Castle Roland

The Dragons of Keanna

by Jandar Tyr


Chapter 14

Published: 1 Oct 15

The Dragons of Keanna

Copyright © By Jandar Tyr

The Fireshaper's Staff

The island of Mythioes was one of the most mysterious and strangest places in the Shyr Ocean. Its location has been known for hundreds of years, but almost nothing else. Not what's on the island, nor who might live there. The only thing known was that no one has ever returned from there, and that there was a volcano that erupted very often.

Flying around the island, Cutter carried Cheshire, Denner was still wearing the Chameleon ring, and in the form of a Pegasus, carried Nautica on his back . By their side, Gaia rode comfortably on a boulder. They all looked out for anything that might cause trouble.

"This is a beautiful island." Nautica said. "I wonder why no one's here?"

[It's strange.] Cutter said. [I feel no fear here. Not even from the animals. I do feel the magic of the talisman.]

"Land on the beach." Gaia said.

He dropped the boulder down and landed on the beach. The rest followed him. Cutter put down Cheshire and he took off up the sandy beach.

[Cheshire, stay close.] Cutter told him.

Unlike a cat, Cheshire ran into the water for a swim. He looked like an alligator in the water. Shifting back to human form Cutter and Denner sat on the boulder Gaia had used to fly.

"Where to now?" Cutter asked.

"We rest." Denner said. "It's been a long flight, and I for one am tired."

"I think we should do this now." Gaia said. "This place feels strange to me. It's not stable."

"What do you mean?" Denner asked.

"This island." He said. Gaia bent over and grabbed a handful of earth. "It feels angry."

Suddenly a blast blew out from the volcano. Smoke rose into the sky and an ash cloud bellowed out.

"You really want to stay here long?" Gaia asked with his hands on his hips. Cheshire came running out of the water to Cutter. He stood behind him and whimpered.

"He feels it too." Cutter said as he ran his hand over Cheshire's head and back.

"OK." Denner said. "How do we find this staff?"

"Follow the emanations. They should lead us right to it." Cutter said "Come on. Let's get moving."

Cutter and Cheshire led them off the beach. It was a very hot day on the island and everyone wore leather except Denner. Heat wasn't a problem for the dragons, nor was cold really. The trail they followed cut through a valley between two mountains. High trees and thick foliage covered both sides of the trail. Suddenly Cheshire hissed. He sensed something. They stopped. Cutter cast out his senses, probing the area up ahead.

"There is something here." He said. "I feel raw emotions."

"What do you mean?" Nautica asked.

"Like hate and madness." Cutter frowned. "It's weird."

A noise caught there attention over to the side. It was a crashing noise. They all looked up. Large rocks came sailing off the sides of the mountain.

"RUN!!!" Nautica yelled and started to run. Gaia held up his hand and all the rocks stopped in the air. He sent them back to the mountain to crash back where they came from.

"Wait!" He said. "I can handle this."

"Someone's up there." Denner said scanning the mountain sides.

"Hold on." Gaia closed his eyes and concentrated. He reached out to the plants on the mountainside. He felt the movements of the creatures walking and hiding in the jungle.

"There are strange manlike creatures up there." Gaia told them.

"People?" Cutter asked.

"No." He said. "Big and hairy but not people. Primitive."

"Let's keep going." Cutter said. "Everyone keep your eyes open."

Everyone moved on close together. Cutter could feel their uncertainty, their uneasiness. It seemed they were heading for the volcano. Not someplace he wanted to go, but the trail leads to where it leads. There was a clearing up ahead. They moved slowly toward it. A shadow passed over them. Nautica looked up, she saw nothing. She kept moving, more shadows passed over head.

"Did you see that?" She asked Denner.

"What?" Denner asked. Big shadows began to pass over their heads and the sound of wings flapping filled the air. Everyone looked up to an amazing sight. Gargoyles filled the air. One carrying some large animal like a deer. They all landed in the clearing and began tearing at the carcass, fighting over bits and pieces.

"What is that??"Nautica asked.

