The next morning they all got up and continued on their journey. Kiya kept her mind open, but she didn’t say anything to anyone. Sometime after noon she noticed a white owl flying overhead. She pointed it out to Raúl, and they waited there until the owl landed. Tied to its foot was a small scroll. Upon opening it, Raúl recognized her mother’s handwriting. The letter read:
Dearest Daughter: I anticipate your arrival. The oracle has said there is a great peril in our near future. Please hurry home, but take no unnecessary risks.
After showing the scroll to Meko and Kaliki, Raúl set it on fire. They continued on, passing through a town shortly before dusk, and camping a few miles outside of it as the last rays of light faded from the sky. After they had eaten, Raúl led Kiya away from the fire and their two companions.
“Tonight I’m going to teach you how to levitate,” said Raúl.
“Does it involve going into your mind?” Kiya asked, her eyes growing wide.
“No. My mind wandered, and I’m sorry you saw that.” Raúl looked away from Kiya. “But it doesn’t matter now. What’s done is done.”
“It does matter!” Kiya exclaimed. “Why was our father murdered? Who was that woman who killed him?”
“Our father was the cause of too many deaths; he had to stopped!” Raúl said, “You have to promise me, Kiya, that when you meet mother, you won’t run away.” Frantically she tried to gain Kiya’s trust, before she discovered that the murderer was there mother.
“I can leave if I want to!” Kiya shouted. She walked over and quickly mounted her horse. Raúl began to follow her as she rode away,
but she was stopped when a hand gently grabbed her arm.
“Let her go,” Meko said, “She’ll come back after she calms down.”
Together they walked back to the fire, and, after putting it out, they lay down to sleep.
Raúl was the first to wake the next morning. She looked at Kiya’s blankets, but they were empty. Quietly she lit a fire, and began making breakfast. Shortly before the food was finished, she woke up Meko and Kaliki.
“Where’s Kiya?” Kaliki asked, glancing at the empty blankets.
“I don’t know.” Raúl said. “She never came back last night.” Raúl thought she heard something strange in his voice, but she wasn’t sure. She was sure that she felt fear and longing flowing from him.
“We can look for her after we’ve eaten and packed up our things,” Meko said, taking a bite of his food.
After all of their things were packed up, and the fire was put out, they left the camp to look for Kiya.
“The leaves are stirred up in that direction,” Raúl said.
“Then that’s the direction we go in,” said Kaliki.
They traveled for about two miles away from the camp, but there was no sign of Kiya. Suddenly, they heard a scream.
“It’s Kiya!” Raúl exclaimed.
They raced another mile in the direction of the scream. They found Kiya grappling with a stranger in the middle of a small clearing. Kaliki quickly dismounted and rushed over to Kiya. When he got the chance, he grabbed the stranger and pulled her to her feet. He pulled a knife from his belt, and pressed it lightly against the girl’s throat. Suddenly another girl came from the trees, and rushed towards Kaliki. Before she could reach him, Raúl grabbed her, quickly pressing a knife to her throat.
“Who are you and why did you attack my sister?” Raúl asked.
“We didn’t attack her!” Raúl’s captive said. “My name is Sasha, and that’s my sister, Shauna.”
“If you didn’t attack her, then what happened?” Kaliki asked.
“We were passing through on foot,” Sasha explained. “We scared her horse, by accident, and she fell off.”
“Her horse ran off,” Shauna said. “She must have thought that we were enemies. She attacked me.”
“If this is true, where were you?” Kaliki asked Sasha.
“I was chasing down the girl’s horse.” She tilted her head to where Kiya’s horse was tied to a tree.
“They’re telling the truth,” Kiya said.
Raúl and Kaliki let go of the girls.
Raúl untied Kiya’s horse and put her bedroll behind the saddle.
“Sorry that I almost got you killed.” Kiya said.
“That’s alright,” Sasha said. “Someone will kill us sooner or later.”
“Why do you say that?”
“It’s because of what we do.” Shauna said.
“What do you do?” Kiya asked.
“We travel from place to place, hunting out and killing any magicians who want to bring Korth back from the land of the dead,” Sasha said.
“Korth killed both of our parents and our brother.” Shauna explained, “We don’t want him brought back from the dead. Who knows how many people he’d kill.”
“What did you say you do?” Raúl asked.
“We kill any magicians who want to return Korth to the land of the living.”
“You don’t know who we are, do you?” Raúl asked.
“What do you mean?” Sasha asked.
“Never mind.” Raúl said. “How many magicians have you killed already?”
“How many do you think are left?”
“Two, maybe three,” Sasha said.
