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Heart of Avalon
By Rachel Roberts, Allison Strom
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2014 Red Sky Entertainment, Inc.
All rights reserved.
"This place sure has changed," noted the golden-brown ferret as he ran a paw through his static- charged cowlick.
"Are we even in the same place?" Emily Fletcher had to blink, she was so stunned.
What had once been a desolate wasteland known as the Shadowlands had become an enchanted paradise. The Fairimentals, wondrous beings who protected Aldenmor, had renamed it The Garden and were turning it into a magic research center and animal preserve.
She and Ozzie were on a polished stone pathway surrounded by vibrant trees and sweet- smelling flowers. Behind them, the tall, silver mirror they had traveled through shimmered with magic.
Emily toyed with the blue and green jewel fastened to her bracelet.
If you had told her a year ago that she would become a mage and travel to different worlds using magic, she would have laughed out loud. Emily had arrived in Stonehill, Pennsylvania, the newcomer, friendless, and still hurting from her parents' divorce. In that short time, she had found Adriane Charday and Kara Davies—also fourteen years old—and one special friend, Ozzie, who was in a class all by himself.
Ozzie was really an elf disguised as a ferret sent to Earth from his world, Aldenmor, to find three mages. He looked like an ordinary ferret and for all intents, he was a ferret—that is, if your ferret happens to walk, talk, and make chocolate-chip pancakes.
Each mage had discovered a different power. Emily was the healer. Along with the warrior, Adriane, and the blazing star, Kara, it was their job to protect and preserve magic and all the creatures that depended on it.
She should have been feeling the joy of belonging. She was on a team—an important part of a secret club. But a familiar worry shadowed Emily's happiness. Kara and Adriane were far beyond her—they were both Level Two mages with paladins, powerful elemental protectors. Emily had used elemental power, and knew she was tuned to water magic. But even that wasn't enough to get her past Level One.
As a healer she couldn't practice her magic unless an animal was hurt—and that was the last thing she wanted. How was she supposed to catch up to her friends? Wait around for some poor animal to get injured?
Deep down, Emily knew what she was missing: a bonded animal. Even though she'd worked with all different kinds of animals, she hadn't bonded with one the way Adriane and Kara had. Ozzie helped her, but he'd turned out to be a unique mage with his own jewel.
How was she supposed to do her part with no bonded animal to help her?
A roar of commotion drifted over the trees.
Ozzie pointed. "Come on."
Emily followed the ferret down a hill and into a bustling field.
A crystal dome covered in scaffolding rose from one end of a courtyard. Emily shuddered at the remnants of the Dark Sorceress's lair. The half-human, half-animal magic master had once ruled the Shadowlands, releasing poisonous Black Fire that had devastated the land.
Now, as they looked on, hundreds of workers were building the foundations of a magnificent new city that would be home to all sorts of amazing species.
"Hey, watch the fur!" Ozzie bristled as a posse of pixies buzzed by.
A cluster of creatures crowded into the courtyard: burly dwarves, green-skinned goblins, wiry spriggans, and a host of others. Silver coins and carved amulets changed hands furiously. A bright flash caught her eye, and she gasped.
An immense troll, easily nine feet tall, roared from the center of the crowd. One massive hand wielded a heavy ax, the other a shield of wood and steel. Rock-like muscles flexed as the monster bellowed. "Who dares to challenge me?"
"GaH!" Ozzie leaped into Emily's arms to protect her.
A tall girl stepped forward fearlessly. Long black hair pulled tight in a ponytail, she wore low- rise jeans, a black pullover, and black down vest. On her wrist blazed a warrior's jewel, the wolf stone.
Assuming a fighting stance, Adriane Charday called out, "Let's see what you got."
"It's some kind of contest," Emily said.
With a roar, the troll thundered across the grassy ground, ax swinging.
A shield of light erupted from Adriane's jewel, deflecting the blow. The troll struck wide, burying the blade into the ground. Wrenching the weapon free, the monster charged again.
Sidestepping easily, Adriane twisted the shield into a band of silver fire and whipped it around the troll's leg. Pulling tight, she sent the creature crashing to the ground. From out of thin air, a large black wolf appeared at the monster's throat, teeth bared and snarling.
The surprised troll let his ax fall to the ground. "I give!"
Cheers as well as groans went up from the crowd as the winners claimed their prizes.
Adriane extended her hand, helping the troll to his feet. She stepped back and bowed graciously.
"You are good—for a human," the troll rumbled.
"You're not bad—for a troll," she said, and smiled.
"Okay, break's over," a frazzled dwarf shouted. "Back to work!"
Emily approached her friend. "Show-off."
Adriane grinned, retrieving her backpack from the sidelines. "I couldn't back down from a challenge. First impressions are everything, you know."
"Poor troll didn't have a chance, did he, Dreamer." Emily knelt and ruffled the mistwolf's silky black coat.
"The bigger they are, the better they taste," Dreamer answered telepathically, lips pulled back in a wolfish grin.