"They're Gargoyles." Cutter told them. "I didn't believe they were real, but there they are "

"I bet I can become one." Denner said. "But bigger."

Denner moved closer for a better look. He had to have a good image in his mind to copy.

"Wait, Come back!!" Cutter called quietly.Denner waved him off. He studied the winged creatures until he was satisfied, then he concentrated on the change. With a flash he became a larger version. He flapped his wings and took to the air.

"Look at him!" Nautica said.

Denner flew a circle around them and landed right in the middle of their crowd. They looked at him and backed away. Denner roared and snatched up the carcass and held it over his head. One gargoyle barked at him and rushed him. With a backhand he smacked it away. The rest went down on their knees and began to hum to him. Satisfied, Denner tossed the carcass to them, and started barking and growling at them. Together they all called back. Denner took off into the skies and flew off. He flew around behind them and changed and slipped back to the Dragons.

"I understood them." He said. "I'm the Alpha now."

"What did they say?" Gaia asked.

"Nothing really. Just that I'm the alpha and they will come if I call." Denner told them. "Let's go around them. Let them eat."

They backed up and took a different path toward the volcano. The trail was thick and they pushed through.

Back on the beach the four Shadows came down to land. Taren climbed down off Terror and looked around for signs or clues. He saw the footprints of the dragons and knew which direction to go.

"They beat us here." Taren said. "We can't miss this one. Master's going to be so angry since we missed the Stormcatcher Dagger."

"It would have taken troops to get that one." Graym said. "The Werewolves would have attacked us the minute we got there."

"Werewolves." Velusia spat. "You should have let me go in and kill them all. I hate werewolves. Filthy animals!!"

"We can't just kill them." Pelic said. "Polan might have plans for them."

"What about the snowmen? We killed them? She said.

"They wanted the Frost Belt." Pelic said. "We had no choice and Polan knows. He told me to pass the Dagger up. He has plans to get them all."

"We follow them." Graym said. "And take it from them. There's only two Dragons. Let's move."

Deep in the jungles of Mythioes, Denner and the Dragons pushed their way further in. All kinds of strange things were about. Denner was having a great time copying them. Every now and then they heard something crashing around in the jungle, but they couldn't see anything. Curiosity finally got to Denner.

"I'm going to wait in the trees to see what's following us." Denner told them. "Just keep going. I'll catch up."

In a flash he became a parrot and flew up onto the top branches to wait. Everyone else moved on. Moments later Denner heard the crashing coming nearer. He dropped down to a lower branch and watched. Soon five tall manlike creatures came into view. Horrible looking things, like Ogres only one eyed. Cyclops. The all carried clubs. These things aren't supposed to exist. They're supposed to only be stories to scare kids at night, but here they are. Well another beast to add to his list of things he could copy. This island was full of interesting beasts. Denner took off to catch the others. Cutter would want to hear about them. From high overhead Denner found his friends on the side of a lake. He came down and shifted back to his normal form.

"This place is amazing!!" Denner said once he rejoined them. "It's weirder than Ardia!!"

Cheshire walked to the edge of the lake and started to flick out his tongue tasting the air. Unlike a cat, Cheshire didn't have fur on his back to stand up when he sensed something strange. But his barbed tail stood instead. Ready to strike out at whatever it was that caught his attention.

"I think Cheshire's found something in the lake." Nautica said. "You sense anything Cutter?"

The big dragon cat hissed as bubbles rose to the surface. Suddenly a fin popped out of the water, followed by the head of a handsome man with green hair and slits on his neck. He looked at them and smiled.

"There are Mer people in the lake." Denner said. "I should have expected that."

"Are we gonna have to stop every time you see something new?" Gaia asked. "We don't have time."

"Aiya." The merman said. "Your strangers here."

"Yes." Cutter said. "I'm Cutter. These are my friends, Denner, Gaia, and Nautica. This is Cheshire."

The Merman swam to the shore. As he climbed out he shook out his hair and tossed it back. He had a very strong body. Muscular arms and legs from swimming all the time. Webbed fingers and long webbed feet. He also had fins on his thighs and forearms. All the clothes he wore were a green and gold pair of trunks.