“Would you like to accompany us on our journey?” Raúl asked. “You might find it quite rewarding at the end.”
“Are you sure you want us with you?” We have no horses, and there will be people hunting us.”
“Don’t worry about being hunted, and we’ll buy you horses at the next town,” said Raúl. “Will you ride with us?”
“We will,” Sasha said.
“Until we can buy horses, the two of you can ride double.”
Kiya reached down and pulled Shauna up behind her, while Meko pulled Sasha up behind him.
“Everyone ready?” Raúl asked.
After everyone shook their heads, they began riding towards the town. When they reached the town at dusk, Raúl paid for six rooms at the inn. Taking some of their remaining money, she walked with Kiya and the sisters to buy horses.
“Pick the ones that you want,” Raúl said when they reached the stables.
“I’ll take that one,” Shauna said, pointing at a palomino mare.
“I want her,” Sasha said. The horse that she pointed to was white with tan blotches, and was strong and healthy.
“Sasha? Shauna? Is it really you?” an old man’s voice asked from the back of the stables.
“Yes, it’s us, Reddick,” Sasha said.
“I thought you two left town,” Reddick said, stepping into sight.
“We did, and we’re only passing through now,” Shauna said.
“Well what can I do for you?” Reddick asked.
“We’re going to buy two horses and two sets of tack,” Raúl said.
“Ruick, I need you to come get a couple of horses,” Reddick called.
A young man came from the back and went to the pen where the horses were. When he looked up and saw Sasha, he ran to her and hugged her.
“You two obviously know each other well. Is he a relative of yours?”
“No,” Sasha said, smiling. “When my sister and I finish our mission, Ruick and I are going to get married.”
“Yeah, but until then there’s work to be done!”
“Sorry, Reddick,” Ruick said. “Which two did you want?”
“The palomino mare and the tan and white mare,” said Raúl.
“You should go with them, Ruick,” said Reddick. “You can protect Sasha.”
“Can he come with us?” Sasha asked.
“Why not?” said Raúl. “Like Reddick said, he can keep an eye on you and your sister.”
“Will you come with us?” Sasha asked Ruick.
“I don’t know. Reddick needs someone to help him here.”
“Don’t worry about me,” Reddick said. “Scarlet’s son, Namor, wants to work in the stables. It’s about time he’s apprenticed!”
“Count me in,” Ruick said, smiling at Sasha.
“Good. We’re leaving in the morning. You can keep the horses here until then.” Raúl handed Reddick the money she owed him. “Let’s go. We’re going to need a good night’s sleep.”
Together they began walking back to the inn. A strange man caught Kiya’s attention.
“I wonder who that man is,” she said, only loud enough for the four of them to hear.
“Which man?” Raúl asked, “In case you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of men around here.”
“The one wearing all black, over there, by that building.”
“I’m not sure; I’ve never seen him before.”
That night, Shauna quietly opened the door of her room. Sure that everyone but her sister was asleep, she crept down the hall. Once in her sister’s room, Sasha cast a spell on the room so that no one could listen to their conversation.
“Do you think it could be Menari?” Shauna asked.
“I’m not sure. I was certain that the poison I slipped in his cup would kill him.”
“Maybe he only went as far as Caledonia, and someone pulled him back.”
“If it is him, it won’t matter how he came back.”
“He won’t kill any of them because they’re traveling with us, will he?”
“No, he won’t. He needs Kiya, and there’s no way he’s going to risk losing her.”
“What do you mean? Why does he need Kiya?”
“Kiya and Raúl are the daughters of Korth and Vasili. They are the only two who can bring Korth back.”
“The daughters of Korth? How do you know?”
“Didn’t you see, Shauna?”
“The way Raúl took an interest in us, after she learned what we do. She doesn’t want her father alive again, she’s seen to many meaningless killings.”
“So she took an interest. That doesn’t prove anything.”
“No, but their rings do. Before he was killed, Korth put part of his soul into two rings. He gave the rings to his daughters. They were both made of silver and small diamonds. The diamonds represented the common magic that they both shared. There was, however, a difference in the rings. One ring has rubies as well as diamonds laid in the base. They represent that daughter’s talent, manipulating fire. The other one has emeralds, for manipulating nature. These are the only two ever made, besides their parents’ rings. Korth’s ring held sapphires, for the power of water, but they faded to black because of his murders. Vasili’s ring held, and still holds, special- cut pearls, for the power of creation.”
“This proves your theory because?”
“Raúl’s ring is silver and inlaid with diamonds and rubies. Kiya’s ring has diamonds and emeralds.”
