Somewhere deep down, Kale knew it had to be a dream. Her life had never been this beautiful, so full of light and song and laughter. Apparently even she was not immune from the siren magic of the Dreamfields.
As Kale's vision cleared, she could see the Friendship Ring laid out before her, full of Avalon's noble families gathered to witness the most magical ceremony in the Kingdom.
It was her turn in the Circle of Friendship.
Kale's younger sister Anya stood by her side underneath the rose-covered arch leading into the Circle, smiling as the great wizard Merlin began to speak.
"Welcome friends," he said, addressing the crowd. "Tonight, the Circle of Friendship continues to turn, as one of our Enchanted Jewels is handed down to a new generation of Jewel Riders." His voice was warm and inviting, like a kindly grandfather's. "But this is also the time in which the Sun Stone will shine its light on one of our two princesses, who will use its magic to lead New Camelot and Avalon forward."
"It will pick you, of course," Anya whispered with a little giggle into Kale's ear. It was true, of course. The Sun Stone nearly always picked the eldest child to inherit the kingdom. Still, Kale felt a knot of worry in her stomach. What if it doesn't pick me? What will all of my training have been for?
"Well, I certainly hope it picks you anyway. I certainly don't want to be Queen," Anya said, as if she had been able to hear Kale's private thoughts.
"Princess Kale, Princess Anya, please come forward," Merlin said, as the musicians began to play. Kale's lavender gown rustled lightly in the cool evening breeze, and Anya's matching blue dress did the same. The princesses looked similar in other ways, sharing their mother's high cheekbones and delicate features as well as their father's impressive height. But Kale's raven tresses always set her apart from Anya's golden hair.
Kale and Anya climbed the steps of the central platform to stand by Merlin. Arrayed before them was a large selection of magical animals ready to become the bonded friend to the new Queen. Kale saw several unicorns, a large purple panther, jewel-horned antelope, and even a griffin. But most impressive of all was the large red dragon. Thanks to her studies, Kale could tell he wasn't full grown, but oh, what an impressive creature he would be!
Turning back to Merlin, Kale saw the Sun Stone suspended in the air over a small pedestal. It gave off pulses of warm magic. Merlin had explained what would happen next. First, the wizard motioned Anya forward. She gingerly removed the Sun Stone off the pedestal before proceeding down from the raised platform.
Anya held up the glowing jewel as each of the animals bowed in their turn. The crowd waited with bated breath for the Sun Stone to shine its magic and bond princess and animal. But Anya made it through all the animals without the stone lighting up. She gave a small shrug before returning to the platform and setting the jewel back afloat over the pedestal.
"And now you, Princess Kale," Merlin said.
Kale swallowed and nodded, picking up the Sun Stone. The jewel felt pleasantly warm in her hand, and sent a small tingle up her arm. Gliding down the steps, she held the jewel up to a black unicorn.
No response. Kale moved through the line, repeating the process with a pink unicorn, the purple panther, and the jewel-horned antelope, all with the same response. Her palms were beginning to sweat. All that remained was the great red dragon.
Holding the Sun Stone aloft, the dragon bowed his head before Kale. The tingling spread from Kale's arm through her whole body, and the Sun Stone let off a great jet of light, bathing the dragon and Kale in warm, golden magic. The magic swirled and caressed Kale, leaving behind fiery red jewel armor behind in its place.
Greetings Princess Kale. I am Grim. Kale heard the dragon's voice booming in her head. It is an honor to stand beside the future Queen of Avalon.
"And it is an honor to meet such a magnificent dragon as yourself," Kale replied, before the crowd erupted in cheers and Anya was running toward her, sweeping Kale into a huge hug.
The colors of Kale's dream began to bleed, like a watercolor painting in a rainstorm. The scene shifted from her Friendship Ring Ceremony to the scene of a Craft Faire. Her arm rested in the crook of a tall man with long brown hair.
"What was so important that it couldn't wait, Jared?" she asked playfully. The sun was warm as they strolled by the aisles and booths selling everything from carved wooden flutes to delectable bubbleberry pies.
Kale marveled at the glittering green Forest Stone hanging around Jared's neck. He was the second son of the Duke of Kingston, and now the leader of the Knights of Avalon. And Kale was thinking of asking him to consider becoming King.
It wasn't such a strange thought. Jared was certainly handsome, not to mention kind and very, very funny. Before he had even been chosen by the Forest Stone, Jared had been to dinner several times with Kale and Anya, and was their fast friend. That friendship had only deepened once he'd taken up residence in the Crystal Palace. But Kale very much hoped he felt something more for her.
Jared settled Kale underneath a large shaded oak tree, and then returned with two mugs of punch. From their vantage point, Kale could see happy couples twirling on the dance floor while the band piped a merry tune. She briefly allowed herself to see a mental image of her and Jared out there before returning to the present conversation.
Jared suddenly turned red with embarrassment. "It's a…delicate subject, my Queen."
Kale took a long sip of her punch, then smiled at him. "You know you may always speak freely with me, Jared."
"Well, then I'll be frank," he replied. "I'm interested in getting married."
Kale played along, raising one eyebrow. "Oh, and who might this fortunate lady be? Anyone I may perhaps be acquainted with?"
"Oh, you're more than acquainted with her. She is your sister, after all," he said with a chuckle.
It was as if Kale was suddenly, violently removed from her own body. Dark spots appeared in her vision, and it was rapidly becoming very hard to breathe, as if there was a huge weight suddenly on her chest. The sound of roaring water filled her ears.
"M-my sister?" she finally sputtered.
Jared looked at her with concern in his eyes. "I say, Kale, are you quite all right? Your face is terribly pale." He laid a broad hand across her forehead. "You're burning up with fever!" he exclaimed. "I'm taking you to the court physician straight away!"
Kale had the vague sensation of being picked up and carried, then checked and examined. However, it was as if time itself had lost all relevance, speeding up and slowing down in conjunction. When the pain in her chest began to ease and the spots clear from her vision, she looked up into the face of Anya staring down at her in concern, tears streaming down her face.
"Oh Kale, I'm so sorry!" Anya cried, clasping Kale's hand. "I told Jared not to ask you yet, that I wanted to tell you myself," she continued, wiping tears away.
"Anya, stop all that sniveling," Kale choked out. "I'm not mad at either of you," she said with a deep sigh. "My pride is wounded, but that is all. Just tell me…how long have your two been together without telling me? I think I deserve that much at the very least."
Dabbing her eyes with a cloth, Anya began. "It started last winter at the Yuletide Ball. We danced, and…" She closed her eyes, clasping her hands over her heart. "And I felt a lightness come over me." Looking her sister straight in the eyes then, