• I

    The moon shone overhead, bright and cold as the bitter winter it was as two figures crept through the tall, clustered bushes. Occasionally, the moon lit bright colored feathers that reflected faintly in the glow of round polished gems. Their shawls drape tight about small shoulders as they whisper to one another with grins on their faces. “Petal, are you sure you heard that correct? It’s highly unlikely that Lily Petal be hanging out in this dump of a town.” Her twin sister nods her head then replies, “I’m sure, she in this town named Demon’s Keep.” What they were planning to do most would think impossible for their age and appearance.
    She opens her eyes at the opening of her prison door, a room of sparse furniture and mundane brown walls. From the door, around the long corner, her bed sat in the far corner out of sight. Next to it was a small, square, wooden table with a couple of candles in silver candleholders. In the opposite corner of the medium-sized bed, an empty wardrobe of wood sat facing the bed. On the right side of it, a single high-back wooden chair with a couple of seasonal cloaks drape across the back.
    Bone Staff enters with a tray in hand. The shadows did justice for him, she remarks to herself silently as he walks to where the table was with its few candles. “Did I wake you, Lily Petal? Oh well, time for your meal.” She gave him a dark look then sat on the edge of the bed with her hands folded in her lap. “What’s the matter, beauty?” Lily Petal remains still as Bone Staff continued to look at her after placing the tray down. “Leave!” A stern female voice ordered from the shadows of the doorway and Bone Staff took his leave with some hesitation.
    “My my, aren’t we in a good mood? You eat your meals halfway then do nothing special afterwards. We’ll have to fix that.” Lavender Blood said, entering her prison wearing her long, lavender flowing hooded cloak. She always wore it around others to keep her appearances mysterious. “What do you truly want with me, Lavender Blood?” Lily Petal asks, emotionless. Her female captor sighs theatrically then turns her back to Lily Petal. “Your powers are hard to come by in this changing world. I need you to pave the way for my mate and me so we can rule the world for eternity.”
    Petal and Flower had found their way toward the two captors’ home hidden among tall, ancient trees. The castle seems more like a citadel towering tall as it blended with the dark silhouetted landscape. “How do we get in there without being caught?” Petal asks as a shadow ran by them. Her sister studies the citadel’s outside surface then notices a half-concealed door nearby. “There,” Flower said quietly, pointing at the small opening “is our way in and possibly out.” Petal grins then pull her sister alongside her toward the door unaware of someone watching their every move. It was none other then Talon Key on his night strolls.
    Lavender Blood didn’t say anything else as she walk out of Lily Petal’s prison and Bone Staff reenter with a smile on his face. She ate in silence as he went over to the empty wardrobe to see if she put anything in it. He didn’t say anything about the barren wardrobe, simply keeping the mood of the room quiet.
    He couldn’t explain it but he fell in love with Lily Petal the very moment he saw her. “You’re looking at me again, bonehead. It’s disturbing.” Bone Staff smile then replies, “Lily Petal, you’re the most beautiful woman I had ever seen among humans. I must admit that I had fallen in love with your beauty and personality.” Lily Petal gave him a look of disbelief and finishes up the rest of her meal before saying anything to his declaration of love for her. When she was done, she got up from the bed and came up to him. “That’s sweet but that doesn’t mean anything when it comes to those working for cloaked captors.”
    Without thinking, Bone Staff took her hands up in his and sighs. “What is loved to say when words are lost for beauty so wild and free? It’s true what I say about you and I will never take them back. Please, Lily Petal, bless my tainted heart with your beauty and bring me to the light of the world as the dark has done to me already.” She tries to pull her hands free from his but he had tightened his hold on them and pulls her close. He wasn’t going to let her go till she says something to ease his sudden tension.
    She sighs then replies “if what you say is true, Bone Staff then you will help me and anyone else who wants me free instead of imprisoned.” Bone Staff loosens his hold on her hands and bows his head. Lily Petal took this as his way of promising that she quickly slid her hands free of his. He didn’t even register it and Lily Petal was glad he merely ignores it. “I will do anything for you and your friends, Lily Petal. My people are never free to live a life of their own but with your help, you can teach me and I’ll teach them myself. Oh, thank you, sweet angel of mercy.” She was either going to regret this or thankful for his aid.
    Talon Key crept up behind them, silently walking close at their heels till they stop at the small opening one of them spotted earlier. They had the same power as Lily Petal though a level below hers so it was worth keeping them alive than dead. “Well, what do we have here? It looks like two beautiful maidens with adventurous souls.” Petal jumps then look over her shoulder at Talon Key standing beside her then grab her sister’s arm. He gave them a beaming smiling from underneath the slightly pull back hood.
    The wind blew lightly through the small enclosed area near the woods and citadel base, ruffling his dark red cloak. Before his new captives could escape, he had plant roots wrap their legs tight and smile at them. “I don’t think so, my little beauties, you’re not going anywhere. What brought you here I will find out but for now, let’s get you settle inside our comfortable home.” They were pick up roughly by their dress collars and carry them inside then the hidden door slam shut behind them. Putting them in front of him, they walked down a long hallway dimly lit by low torches projecting outwards toward them.
    Bone Staff took his leave before Lavender Blood came back to get him, knowing that the mysterious female leader was not one to be kept waiting on any day. He was hesitant to leave as Lily Petal lay back down on her bed and close her eyes. Letting out a heavy, heartfelt sigh, Bone Staff went about his way closing the door quietly behind him so he wouldn’t disturb Lily Petal’s sleep.
    Meanwhile, Talon Key led the two girls straight to their chambers through the back way. His mate lay stretch out on a blood red loveseat with a crystal goblet of red wine in one hand. “Hmm, where these two lovely doves come from?” Lavender Blood asks, stirring the red wine around in the crystal goblet. Talon Key sat them roughly on another blood red loveseat and took a seat at the end of his mate’s loveseat. “Their curiosity got the best of them as they were looking for Lily Petal and guess what?” Talon Key said, getting his mate’s full attention. “Talon, love, don’t keep me in suspense about this little discovery. Tell me what you found about them or I’ll force it out of you.” The last couple of words were like swords that Flower and Petal exchanged frighten looks. “Love, these two young doves has the same powers as Lily Petal herself.”
    Lavender Blood hands her drink over to Talon Key then sat up on the loveseat and look the twins over from top to bottom. “You’re right but they’re much too young to be put in a simple room so why don’t we keep them in here with us? We can use the company.” Talon Key nods his head then sweetly asks “what are your names, little ones?” Flower and Petal thought about switching their names up but the unseen eyes of their captors could see through their tricks easily. “Petal and Flower, so what yours’?”
    Bone Staff sat in his little room off of an empty storage area away from the prison rooms and his masters. Lily Petal was so beautiful and strong that she stayed in his thoughts no matter how hard he tried to push them back. The sad thing about his life didn’t portray his position in employment but rather in what he tried to escape. Lavender Blood and Talon Key knew about it and been tracking his assigned mate down from where they got him from. He was nothing a beast meant to serve others with no say in who he could loved except for the one assigned to him by his own people’s leader.
    A light knock on his ajar door got his attention then when he didn’t respond, someone open its slowly. “Oh dear, it seem Bone Staff not in any mood for anybody’s company but he has no choice in this matter. Go on, talk and make yourself comfortable.” Lavender Blood said to his assigned mate. She thanked his masters then softly close the door behind her then started to approach him. He looks up from his alcove bed with a unwelcoming look in his eyes. “Bone Staff, I figure you’ll be lonely without me so I came looking for you. Please, just accept me as your mate and I’ll make you happy for eternity.”
    He shook his head then lay down with his back to her and fell asleep thinking about Lily Petal. His assigned mate, Dust Luna was nothing special to his own inner thinking since Lily Petal had something about her that made her memory stayed with him longer. “Bone Staff, are you awake?” Dust Luna asks, cautiously approaching him. Bone Staff let her quiet words go through one ear and out the other as he fell into a deep sleep. She fell silent looking down at her hands then got up and went out the door. Closing it behind her, she saw Lavender Blood standing in front of her. “What’s the matter, Dust Luna? Is it Bone Staff?”
    Talon Key kept his distance from the sleeping twins, as they slept on opposite ends of the large loveseat. Between them, two rainbow dyed scarves tied to their wrists. If he moved them, they would know for scarves acted as indicators of movement between the twins. They were such beauties as Lily Petal but the problem with prophetesses and other female magic users was that their defenses remain erect then down.
    Meanwhile, Dust Luna told Lavender Blood all about Bone Staff’s cold behavior toward her. “Poor dear, he’ll come around and if he don’t, you can come and talk to me, okay?” Dust Luna nods her head and Lavender Blood left to return to her strange mate. Upon entering their shared chamber, she notices him sitting down on the corner bed looking at the twins. “Have you tried moving them to the bed chamber next to ours?” He shook his head then gesture toward the tied rainbow scarves. “Young sorceresses, they dress up too much and the simplest alarms are the least most unlikely dangerous items in the world.” Lavender Blood said, approaching them. “The same can be said about Lily Petal when Bone Staff first capture her. Now, she wears only the basic layers with little embellishment.”
    Waking up, Bone Staff saw his assigned mate sleeping the cramp corner in a fetal position. He walks by her to report to his employers closing the door quietly behind him. It was always a short walk for him and usually greeted by one of them at the entrance of their chamber. Instead, he was met by a set of twins that hid behind him as Talon Key flung the heavy dark green curtain aside. “Bone Staff, how nice of you to report this early but will you do something for us? Get these two back in here and don’t lose them.” Bone Staff didn’t want to do it but Talon Key stood in front of him so he obey Talon Key’s order. “Get out from behind me and go back inside.” They look up at him in disbelief then step out from behind him and allow him to escort them back inside. Lavender Blood greeted them but they sidestep her attempt at a motherly embrace and retreated to the prepared back bedchamber.
    “How is your mate doing, Bone Staff? I hope better then last night’s little event of sadness.” He didn’t respond or move as Talon Key left the main bedchamber to take a stroll outside. Dust Luna arrived later on, putting on her best smile in a futile attempt to win Bone Staff over as she saw Lavender Blood walk by her assigned mate.
    “Bone Staff, why don’t you take a break from watching over Lily Petal? Your twin brother can take over till you get use to your mate being here. As for the sisters in the back, Talon Key and I would take good care of them.” He wanted to protest but the arrival of his brother stopped him dead in his tracks.
    His brother’s mate, Star Luna was Dust Luna’s sister and already had two young children. “Hello brother, how are you doing? Star Luna, why don’t go with your sister and Lavender Blood can take care of our lovely children. I hope you have some children around here for them to play with.” The cloaked figure of Lavender Blood walks toward the back bedchamber where Flower and Petal were weaving something on a combined loom.
    “Lily Petal is a legend in herself with all the things she had done strictly for people then personal gain. Do you think she’ll like this shawl we’re making her? We know its not much but it make cheer her up some.” Flower said, stopping at the same time as her sister, Petal. “She’ll like it, just tell me when you’re finished and we’ll have Dagger give it to her. For now, you got company so quit your weaving and play with his children.” Lavender Blood said, standing beside the loom.
    Dagger gently pushes his two daughters forward to see the identical twins better. They wore only a simple purple tunic with black waist belts unadorned and dark brown leggings. In their hair, they wore unadorned brown barrettes on both sides of their head. It was a sudden change in their youthful attire that disappointed Lavender Blood. “Luna and Star, meet Flower and Petal. They’re staying with us then with Lily Petal. Dagger, do you know of any sorcerers that are looking for a beautiful sorceress? I think that might cheer her up even more along with these two girls’ gifts.”
    The adults left the four children to their own company but the two sorceresses kept their distance and went back to work on their shawl. “Do you want to go out in the garden and play tag? Flower? Petal?” The twins shook their heads as they kept their eyes on the weaving they were doing at the same time. Luna and Star couldn’t tell the twins apart, even when they address each other by name.
    However, the twins knew who each other was and rarely did they show anybody the necklaces that told them apart. Flower wore preserved whole flowers around her neck and Petal wore the same preserved flower petals. They preserved them in different casings unlike those who preferred everything in amber.