“I still don’t think those rings are the rings.”
“You’ll see,” Sasha said. “Now go to bed, you’re going to need your sleep.”
The next morning they all left the inn and headed to the stables. Ruick and Reddick were waiting for them. The boy, Namor, came from the tack room carrying a saddle.
“I’ll get the other one,” said Ruick. “You go get the horses.”
Namor opened the gate to the coral and brought out the two horses. He threw a blanket over one, and with Reddick’s help, he heaved the saddle on. When Ruick came back, he saddled the second horse.
“Let’s go,” Raúl said.
On the way out of the town Kiya spotted the strange man. Wearing all black like the previous day, he was on a horse near the edge of town. After seeing him, the group made a rough circle, putting Kiya in the middle. The stranger followed them until shortly before dusk, and then he disappeared. When they camped that night, they had trouble lighting a fire. Raúl walked over to the small flames and whispered a few words. For a brief moment her ring glowed, and then the flames grew to a roaring fire.
Shauna glanced at Sasha, and almost at once her sister’s voice came into her mind.
“See. Maybe now you’ll believe me.”
The next day Sasha and Shauna noticed that the stranger was yet again following them.
“That must be Menari,” Shauna let her sister hear her thoughts.
“It is. At lunch he spotted me looking a t him. He flashed his sword, the one he fought with in the war.” Shauna could tell that her sister was troubled.
“What will he do with Kiya?”
“He’ll tell her how to bring her father back.”
They traveled all day with Menari trailing them, and, like the day before, he disappeared shortly before dusk.
Kiya sat a little ways away form the others when they camped that night. Sasha, Shauna, and Ruick sat grouped together, talking cheerfully. Meko and Kaliki sat together, talking about hunting. Raúl was off somewhere, practicing magic. Suddenly Kiya heard a voice come from the bushes.
“Open your mind, Kiya.”
Cautiously, Kiya pulled a knife from her belt. Slowly she opened her mind. “Who are you?” She shot the question out into the emptiness.
“My name is Menari.”
“What do you want?”
“Don’t worry, Kiya. I’m not going to hurt you or your friends. All I want to do is tell you how to bring your father back.”
“How can I bring him back?”
“It’s quite simple. All you have to do is say a simple incantation. Isa ma vaba teid saatus, mis seob teid.”
Slowly the stranger’s mind faded from her own.
“Menari! Come back!” Kiya frantically cast her thoughts to the stranger, but he was gone.
That night, Kiya played with the incantation in her mind. Even though she wanted her father back, she didn’t dare say the words aloud.
The next day, Kiya searched the shadows with her mind, but she never touched minds with Menari. When they camped that night, Kiya waited to hear Menari’s voice come from the bushes near her, but all she heard was silence.
The next two days passed with the same eerie silence as had the previous days after Menari’s strange appearance. On the fourth day, she thought she saw him, but she wasn’t sure if it was him. When they stopped for lunch that day, Shauna leaned over the edge of the riverbank to fill her container. Without any warning, or any reason, she fell into the frigid torrent. Meko ran past Sasha and jumped in, pulling a flailing Shauna to the shore.
“Thanks. She can’t swim.”
“It was no problem.”
While everyone gathered around Shauna to see if she was alright, Kiya thought she saw the end of a black cape disappear into the shadows. She waited that night, hoping Menari would come to her. She wanted to ask if it had been he who had shoved Shauna into the river. That night, however, was as disappointing as the past nights she had waited for him. When they passed through a town the next day, Kiya saw no sign of Menari. For two more days they traveled, until, at long last, they reached Balkan Ramas.
“Here we are,” said Raúl, waving her hand towards an old rusty gate. Beyond the gate was a short road leading to a small castle.
“Balkan Ramas?” Kiya asked, “What does that mean.” On the gate’s arch, the words Balkan Ramas were inscribed in gold letters.
“It means ‘home of the guardian’. It refers to our mother.”
After Raúl opened the gate with a spell, everyone rode towards the small castle. Raúl closed the gate with an enchantment, and then led the group farther along the path. Near the stables, she dismounted and gestured for the others to do the same.
“Ivan!” Raúl called, “Jacob!”
Two young men came from the stables, and nodded to Raúl and Kaliki. Moments later they were going back into the stables, taking the horses with them.
After a few minutes of following Raúl, they reached the front door of the castle. Raúl led them inside, and everyone, except Raúl, Meko, and Kaliki, looked around in amazement. There were only a few candles in holder on the walls, making the hall dim. Pictures also hung on the walls, though not one of the dull, stern faces was recognized. At the end of the hall was a door, and beside it stood a young woman. She wore a white dress and her long brown hair was braided. Her blue eyes sparkled as she greeted Raúl.