"I'm Mortimer." He said. "What are strangers doing here on this island of all places? You know this is a dangerous land, filled with some very ancient creatures "

"We're looking for something." Cutter told him.

"That's funny." Motimer said. "So am I."

"Could we be looking for the same thing?" Cutter asked.

"I don't think so." Mortimer said. "I'm looking for something to help my people."

"Maybe we can help each other." Denner said. "We help you, and you tell us what if anything you know of what we're looking for."

"Seems fair." The Merman said.

"How can we help you?" Denner asked.

"My people live in a village under the lake in Aquilona not far from here Dree. We're being hunted every time we come out of the village. It's some kind of monster. We can't hunt for food or harvest our crops. We're starving down there. I'm the only one not in our protected village. I can't take care of this myself. I came above water hoping to find some way to stop it."

"Well." Denner said. "I think we can help you."

"How? You can't breathe underwater." Mortimer said. "How can you help?"

"I can!!!" Nautica said.

"So can I." Denner smiled.

"How?" Mortimer asked.

Nautica moved into the water and shifted to dragon. She reared up and blew water into the air. Denner moved in next. He concentrated and in a flash became a great snake like serpent. His long body coiled and twisted around in the lake. Since receiving the Chameleon ring, Denner had been studying all different kinds of beasts. This one had a long body all red and gold, with three pairs of legs and great claws and spikes along its body. Its mouth was filled with long pointed teeth and it looked powerful.

"How are you able to do this?" Mortimer asked. "What kind of people are you?"

"We're the Dragons." Cutter told him. "And if you want our help. We'll be glad to help you."

Mortimer looked at them all, from one to the others, then smiled.

"Yes." He said. "We need your help."

[Then let's go.] Nautica sent. [Cutter, will you wait?]

"Gaia and I will keep moving." He said. "I don't want to stay in one place too long."

"Wise decision." Mortimer said as he walked back down to the lake. "There are things here."

"Meet us after you're done." Cutter waved as they left." And call me if you need help."

Mortimer dived in with Nautica and Denner following. Deeper and deeper they swam.

[It's so good to be in the water.] Nautica sent.

She was in her element now. Speeding through the water. Denner next to her really enjoyed this new form. It was a lot like flying, cutting through the water.

[We go this way.] Mortimer waved at them.

He swam deeper and pointed to a large reef. There they found a boulder that covered a hole. Mortimer pointed at it then he gestured as if to push it aside. Thrusting himself forward, Denner swam to the boulder and nudged it aside with his head. That made an opening big enough for all of them to get through. After Nautica was through, she reached back with her tail and pushed the boulder back into place closing the passage. From then on they were out of the lake and into the Shyr Ocean proper. Mortimer's village was less than a few hours away.

[My village is here.] Mortimer sent. [Aquilona is there, beyond the reef.]

He pointed to a large area with some kind of strange haziness around it. It was a handsome place. Small buildings no more than two stories high with a rainbow hue about everything. They could see into town. But there was no one visible. The shield kept the monster out but it was weakening. It wouldn't last much longer. Then the people would all be in trouble. All of them.

[Over here.] Mortimer moved behind the rocks. [We need to watch and see if it's around.]

No fish or any life swam by. That was a clue. Something was there scaring away all the fish. They waited for a while, still they saw nothing.

[This is not working.] Denner sent. [Nautica. Do you sense anything?]

[I feel hunger and anger.] She said. [There's something out there for sure. Hiding and waiting.]

[What do we do?] Mortimer asked. [Soon starvation will drive my people out of hiding. That thing will grab them out as they come out. We have to do something.]

[Wait here.] Nautica said.

She swam out into the open. There was nothing there.

[I know you're here.] She sent out. [Come out.]

