banshee, blasting it into oblivion. Her final screams echoed through the forest, fading away slowly as she sparkled into nothingness. When she had faded fully, dust and bones fell to the ground.
Jodocus continued screaming until he ran out of breath. He stepped forward slowly, his rage subsiding as he saw the banshee’s remains. A small, fragile skull lay atop a pile of dust and broken bones, inscribed with strange symbols that the boy, somehow, recognized.
Ignoring it for the moment, he turned to go back to his mother, hoping in his heart that she was only asleep. He saw her lying on her back, her staff only a few feet away. Sniffling, he ran toward her.
But he was stopped short by a cold wave of energy that spread out around her.
“Mama!” he called. “Mama!”
Shadowy figures seemed to reach through the fabric of space and time, snatching her arms up and dragging her limp body away. Jodocus screamed, running after her as she was pulled into a dark void that opened up behind her body.
“Mama!” Jodocus shouted again, his voice trembling with panic and anguish.
Then, Aeli was pulled through and the portal was closed.
“MAMAAAAAAAAAAAA!” Jodocus howled, now left to himself in the darkness of the forest.
Alone and afraid, the boy collapsed into the brush, bawling in sorrow as the night wore on.
The Knights of the Dragon gathered in their meeting hall at Faerbane. The ornate table was set for a feast honoring Lord Ferrin and Lord Galen , and their continued military support. The knights were seated three to each long side, Lords Ferrin and Galen at one end, and an empty chair at the other end where King Eamon would sit upon his arrival.
The gathered knights and their guests were loud; exchanging tales and laughing heartily. Galen, being happy to see his daughter, Brianna, was the least vocal. He quietly listened to the stories of the knights’ conquests, smiling every time her name was mentioned. He was glad to see that Brianna was honored and respected just as much as the others. In fact, all of the other knights seemed to hold her fighting skills in the highest regard. There even seemed to be a rivalry between her and Azim as to whom was the better archer.
As the king entered the room, the gathering stood. Eamon held his hands out in greeting, his smiling face beaming with joy.
“My friends,” he said. “Welcome home. I trust your time has been well spent.” The knights shrugged, indicating a not-so-much attitude. “Ferrin, Galen, it is good to have you here.”
He clasped hands with each of them in turn, motioning for them to sit. The king then took his place at the head of the table.
“As you all know,” he began. “The Rangers have been busy in the kingdom as of late. We have had reports of wild men from the island roaming freely in the countryside. Daryth has led the Rangers well, and they have quelled much of the hostilities without too much bloodshed.”
He nodded to Daryth, who gave a gesture of thanks.
“Furthermore,” Eamon continued. “Brynn has chosen a new company to take the place of the Mordumarc. Thanks to him, our elite cavalry rides again. And let me say, Brynn, you have chosen them well.”
“They are the best our land has to offer,” Brynn replied. “Just as worthy as the former Mordumarc themselves.”
“Yes, they are,” Eamon complimented. “And Angen’s leadership as commander of our infantry is not to be ignored. Since he took command, our troops have become more disciplined and effective than ever. Even the rebel Jindala have been impressive and loyal.”
“If not for Angus and his forge,” Angen said. “Our troops would be wielding toothpicks and forks.”
The knights laughed. Eamon clapped his hands, signaling the servants to bring in the many courses that would comprise their feast. The goblets were filled, and plates were loaded onto the table.
“Azim and Brianna have done well to organize their mounted archers,” Eamon