    Meanwhile, Dagger took up Bone Staff’s duties with Lily Petal, who found her beautiful as his brother did but knew he had a mate. “Why don’t you dress up a little more, Lily Petal? You would be a proper sorceress in doing that then dressing like a simple mortal.” Lily Petal bristles at his statement then before he could put the food tray down, she place a hand under it and push it upwards at his face. Before he could recover, she deliver a hard kick to his stomach then another that double him over.
    “Tell me that again and it’ll be worse then before and twice as powerful.” Lily Petal said, sitting on the edge of the bed. Dagger got out of the room quick while biting his tongue. Talon Key didn’t see him and they collided that sent them both to the floor of the narrow stone hallway. “What happened to get food all over your face and collide with me? Answer me, you oaf of a servant!” Dagger struggles upright only to slip on a puddle of some liquid that had dripped off him.
    Talon Key clears his throat then waited for Dagger to answer him. “I insulted Lily Petal and that’s when she pushed the food tray up in my face and kicked me twice in the stomach. I just told her she’ll be more attractive dressing like a real sorceress then a simple mortal female.” Talon Key roughly grabs him by the throat then snarls in his face. “I do not need an insulted sorceress on our hands or our plan for this world won’t work. If I were you, I suggest you keep your mouth shut about her appearance and behavior.”
    Letting go of his Dagger’s throat, Talon Key threw him aside and before Dagger could get up, the cloaked employer used him as walking mat. “Tell my mate, I will be back around night.” Getting up painfully, Dagger made his way to the garden where his wife was sitting with her depressed sister.
    Upon seeing the gloomy expression on Dust Luna’s face, he knew his day got worse. “Bone Staff up and left when my sister started talking about having a family like we do. Even our own children are depressed because those two girls keep to those looms of theirs. They can’t even tell them apart!”
    Lavender Blood clears her throat before stepping out of her hiding spot she had been eavesdropping from. “Perhaps, Petal and Flower are being a bit withdrawn from this world at the time being.” Dust Luna wished she could see the cloaked female’s face but she wasn’t in the mood to talk to anybody.
    Bone Staff encountered his brother sitting by the large garden pond, nursing his injuries. “I assume your hurts were caused by Lily Petal. What did you say to he to do this?” Dagger told him everything and was taken aback as his brother laugh at him. “A stupid move, dear brother, really stupid to get this punishment and a promised second helping.”
    Meanwhile, Talon Key went into the nearest town for a young sorcerer that was looking for a sorceress. He headed toward libraries, universities, herb shops, and other places sorcerers were likely to converge.
    He had no such luck that he return home to the abandoned citadel.
    Lavender Blood waited till the two girls were done putting up their looms and things to startle them. “No weaving by the moonlight, dears.” They gave her a tired look then the cloaked female saw her opportunity. She took a step forward then when they had their backs turn to her, Lavender Blood roughly haul off the ground by their throats.
    “You two left Dagger’s children feeling unwelcome in your company. You’re not going to see Lily Petal so I suggest you watch your step around us.” It was then she saw the hidden necklaces that told the two apart. “So, this is how you tell each other apart. You wear necklaces no one else knows about until now.” Flower and Petal struggle to get free but Lavender Blood tighten her grip some.
    Talon Key watched from the curtained opening of the twin sorceresses. Lavender Blood would make a perfect mother but their plan had to happened first. “Excuse, love, let’s leave them to their thoughts before you crush their throats in your lovely grasp.” His mate lowers them slowly to the floor and walk out of the back bedchamber with a smile on her face. “Get some sleep, little ones. Tomorrow, you’ll be going with Talon Key on one of his strolls.”
    Lily Petal heard her prison door open and Talon Key enter with his hood down. “I assume this isn’t a causal visit, Talon Key. What do you want?” She never had seen his face before but he looked human. “As always, your perception of things proves true once again. I want to bring your attention to some things that had comes up.” She sat up on her bed but against the wall then on the edge.
    “We received two young sorceresses that came looking for you. They dressed like you but now, from what Lavender Blood told me, they quit dressing the part like you have. Second, Bone Staff has his assigned mate with him to keep him company. Unfortunately, he been pushing her aside leaving her feeling unwanted. Third, I been trying to find you an equal to make you happy. Finally, the time is drawing near for you to help us achieve our goal of cleansing this world.” Lily Petal felt her temper rise at Talon Key’s personal task of finding her an equal to share her life. “I have no need of a prophet or sorcerer to make me happy. As for the two sorceresses, you let go of them or release them to me. Heaven’s know, Lavender Blood will think of them as her own daughters.”
