight lifted strands of her hair, no flames or acid shots cut the airspace.
The alchemist’s laugh grew more distant.
Lyra turned to face the tide pool and noticed an image on its surface. “Move closer to the enchanted pool,” she urged the Unicorn.
“I don’t trust the strength of my ward against Eburscon,” the Guardian whispered over his shoulder to Lyra. He peered cautiously from behind the dragons’ wings, his aura heightened into a swirling cloud.
Kenzo hovered a short distance beyond them and motioned with the tip of his wing. “They are leaving.”
The Unicorn faced the Dark Realm’s border while stepping toward the basin. His dark eyes widened, and his nostrils flared, he tested the trails of evil hanging on air currents.
The party from the Dark Realm flew slowly but steadily back to their land. When they disappeared into the shadowy forest of Silva Nocens, Lyra and the Unicorn turned their attention toward the pool. Violet haze of Eburscon’s aura hung above the water. The calm surface beneath reflected an image.
Kenzo circled the pool, while Lyra dismounted and kneeled on the bank in order to see under the mist. She secured her heavy wool riding cloak behind her shoulders, but the golden tip of her braid nearly fell into the evil water before she pushed it onto her back.
In the vision, the thin frame of Kessa, the young seer, huddled in a corner against a rough stone wall. The ten-year-old child wore shackles on her ankles. Her leg braces had been removed, revealing long scars above and below her knees. She hid her face in her folded arms and a cascading curtain of matted, dark blond hair.
A heavily muscled Qumeli man sat cross-legged beside her, a stoic expression on his bearded face. Two thick, coiled horns grew from either side of his forehead and spiraled backward past his shoulders. Their size revealed his mature age. Red beaded decorations strung in his long peppered black hair and between the horns indicated his status as a tribal chief.
On the other side of Kessa, a plump old woman puffed calmly on a hand-carved pipe, allowing the smoke to trickle out in ribbons through her wide nose. Horns spiraled from high on her head of wiry gray hair, coiling around her ears one turn more than the man’s. Beaded dangles and charms festooned the bottom of each spiral. Weather-beaten, deep wrinkles marred her olive complexion. Lyra recognized the woman as the sibyl star reader, Stella, who had tricked her. During a lesson in mystic astronomy, Stella had positioned Lyra near the edge of a cliff, where a waiting cimafa attacked and fought fiercely to steal her aura. Recalling the experience, her first with a stealth dragon, Lyra shivered.
A heaving lump of clothing next to the sibyl raised a scarf-covered head and choked on a sob. Nillea’s swollen face turned to the Qumeli woman. Nillea’s eyes were bloodshot and her clothing ripped. She crawled a foot in the direction of her daughter.
The sibyl glared at Nillea, and the chief sent his fist into Kessa’s outer knee.
Kessa whimpered and curled tighter against the wall, while her mother wailed inaudible words with a hoarse voice.
“Stop begging,” the sibyl snapped. “Such a slow learner. More you do, more pain she’ll get.” One corner of the old woman’s mouth curved into a grin. “Only when she tells where the other keystones are to be found, we stop and let you both free.”
“She’s only a small girl. Please.” Nillea shuddered. Upon receiving no response, she faced Kessa. “Kinchin, please do this one bit of Great Gramaema Heilia’s magic for these people.” Her voice cracked. “Then we’ll leave here and no more magic ever. It brings too much hurt.”
The sibyl cackled and blew a puff of smoke in Nillea’s face. “You hurt the child, not her seeing.”
Nillea coughed and fell back. Her foot caught in torn layers of her full skirt, and she writhed helplessly, while the sibyl enjoyed a resounding belly laugh.
A dense violet film clouded the vision. Lyra looked at the Unicorn and Imperial Dragon. With white knuckles, she clamped onto the shaft of her wizard’s staff. “If this is true—”
© Copyright 2013 Marsha A. Moore. All rights reserved.