"That Dark Sorceress had awful taste!" The blazing star sauntered out the front doors of the domed structure. "We need some color in there."
Dressed in jeans, a hot pink tee, and leopard print jacket, the blond teen looked radiant, as usual. Her outfit was perfectly complemented by a pink, red, and white unicorn jewel dangling from a silver necklace. Not to mention the leopard-spotted cat padding beside her, Kara's bonded animal.
"I prefer the blue floral motif myself," Lyra suggested, long tail swishing.
"Hey," Kara greeted them. "Emily, we thought you got lost."
"You guys left us in the blazing stardust," Ozzie complained.
"And we won," Kara smiled brilliantly.
"Says who?" Adriane disputed. "Tell them, Dreamer."
"We won by a nose," the mistwolf smirked.
"We won by a whisker," Lyra countered.
Ozzie shook his fuzzy head. "Everything with you two is a contest."
"Yeah ..." Kara started.
"So?" Adriane finished.
Horrible screeching suddenly blared across the courtyard. Kara grabbed her unicorn jewel, Lyra immediately at her side. Adriane raised her silver wolf stone, Dreamer howling at the sudden blast.
Dwarves, elves, and spriggans raced about, covering their ears.
"Arg!" A troll dropped a stone with a huge thud!
"She's at it again!" an over excited spriggan yelled.
A pretty teenage goblin girl ran into the courtyard, her long moon-and-star-covered robes billowing. Her dark eyes were glued to a handheld device. "Wow! I found a magic jewel!" she shouted. "Maybe two!"
The crowd of workers all yelled at once, "Turn it off!!"
"What?" She removed her earplugs. "Oh, sorry." The goblin girl punched a button, abruptly cutting off the crystal cacophony.
Tasha had been appointed Court Sorceress for the Goblin Kingdom after her former boss, Tangoo, an evil magician, got tossed into the Otherworlds by Kara. The goblin girl had pale green skin, cute pointy ears, and short jet-black hair. She wore blue jeans and a bright red tee under her velvet robe.
"Hi, Tasha." Emily gave the goblin girl a hug.
"The Fairimentals wanted you here fast, so I had to connect the Ravenswood portal directly to a mirror." Tasha led the group through the construction. "Hope the ride wasn't too bumpy."
"We're fine. My jewel just isn't as powerful as Adriane's or Kara's." The healer self- consciously tugged her jean jacket sleeve over her bracelet.
"Tasha, what is that?" Adriane asked.
"It's my jewel locator." The goblin girl's fingers danced across a handheld device that looked like an iPhone. "Cool, huh?"
"Another invention, eh?" Ozzie stuck his nose into the small screen. "How does it work?"
Tasha brushed her bangs off her forehead. "Every jewel has a unique musical frequency. This device identifies and magnifies them. The stronger the jewel, the louder the sound."
Kara and Adriane's jewels squawked and squealed as Tasha switched on the locator.
"That is so cool!" Tasha exclaimed. "I must log the frequencies of your jewels into my database."
"Hellooo." The blazing star waved her twinkling unicorn jewel. "How come mine sounds horrible?"
"The unicorn jewel and the wolf stone emit completely opposite frequencies." Tasha indicated the modulating wave patterns on the small screen.
"Big surprise," Adriane scoffed.
"Yours is out of tune." Kara twirled her jewel between perfectly polished nails.
"Oh, really?" A burst of dazzling silver sparkles pulsed around Adriane's arm in syncopated beats. "You have no rhythm."
The warrior swirled the magic around Ozzie, making the ferret stone honk.
"Can you find the other power crystals with that?" Emily asked.
"Theoretically," Tasha said, nodding. "But the missing power crystals are filled with wild magic."
The mages were on a quest to find nine missing crystals of powerful magic before the evil sorceress and her ally, the Spider Witch, got them first. They had found four, but Kara accidentally destroyed one in the Fairy Realms. That left five power crystals to find and no idea where they might be. Together, the nine crystals formed a key to the Gates of Avalon. To make matters worse, nobody could tell the mages where the mysterious gate was.
Tasha raised an eyebrow at Ozzie. "I guess your jewel hasn't changed yet, either?"
The ferret shook his head, adjusting the golden stone secured to his leather collar. "We're both still Level One."
"Where are the power crystals we found?" Adriane asked.
"That's the Crystal Keep." Tasha pointed to the glittering dome poking through the top of the scaffolding. "Designed for the study and storage of magic jewels."
"Tasha, you rock!" Kara exclaimed.
"Actually, I crystallize, Princess." Tasha turned to Adriane, eyes wide. "I can't believe the Dark Sorceress just handed you one."
Adriane shrugged. "The mistwolf spirit pack was inside it. Maybe she couldn't use it."
Adriane and Dreamer had found the fourth power crystal of Avalon on the mistwolf spirit trail. But it had fallen into the hands of the Dark Sorceress.
Tasha raised a finger thoughtfully. "I have a theory that power crystals are related to specific magic."
"The first one we found followed the unicorns to New Mexico," Kara mused.