    Talon Key sat down on the edge of the bed then turns sideways to look at Lily Petal. “Lavender Blood and I been together for decades but secretly, she wanted daughters. These two girls make perfect daughters but they need to adjust to us. As for you, you been alone for a long time.” She couldn’t lash out at him, remembering last time he sent her flying across the ground when she was captured.
    “Why are you telling me this? I don’t need nobody but trusted friends that I can depend upon through thick and thin.” Talon Key detected the harshness in her words and smile. “It’s an odd thing that a sorceress or a powerful prophetess such as you would ask for so little in life.” She gave him a baleful look then heard the soft footsteps of his mate approaching. “Lavender Blood, in here with our charming prophetess.” He yells then look to see Lily Petal sitting in the chair where her cloaks sat unused.
    Lavender Blood saw her too and took a seat on the top step. Removing her hood, she ran her long fingers through her raven dark hair that shimmer in blues and greens. She had the most brilliant amethyst eyes that Lily Petal had ever seen. Talon Key’s eyes were also the most brilliant topaz eyes that she seen. Their face were well-sculpted as if chiseled from stone painted beige. God and goddess beauty radiated from their appearance but had no affect on her since she was prophetess of high ranking.
    Talon Key’s dark brown hair was long but he kept it braided back from the base of his skull. Lavender Blood wore hers loose about her shoulders that disappear beneath her cloak’s hood, no doubt draping over the full length of her back. “What are you really if not human at all?” The question caught them a little off guard but Lily Petal didn’t survive without getting to know who she was dealing with from their appearance to their personality. These two, now that she knew what they looked like as humans, Lily Petal took a guess that their personalities were just as colorful and dangerous as their strength proved the day they captured her.
    “We’re Human Masqueraders, part Masquerader and part Human but the two combine is a dangerous force to be reckoning with.” It was all they say afterwards leaving Lily Petal to her thoughts as they left quietly as they came.
    Petal and Flower woke to Luna and Star jumping on the bed. They had eager smiles on their faces and the two sisters were dressed up for something special. Lavender Blood enters shortly after in her usual cloak with a smile on her face. “Rise and shine, sleepyheads. I’m going to take you four on a special adventure. Petal and Flower, do wear your best attire. I don’t want you two looking like I just drag you along.”
    They got dress but not to Lavender Blood’s expectation for the outing. Petal was wearing pale shades of blue over cream with a thin leather belt undecorated. Flower wore pale shades of purple over ivory with the same identical belt, which resemble the same attire as her sister. The dresses were loose, lightweight cotton, quarter length sleeves lacking design, low V-shaped neckline revealing little of the cotton undershirt, and wrapped skirt stopped a little above their ankles. Their flats were simple as well, lacking the usual embellishments she normally seen on their other flats. It would have to do.
    Outside of the citadel, Lavender Blood called for Bone Staff. He emerges from some towering bushes with Dust Luna following after him and stops in front of them. “Why don’t you spend some time with your mate? Get to know her better then having her stumble after you such as you were doing now.” There was menace in her voice but he ignores it and waited till she was gone to leave his mate stumbling after him once more.
    “Bone Staff! Wait up, please!” Her pleas fell on deaf ears as Dagger walk around the corner with his mate laughing and smiling. Dagger saw him walk by him then saw Dust Luna sitting on the ground, her face buried in her hands. “I can’t believe this, he’s just leaves her here without giving her a second thought. Go comfort your sister, I’ll deal with my brother.” Dagger set off after Bone Staff and caught up with him walking away from the hidden citadel.
    Talon Key steps out from behind a tall erected rock in front of Bone Staff as Dagger was coming up behind his brother. “Bone Staff, stop where you are and hear your brother out. I don’t know what your problem is about your mate but she loves you and you just ignore her.” Bone Staff did stop but turn around to look upon his brother with disdain.
    He left to continue his stroll leaving the two brothers to talk amongst themselves in private.
