I took a deep breath and began to explain.
“We were in the air most of the time on the two dragons, doing aerial battle with whatever came at us. We were able to escape relatively unscathed. I'm apparently connected to the island's spirit now, and it gave visual updates on what was happening down on the cliffs. The reason you couldn't find anybody, is because none of the group you left at the tents are still alive or on the island, except Mike and Mrs. B.”
Katha gasped and put a hand to her mouth in grief, as tears formed in her eyes. Hazel looked in my direction with soft, dead eyes, not really comprehending what was being said. Theo thumped a fist on the table, and Layla wrung her hands, waiting to hear the rest. Without going into too much gory detail, I told them everything that had happened on the cliffs, including the island's command to launch a rescue mission, led by Queen Helena.
"When is this all going to happen?" Theo asked.
"At least a couple of days, I think. We all need time to recover from the battle, and we'll have to do some repair on the military helicopter we're going to use as transport. It was damaged during the second assault, when Shanahan widened the gap," Thalion answered him. After that, we all went to our rooms to get some rest.
The next two days were spent preparing for the mission. The helicopter was reequipped, and drills were conducted on use of the armaments. There would be trained gunners going with us, to back up our group as we stormed the battlements. Llewellyn and Galen drew detailed maps for Queen Helena. They grew up there, and they knew better than anyone where its ancient stone walls were weakest. Shanahan had removed the force field when he left, so at least that was one barrier they didn't have to contend with.
When all was ready, everyone gathered at the helipad. Queen Helena had discussed strategy with all the remaining generals, and come up with a battle plan. Our one helicopter would go in fast and low, using the the forest behind the stronghold to hide our approach. Two other helicopters would come in slow and loud at the front of the castle grounds, to distract and engage whatever segments of the horde that were left behind to stand guard. They would also deal with any other horde monstrosities that returned from the island and Amazon battles.
Thalion and I were saddled on the dragons' backs, as we watched Mike, Layla, Katha and Theo board the chopper. Several Elven archers followed them in. Hazel had not yet recovered from the shock of battle, and had been left behind.
Thalion and I flew about a kilometre ahead of our helicopter, to lead the way. The other two helicopters would follow, and split off before we got within sight of the stronghold. The flight there was uneventful, and eerily silent. Even when we got within sight of it, we met no resistance. We expected all sorts of troops on the ground and in the air, but there were no creatures at all to stop us. I didn't like the look of things, at all. My biggest fear was ambush.
When we reached the stronghold, our group split off from the other two groups and flew in just above the tree tops. We were just approaching the battlements, when my worst fear was realized. Hundreds of inhuman beings rose out of the forest and came right at us! Luckily for us, they hadn't see a helicopter before, and they were prepared for what the chopper blades could, and did do to their bodies.
Thalion and I left that battle ground to avoid being peppered with our own gunfire. We had never intended to fight the castle guards, anyway. Our most important and pressing mission was to find Morgan. I had been checking her snowflake on my bracelet every few minutes since we left home. She was still alive, but terrified. We were close enough now, that I could feel my mental link with her.
Galen led us to a hidden corner of the battlements, and we landed. Morgan's presence was not very strong here. She must be deep within the stone walls somewhere, but I couldn't tell where. I tried desperately to communicate with her, to get some lead as to where to turn.
"Morgan, this is Gloria. I know you're near, but I don't know where to start. Send out a signal if you can, through whatever affinities can help you." I said this quietly. I didn't want to attract attention.
I touched Morgan's snowflake, and closed my eyes. I concentrated with all my might on the tiny drop of her blood that was encased within it. The first signal was faint, but it was there. It was a call for help. I didn't actually hear it, so much as feel it. There was darkness all around me, in my mind. I was suddenly chilled by the cold and damp. Morgan was showing me all that she could see herself. She didn't know where she was, except that she was deep within the earth.
We left the dragons on the battlements to stand guard, and wait for us. Thalion and I followed Morgan's mind link down, down, and further down until I thought we might reach the earth's core if we kept going much longer. The stones steps got clammy and slippery with moss, the deeper we went. I was having trouble breathing, through the heavy pungency of mold. The only good thing about the trip down, was that Morgan's link became stronger. Finally, we reached a corridor where her link was very strong.
"Morgan! Can you hear me, Morgan?" I shouted into the darkness. My voice ricocheted off the stone walls and nearly deafened me. Poor Thalion winced and held his hands over his sensitive Elven ears. The sound of my voice died down for a moment, then I heard Morgan's voice, which also reverberated off the walls.
“I'm here, Gloria!”
Her voice also bounced around, but at least I knew we had found her. We'd been using a good strong flashlight, but it's beam didn't go far in the thick gloom. It's a good thing our mental link was so strong, because just then a cacophony of howls and screeches bombarded us with sound from the same corridor. Obviously Morgan wasn't the only guest of the Van Helsings down here. We reached a thick wooden door where my link with Gloria was strongest. I banged on it, and was met with banging directly on the other side of it.
“Gloria, I'm here, I'm here!” she screamed. Tears flowed down my cheeks with relief that we had found her.
“Stand back Morgan, I have to get rid of this door for you,” Thalion called through the wooden barrier. There was a short silence, then we heard her voice from further back in her cell.
“Okay, I'm back now,”
I held the flashlight on the door, as Thalion chanted a long incantation. In just a few minutes, the door disappeared altogether. Still holding the light, I rushed into Morgan's arms, where we hugged and wept until we were able to calm ourselves down.
“Come on ladies, we better get back to the surface, we don't know what's going on with Galen and Llewellyn,” he said as he took the light from me, and led us back up the stone steps.