"Exactly. The crystals are highly volatile," Tasha continued. "Yet they are stable in your hands."
"You mean because they have mistwolf and unicorn magic," Ozzie said.
"Yes, two of the most powerful of magical creatures." Tasha's ears wiggled in concentration. "Unless something balances a power crystal, I can't get a stable reading."
They followed the goblin sorceress down a path of gleaming river stones into the heart of The Garden.
New trees stretched as far as the eye could see, growing into magnificent forests. A clear lake sparkled where a scorched desert once lay.
Tasha briskly turned down an adjoining path lined with foxgloves and primroses. Along the lakeshore baby brimbees, wommels, pooxims, pegasi, and some creatures Emily had never seen before, romped and played.
"The Garden is an animal sanctuary, as well," Tasha informed them as the magical creatures swarmed after the mages. "We have species from all over Aldenmor living here."
The last time Emily had been on Aldenmor, she had healed dozens of animals injured by the Black Fire. Now all she sensed was the happiness they felt at having a new home.
Thick bushes behind them rustled, revealing a group of glinting eyes. Several fuzzy kittens bounded forward, fur shimmering with orange, gold, silver, and black.
The cats swarmed around Kara, eager to get near the blazing star and her shining magic.
"They are orphans," Lyra said, licking down the ruff of a long-haired, white-and- silver-striped kitten.
"There's plenty of me for everyone," Kara giggled, petting the bouncing creatures.
Emily smiled, remembering how Kara had freaked out the first time magical animals had showered her with attention. Watching the blond girl bask in the adoration of the kittens, Emily stood to the side, waiting for one to come to her.
What would it be like to have someone you could depend on all the time, the way Kara and Lyra, and Adriane and Dreamer supported each other? A perfect balance. No wonder Adriane and Kara were so far past her in their magic.
"Wait till you see this!" Tasha led the group around a thick grove of trees. Nestled in a beautiful meadow was a fantastic amphitheater with coils of hot pink and sunny orange flowers laced through the wooden framework. Inside, rows of benches and toadstool seats had been meticulously constructed.
"Awesome!" Adriane declared, walking through the flowery archway.
"A gift from Fairy Queen Selinda," Tasha explained proudly. "Imported piece by piece and supervised personally by—"
"Lorren!" Kara ran toward a cute goblin boy with spiky black hair and pale green skin. She had met the dashing Goblin Prince when she visited his home in the Fairy Realms.
He was setting up a tall mirror along with a blond teenage boy.
"Princess." Lorren grinned as he and Zach gently placed the mirror in a sculpted metal stand.
Kara smiled her million-dollar blazing star smile.
"Hi, Zach," Adriane said, beaming at the handsome blond teen. The only human, as far as they knew, who lived on Aldenmor, Zach had been raised by the mistwolves.
The four of them stood like statues, staring into one another's eyes with silly grins.
Emily shifted uncomfortably. "This place is amazing."
"Oh, hey Emily, Ozzie," Zach greeted them warmly.
"Um ... check out Tasha's new mirror," Lorren said.
"Quicksilver-edged coating for improved magical dispersion." Tasha beamed, patting the silver frame.
"Uh ... cool." Kara smiled encouragingly.
"As you can see, you can see them," Lorren continued.
"I had to install a visible edge," the goblin girl explained, polishing a smudge off the mirror's surface.
Lorren laughed. "Otherwise, you go out for a nice stroll, bonk into one of these babies, and end up in the frozen tundra."
"Yeah," Zach said, still feeling the icy chill. "That wasn't funny."
"Hey, where's Drake?" Adriane asked.
"The sprites are giving him a bath." Zach chuckled. "He wanted to be extra handsome for you."
Adriane's eyes sparkled with delight.
Lights suddenly appeared in the center of the ring. Grass, leaves, and petals swirled together, forming a tumbleweed figure composed of earthly matter.
"Welcome, mages," Gwigg greeted in his gravely voice.
"Gwigg, you old twig!" Ozzie ran to the earth Fairimental, sticking a few stray flowers in place.
The Fairimental's large quartz eyes glimmered in the sunlight. "Sir Ozymandias, you are looking especially fuzzy."
"And whose fault is that?"
"We love it here," Kara said.
The air twinkled with magic as a second Fairimental took form, a translucent figure floating in the gentle breeze.
"The seeds of this beautiful place were planted when you healed Aldenmor," Ambia, the air Fairimental, said in a lilting voice. Prisms of color danced along her shifting form. "But the web is weak. Without the magic of Avalon it will fade away."
"There is a power crystal somewhere on Aldenmor," Gwigg announced.
"Where?" Adriane asked.
"We don't know," Ambia replied. "Marina discovered it."
"Why not just ask her, then?" Emily realized the water Fairimental hadn't greeted them at the lake.
"Because Marina is missing," Gwigg rumbled ominously.
A Fairimental missing? This couldn't be good.
"You must find the crystal," Gwigg concluded.
Excerpted from Heart of Avalon by Rachel Roberts, Allison Strom. Copyright © 2014 Red Sky Entertainment, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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