    “We have no say in who is chosen for a mate, brother. Our leader just chooses one that best completes the other and that’s that. Dust Luna admires you for all you are on the inside but you chose not to acknowledge her as she wish you would. It’s like you gone cold and isolated yourself for some reason none of us could perceive. What is wrong with you?” Bone Staff’s thoughts turn to Lily Petal then replies “Dust Luna is just another face to me, not something attached to any memory but from what she did to me years ago. She treated me like I was an outcast all because I had the guts to be different from the rest. Lily Petal, she understands what its like to be an outcast along with the rest of her people that deals in magic. Just because Dust Luna matured and watched me from afar doesn’t change the fact that she was the one who left me to die when I refuse to let her join me on a hike.”
    Dagger didn’t know that about his brother or his mate. It would explain the rooted coldness toward Dust Luna but that was in the past. “Listen, it happened in the past, brother, let it go. She regrets doing it and wants to make up for it. As for Lily Petal, forget her and let Talon Key deal with her. He’s going to find her a mate to make a whole then a half.” Bone Staff’s anger rose as he push his brother away from him that he fell on his back. A dark scold came over his face as he tower above his brother. “She left me to die where there was a feeding ground for the dead. It was dangerous grounds for her because she never once step foot on bloody territory. Now, she wants a family to make it up to me for something unforgivable. I could had been food for the dead that clean up the land so the world didn’t have to suffer from the decaying flesh of men that spread disease. She should have thought with her head then her yearning heart!”
    Talon Key gave up the search for a mate for Lily Petal seeing that most of the young men in her category of people didn’t want a wife or already had one. He didn’t want her to do the task alone since it drain even the greatest prophetess to exhaustion.
    Dust Luna told her sister everything and Star Luna wanted to lecture her sister about the unforgivable mistake of the past. It clearly explain the hostility toward her for the scar remain a constant reminder of the past. There was no healing it for its mark had left a long smooth white scar upon the skin while beneath the torn muscles heal to their full strength. “You should have left him alone; he was just warning you that it wasn’t safe.”
    She knew her sister spoke the truth but the youth of her past wanted to go with him so badly that she would have risked life and limb. Their people were only servants in the eyes of established colonies with humanoid appearance that lean both bestial and human. Each had the eye color of blue or green that went with their pale or fair skin. Their built lean (male) and petite (female) with long limbs and abilities to go full beast that border the appearance of werewolf on all fours with a huge wolf-like stage of pure black or white.
    They slept in caves, under the stars, travel like nomads, endure even the strongest weather in any season, and kept strictly to themselves. Their only possessions were their lives, family, weapons, and other material things inside a storage crystal kept hidden in handmade satchels. They were not an established colony but servants that had no choice in who was their mate and who they served.
    Perhaps, Bone Staff was right about each of them unconsciously establishing an identity for themselves despite the lifestyle they lived. It wasn’t a sin or a crime but seeing themselves as individuals while as one whole breed of people. Just realizing this, she felt tears run down her cheeks as her sister held her close once again. It took her this long to figure out that Bone Staff had been trying to achieve but knew it would only to light inside his mind just like hers but never in the real world that was coming upon the horizon.
    As for the two sorceresses, Lavender Blood notice that most were looking at Luna and Star then them. Mostly, they were consider tagalongs behind the smiling daughters of Star Luna and Dagger. They kept quiet and withdrawn even when the kindest voice commented nicely on their appearance. Their long hair unadorned and braided back in a simple braid that was still over their spines.
    When they stopped to eat, Luna and Star were offered more choices of food and drink then the other two who sat back in the shadows. Eventually, people started to notice them and did the same but at half the choices leaving Lavender Blood to wonder if she should have made them change before she left. She saw them as her daughters and Talon Key failed in his search for a mate for Lily Petal.
    “Excuse me, Lavender Blood, your two adopted daughters, are they feeling well?” She looks at them then replies, sweetly, “they’re just a little glum about something and well, they won’t tell me so I’m letting them work it out on their own. Anyways, its best for children to figure things out on their own and if they get stump, they’ll ask for help from us adults.”
    Flower looks up from her water untouched in a plain wooden cup at Lavender Blood. She wanted to say something but Petal quietly put a hand on her sister’s arm and shook her head. The man nod his head and left the five to themselves as others disperse from the quaint tavern. They were heading back to work leaving them and the tavern’s staff to keep them company.