Seconds later a huge creature, nothing like a dragon, more like a great alligator came out and charged at her. It had huge yellow eyes, and its mouth was open wide as it rushed at her. Nautica moved fast and dodged the monster. It turned to come around to try again. Denner swam out and caught it in his coils. The thing spun around trying to shake him off. Denner hung on. Trying to rip into Denner with its claws it struggled and broke free. Nautica came in, she raised her tail and stabbed her barbed tail into its back. The gator howled out in pain and took off. Denner and Nautica followed it. Moving at top speed, Denner caught it. He wound himself around the great Gator dragging him down. It bellowed out its rage as it thrashed about. Denner held fast tightening his hold more and more. Its head exposed, Nautica struck it in the head. Again and again she struck down, stabbing into its head. Soon blood ran from the wound and the brain was exposed. With one last stab Nautica's stinger entered its brain. The monster howled then stiffened as it died. Denner released it and it sank to the bottom. Mortimer came swimming out to them. He had witnessed the battle from behind the boulder.

[How can we ever thank you.] Mortimer said. [We're free now!! I can go back home again!!]

[Your welcome.] Nautica said to him.

[How can I help you?] Mortimer asked. [I can show you around the island if you like.]

[Do you know anything about the Fireshapers Staff?] Denner asked.

Mortimer looked at them. The look on his face told them he knew something.

[The Fireshapers Staff.] He said. [I've heard of it. It's the bane of our existence. It causes all the earthquakes here. The volcanic activity. This is the third location for our home. Underwater earthquakes cause us to move and killed my people.]

[Do you know where it is?] Nautica asked.

[I think I can help you.] He said. [I know where to find it.]

[Nautica, call Cutter have him meet us at the lake shore.] Denner told her. [You go see your family. Tell them it's safe to come out. We'll stay here. We don't want to scare them like this. They'll think we're more monsters.]

Cutter, Gaia and Cheshire arrived back it the lake. They hadn't gone far, Cheshire had been hunting when Nautica called. Cheshire sat crunching on some animal she caught when Nautica and Denner came walking out of the lake.

"How did it go?" Gaia asked.

"Biggest damn gator I've ever seen." Denner said. "Want to see it?"

"No, you'll scare Cheshire." Cutter said.

Not far behind Denner and Nautica, Mortimer rose out of the water. He walked up and shook Cutter's hand.

"All's well, now." He said. "I thank you for your help."

"You're welcome. Nautica says you know where the Fireshapers staff is." Cutter smiled.

"It's a ways from here." He said. "I know the way."

Together they all left the lake shore and started back into the jungle. Mortimer led them with Cheshire sniffing at his heels. The trail they followed was dense , but Mortimer had no trouble finding it. As they walked he explained what he know about the staff and the trouble it had caused.

"There are no, how should I say this? Civilized people. There are the Cyclops. They live on what they catch. I'm sure there following us, now." Mortimer said.

"They are." Denner ran out to walk beside Cutter behind Nautica, Gaia taking up the rear to protect them.

"They're hunting us." Mortimer went on. "They will hunt anything big enough to eat. We're going to have to do something before they corner us in a trap. Then there's the Harpies. Winged shrieking bird people, also savage. We'll find them once we're out of the jungle and pass through the cliffs ahead. These things have a sense of smell that's very strong. It won't take long for the wind to carry our scent to them."

"What do we do about these Cyclopes?" Nautica asked.

"Can you distract them like you did the Orcs?" Denner asked.

"I think so." She said. "But not for long. Their minds are different from Orcs. Not as much fear. Let's see if we can show them something to fear."

The Cyclops moved through the jungle with ease. They had been hunting here for centuries. Tall one eyed men and women, tough skinned shaggy haired primitive people. They were over eight feet tall, heavy browed brutish people. They didn't use fire or tools, or even have a language. All they did was grunt and yell at each other. A club was their weapon. Swing and bash, then eat it. This time there was six of them following the Dragons. They worked in three parties of two. As the Dragons moved down the trail, the Cyclops tried to surround them from three sides. Slowly they moved in. Listening to the sounds of their prey as they got closer, the Cyclops readied themselves to attack. With a roar they leaped out to find nothing there. All six stood there confused. Where was the prey? Suddenly a giant alligator appeared in front of them. Its mouth big enough to chomp a Cyclops down in one bite. It roared at them. To the left of them roared a great tan Dragon. It reached out to grab one of them and missed. They turned right. There they found the green Dragon, teeth flashing in the sun. Screaming in fear, the Cyclops 'turned about to run and found the blue Dragon hissing at them. All six dropped their clubs and ran between the Dragons as fast as they could. No more hunting today for them. Mortimer and Cheshire walked out of the bushes and found the Dragons all on the ground laughing.