“It’s good to see you back within these wall safe, My Lady,” she said.
“Thank you, Adeline,” Raúl said. “Are the rooms prepared for our guests?”
“Yes, My Lady,” Adeline said, “yours is as you left it, and the others have been furnished with the appropriate clothes and furniture.”
“Dinner is almost ready,” Adeline continued, “and your mother will not be at the table tonight or tomorrow. She wants you all to meet her in the garden tomorrow morning.”
“Thank you, Adeline.” Raúl led everyone through the door in front of them, and then through another door to their right.
On the other side of the door was the dining room. Everyone who was looking upon the room for the first time looked upon it with astonishment. Unlike the hall that had preceded it, the room was bright. No dusty paintings were hung on the walls; in their place were candles in crystal holders. The ceiling was low at first, but it rose up to its peak in the center of the room. From the peak hung a massive chandelier. It was made of diamonds and sapphires, and when the light from the candles caught it, the chandelier glistened brightly. The chairs placed around the table were made of thick, brightly polished wood. They were high-backed and covered with red velvet. Everyone took a seat as Raúl gestured for them to. At each seat there was a set of silverware, all made of well-polished silver. A moment later servants came into the room. Two men came in and set down a plate in front of everyone. The plates were made of silver and had small engravings in them. The next three men brought in wine glasses. The glasses were made of crystal, and around the middle jewels were set in. Another two men brought bowls that were similar to the plates. After the dishes were distributed, two more men came in. They each carried a bottle of wine, and poured a glass for everyone. Next, several men brought trays of food. Trays of meat were placed on the table along with bread, cheese, and soup. As everyone began to eat and drink, the conversation grew light and calm. After they finished eating, Raúl called for five maids. The maids led everyone out of the dining room and down the hall. One by one the maids showed everyone where they would sleep.
The next morning, Kiya awoke to the gentle shaking of Adeline. “It’s almost time for breakfast,” she said, “your dresses are in the trunk in the corner. There’s also fresh, warm water in the pitcher near the wash basin.” Adeline left the room, gently closing the door behind her.
Kiya got out of the bed, and, walking over to the basin, she washed her face. After she finished, Kiya opened the chest. It was full of dresses, as Adeline had said it would be. Some of them were long- sleeved and some were short-sleeved, but every dress was a different color. Carefully she lifted out a green dress. She changed quickly into the dress, and then began to gaze over the jewelry and hair pins that occupied a small ivory box. She pulled out a pair of earrings and a necklace, both made of diamonds and emeralds, and put them on. Before going into the hall, she pulled her hair back with two emerald clips, and put on a pair of shiny white shoes. When she stepped out into the hall, Adeline led her down the hall towards the dining room. She was the second to arrive, her sister being the first. Raúl was wearing a long-sleeved burgundy dress, and her hair wasn’t pulled back. The next people to come were Sasha and Ruick, walking arm-in-arm. Sasha wore a short-sleeved blue dress, and her hair was pulled back slightly. Ruick wore a vest made of leather and a white cotton shirt underneath. Around his waist was a leather belt that held up a pair of flannel pants. Shauna and Meko came in next. Meko was dressed the same as Ruick. Shauna wore a white and light blue dress with no sleeves. Kaliki came through the door alone. He was dressed in solid leather instead of cotton. After everyone was seated, servants brought out the food. Again, the conversation at the table was lacking the grave urgency that had come to be normal. When they finished eating, Raúl and Kaliki led everyone out of the dining room and onto the grounds. They walked past the coral where the horses were pinned, stopping only for a moment to look at the few horses that were there. One horse, a white stallion, had scars of blood on its pelt, left from a long ago battle. Kiya knew at once that this must be her father’s horse. Also in the coral was a brown mare. At first Kiya thought that this horse belonged to her father’s murderer, but she dismissed the thought. They continued walking across the grounds, stopping occasionally to look at different places. When at last it appeared as though they could go no farther, the tone of the conversation changed. Kaliki appeared to be anxious, glancing over at Raúl as he walked. When Raúl spoke, her voice shook slightly. Kiya tried to read what her sister was thinking, but surrounding her thoughts was a thick fog. Kaliki and Meko were the same, but all Kiya could see in the other three was a puzzling mixture of excitement and fear. As they walked, the fog around them grew thicker until at last they stopped, not pushing deeper into the blurred landscape. When they stopped, Raúl turned to face Kiya.
“Whatever you seen that night in my mind, dismiss it now. Our mother has changed.”