    The barmaids were older then them but look more upon Star and Luna. However, they dare not whisper an ill word about the other two as their cloaked leader kept a sharp eye on them. When everyone had their fill, they left with Lavender Blood leaving behind a big tip.
    Talon Key came back from his walk to check up on Lily Petal. She was sound asleep when he enters her prison. The rest of the room was barren and the cloaks were gone from the back of the chair. He checked the wardrobe and saw them hanging neatly on hooks. Yet, one of them, hung laden in the shadows. A book corner stuck out of the outside pocket facing him and he removes it. Turning the book over in his hands, Talon Key opened it to see an old hand drawn picture of a young man. Behind it, the same young man but sitting close to a younger Lily Petal.
    She was smiling with her long hair draping about her full sorceress attire. She must have passed her lessons when it was drawn for part of a badge could be seen under the veil of hair. On the next page, there were several spells that he had never seen or heard of before. Her cursive script was fine and slanted making it hard to read but he could make out a few distinct letters and symbols.
    Lily Petal stirs on the bed but didn’t wake as Talon Key continue to look through the hand bound book. There were pages sometimes with strange spells, drawings, maps, unreadable poetry but nothing relating to the young man in the hand drawn picture. Who was he, this mysterious face from the past?
    Lavender Blood returns to see her mate still in Lily Petal’s prison, reading something. Quietly, she went over to him and asks “what are you reading?” He showed her everything in the book then brought out the drawing of the young man. “She’s knows who this is but didn’t write it down for some strange reason. Yet, here she is with him somewhere in a rose garden. There part of a badge under the veil of hair but not enough to judge accurately what type of badge it is.” Lavender Blood took a closer look at the drawing then shook her head.
    Talon Key looks at her then place the drawings back in their proper places. “I think from what little I could see of it, she went to an University for scholars. It’s not of the basic design but that of a higher class of Scholars.” He nods his head then replace the book back into the pocket the way he found it. They left the room quietly as Lily Petal continued to sleep soundly.
    Bone Staff and Dust Luna had separate rooms since the root of their problem had been unearthed. He slept most of the time leaving his mind to meditate on what to do next. Dust Luna felt cold and alone as she slept fitfully. Her sister and Dagger kept their distance in respect leaving their children to wonder why they couldn’t see aunt and uncle. As for Flower and Petal, they kept to their looms and weaving that the days that passed seem like a dream. A dream that gave nothing but isolation to them. They had withdrawn deep within themselves and nourished their bodies when they needed to.
    In short, all knew that the closing days weren’t going to be easy. There was a veil of silence around them, cutting them off from the ones they imprisoned.
    As the days of waiting came to an end, Talon Key roughly hauls Lily Petal from her prison. Lavender Blood kept the two sisters confined to the backroom with the help of Dagger and his wife. Their children tried to urge the sisters to wear their full sorceress attire but failed each time.
    As a result, they weren’t allowed to see Lily Petal and given food and drink. Bone Staff accompanied Talon Key to where the ceremony would take place as Lily Petal sat on the ground in her full prophetess attire. Lavender Blood joins them as night drew near, hood off and revealing her face.
    Lily Petal pushed her thoughts and memories to the back of her mind as Talon Key placed a large black orb in front of her. Around her neck, under the layered top, a palmed size pendant hung from a silver chain in its raw form. It was a quartz crystal given to her from an old friend. Regretting doing this ritual silently, she did without Talon Key or Lavender Blood urging her. Bone Staff watched her with concealed concern as he kept still beside Talon Key.
    At first, nothing seemed to change around them in the opened moonlight meadow till Bone Staff saw a creature emerge from some bushes. It was followed by another of ancient origins. The black orb had been a prison to these dark creatures of legend and now they were free to claim the land once again. This time, they wouldn’t ravaged the land but oversee its previous forest inhabitants.
    Lily Petal closes her eyes as he caught her before she hit the ground. Bone Staff gently picks her up in his arms as Talon Key and Lavender Blood addresses their loyal subjects. They were four out of seven key balances in the changed world now leaving the rest to live like regular inhabitants. Yet, they were connected by some origin of time and place.