"You could have ripped them apart." Mortimer said.

"Yes we could have." Cutter said. "But they're just hungry. I can't fault them for trying to catch some food, it's natural. Anyway, those six won't hunt for a while."

Off they went. The edge of the jungle wasn't far and it only took them a few minutes to reach it. Now they were in a more rocky area, surrounded by cliffs. The trail they were on was very wide. Wide enough for them all to walk as dragons. In the distance they could see the volcano. Heavy smoke always rose into the sky. Making a dark ominous cloud that occasionally rained ash.

"How far to the caves?" Nautica asked.

"Not far." Mortimer told them. "It's just past the Harpy nests"

"We can't go around?" Gaia asked.

"Not possible." He said. "This trail we're on is a straight line there. The Harpy's are in the next valley over to the right. They know we're here already."

"Mortimer." Cutter said. "We thank you for leading us here. But you should go now. We can't ask you to put yourself in any more danger."

"You put yourselves in danger for us." He said. "I'll take you all the way. Besides, I want to be sure the staff is gone."

"Ok." Denner said. "We should keep moving."

Keeping an eye on the volcano in case it erupts, they quickly moved on. Gaia had power over earth, so he could tell how the mountain was doing. He could feel the pressure building. There wasn't a lot of time before the next eruption.

"We need to hurry." Gaia said.

"Is there anything you can do? Cutter asked."

"Only if we get closer." He said. "From here, I can do nothing."

As they ran, they heard a squawk from the skies. They looked back as they ran and saw three Harpy's diving on them.

"Get closer to the walls!!!" Nautica yelled.

Together the group made for the side of the cliffs. Gaia sent rocks skyward, striking some of them, making a few crash into the ground. Cheshire ran on, not looking back. A harpy dived for him. Cutter saw this and ran for him. The harpy grabbed him and began to rise and stared over the cliffs. All the rest of the Harpy's followed.

"CHESHIRE!!!!" Cutter spread his arms and began to shift.

"Wait!!" Gaia said. "Let us help. If you take off and follow them, you'll be swarmed by harpies. We need you. We'll get him back. But we have to hurry."

Cutter and Denner flew through the sky towards the Harpy. Denner to the shape of Rage, the most powerful dragon he knows. The nest was up a head. They could see Harpies flying around.

[OK.] Denner sent. [We have to give Gaia time to get in. So we make a distraction.]

[I'll cast an illusion of many more of us.] Cutter sent.

He concentrated and formed many different dragons in the sky. All colors winging toward the cliff. The Harpies noticed and came out in masses attacking the dragons. Cutter made them solid enough to battle them. But it was hard to concentrate on too many different things at once. Dragons fell, as did harpies. Denner and Curry stayed back to direct the fight. Denner protecting him. When Denner took the form of any of the dragons, he also gained use of the abilities. He was nowhere near as powerful as the real Rages, but he could flame. Harpy's dived on them as Denner blasted them.

[He better hurry.] Cutter said. [This is painful.]

As the Earth Dragon, Gaia can move through the earth like water. No vision or hearing. No sonar, just Gaia being in tune with the earth around him. He moved through the rock and dirt quickly. Up into the cliffs to come out in the Harpy caves. Cautiously he stuck his head up for a look. There was Cheshire lying on his side. Through the ground Gaia could feel Cheshire's breathing. Gaia moved closer. He could hear the fighting going on. He knew he had better hurry.

[NOW!!] He sent.

Gaia rose up out of the ground and grabbed Cheshire, and then both of them sank back into the ground. He had to hurry back and meet the others.

[That's it!!] Denner sent to Cutter.

He dropped the images of the dragons. All the Harpies were confused, their enemies had vanished. But Denner and Cutter were still in the air. Denner in the form of a red dragon. They turned toward them and screeched.

[Ready?] Denner asked. Cutter nodded his head.

[Now!!] Denner sent loudly.

He blew out the largest gout of flame he could. Cutter magnified it and formed it into a Phoenix. The Harpies tried to back wing and get away. Some didn't make it and flew into the Phoenix and burned. The rest turned and flew back to the caves. Feathers flew as they pushed and clawed to get back in. On the floor of the trail way Gaia emerged with Cheshire. He laid him down by Nautica and Mortimer and began to focus on the cave entrance. With a simple tug he pulled down the ceiling of the cave and sealed them all in screaming. Cutter and Denner came down and joined. Cutter went and checked out Cheshire. He was waking up, shaking away sleep he had been in.

"He's OK." Cutter said.

"Good." Gaia said. "We need to move. That volcano's ready to go any minute now. Mortimer, which way?"

"We're on the wrong trail now. We have to go around. It's a long way." the Merman told them.

"We don't have time to go around." Denner said. "We go over the cliffs. Gaia, Can you take Mortimer and Cheshire?"

Gaia looked to his left and saw a large flat boulder. He raised his hand; the boulder rose up and sailed to him.

"Get on." He said. Mortimer got on and Cutter carried Cheshire on.

"I'll take Nautica." He shifted to his Pegasus form and lowered his wings so Nautica could climb on. Cutter shifted to dragon form and flexed his wings. Gaia raised his hand and the boulder rose up into the air.

"Hold on to Cheshire." He said.

As the boulder sailing up and over the cliffs, Cutter and Denner followed him into the skies. They all flew on following Mortimer's directions. >From the skies they could see parts of the island breaking off and falling into the ocean. Cliff sides were crumbling, trees were falling down. If this kept up, there wouldn't be very much left of Mythios. They sped up. It wasn't long before they saw a large cave opening ahead.

"That's it!!" Mortimer pointed. Seconds later there was another explosion from the mountain. Rocks and debris flew into the sky.

[We better get in there now.] Cutter said.

They all dived down to the entrance and landed. They all shifted back to human form and ran for the cave.

"Mortimer. Please stay out here with Cheshire where it's safe." Cutter told him.

"It won't be if that mountain erupts." Mortimer said.

"If we get the staff." Gaia said. "I think the mountain will calm down. It's what's causing all the trouble. The power of the staff is keeping the mountain active. If we can get it out of there, there'll be no more eruptions."

"Then hurry!" Mortimer yelled over the rumbling. Denner and the three dragons ran into the cave. The caves sides were falling.

"Gaia can you hold this together? Cutter asked.

"I can try." He said his short legs pumping. He was struggling to keep up. Denner grabbed him and put him on his shoulders.

"Thanks. He said.

Gaia reached out and concentrated. The walls vibrations became weaker. Deeper in the cave they ran, they came to a blocked section.

"Put me down." Gaia said.

"No." Denner said. "Clear the blocking. We have to move fast."

Gaia put out his hands, then spread them and the blockage cleared. Rocks and debris rolled to the side clearing the way. They ran on. It was beginning to get hot in the cave. They must be either close to a lava vein or maybe there objective. Faster they moved. Occasionally a boulder or rock came at them, Gaia deflected them off to the side. The heat was becoming unbearable. Ahead they saw why. A lava pool. Without stopping Gaia pushed it back.

"That ground is hot." He said. "Whatever you do, don't stop."

They sped up even faster, their feet feeling the heat of the ground as they moved. Gaia being in tune with the mountain he could feel the Fireshaper Staff ahead. It emanated so much power, he could find it blind now.

"We're almost there." Gaia said. 'It's there."

They came out in a large cavern full of lava. They couldn't go any further.

"It's up to you now." Cutter said.

Denner put Gaia down. He looked it the lava lake then at his brothers. He shifted to his dragon form then dived into the lava.

[AHHHHH.] He sent. [This feels so good!!!]

"How do you like that?" Denner smiled. "Our Dreik swims in lava."

"It's soil after all." Nautica laughed.

Like a sea serpent Gaia rose and fell as he moved. He was enjoying his swim. In the center of the center of the lake there was a raised altar. There sat the Fireshaper Staff, glowing bright and humming. Gaia stepped out of the lake back in the form of Dreik and walked to the altar. He reached out and grabbed it. At that second, all the vibrations and quakes stopped. All was now calm. Gaia held it up to show the others. The Staff was almost twice his size. Crusted with fire rubies and made of something the color of gold. At its head there was a fire ruby the size of a fist. It was magnificent!! Gaia walked back to the lake. Still in his Dreik form he walked out over the lava. The Staff made him very powerful. He walked back to the others smiling.

"I'm impressed." Denner said in awe." We did it!!"

After following the Dragons, and watching their movements, The Shadows knew it was there turn to act. Mortimer sat at the cave entrance with Cheshire, running his hand along his back as Cheshire slept. Taren slowly walked up to Mortimer with his sword drawn. Mortimer turned with surprise to find the Shadows before him. Cheshire woke up and roared.

"If that thing moves on us." Taren said. "I'll kill it. Where are the dragons?"

"In the cave." Mortimer said holding tight to Cheshire.

"Fine." Pelic said. "We wait here till they come out and bring us the Staff."

On their way out, Cutter stopped. Fear suddenly came at him from outside the cave.

[Cutter. the Shadows have your friends.] Mags told him.

"We have a problem." Cutter told them. "Mags is here. That means the Shadows are outside. "They have Cheshire and Mortimer."

"What do we do?" Nautica asked. "We can't give them the Staff, and we can't let them hurt Mortimer and Cheshire."

"I have an idea." Denner said. "We trade for them."

Gaia started to protest and Denner held up his hand.

"I know what I'm doing." Denner said with a devious smile. "Trust me."

Walking side by side the Dragons emerged from the cave. There they saw Mortimer sitting beside the Cheshire and the Shadows standing over him. The Dragons stopped.

"You know what we want." Pelic said stepping forward. "You give us the staff and you get your friends unharmed."

"And we should trust you for what reason?" Denner said.

"Because you don't want them dead, do you?." Taren called his sword at Mortimer's throat.

"Give me the Staff or I give you his head."

The Dragons looked at each other. It seemed they didn't have much choice. Mortimer and Cheshire's life were more important than the staff. Gaia stepped forward holding the Fireshaper's Staff.

"Don't try anything." Graym said with his wings extended, ready to send out his wing darts.

"Move away from them and we'll send over the Staff." Gaia told them.

He put down the Staff. With a gesture it rose up before them as they waited for the Shadows to move away from their friends.

"How do we know we can trust you?" Cutter asked.

"Do you have a choice?" Graym asked. "We could just kill your friends then fight you for the Staff. Instead we're doing as you say."

Graym and the others moved off to the side away from Mortimer and Cheshire. He kept his wings open. If the Dragons didn't follow through with the staff, he could kill the hostages in seconds. Not that he would, he'd find a way to save them.

"The staff. please." Pelic said holding out his black hand.

Gaia sent it slowly forward as they walked to their friends. It landed in Taren's hands. He looked it over then nodded to the others. Taren mounted up on Terror and took off as Velusia shifted to smoke and went after him.

"We go now." Graym said. "You have to get word to Mags what's next."

With that, Pelic and Graym took off into the sky after Taren and Velusia.

"I'm sorry." Mortimer said. "I caused you to lose the Staff."

"Don't worry about it." Denner said. "That was nothing."

"Nothing?" He said. "After all the work you all did to get it? You lost it cause of me. Just because I wasn't watching out for them."

"You don't understand." Gaia said.

From behind his back he pulled something. It was the Fireshaper Staff. Mortimer's eyes lit up.

"But how?" He asked. "I saw you give it to them!!"

"Illusion." Cutter said. "Soon that Elf's going to realize he holds nothing but a tree branch. We have to be gone by then. And you back in the lake safe. Mortimer laughed at the trick they had just pulled.

"I'm gonna get my people ready." He said. "This war may come here. If you ever need my help again, we will be there to help."

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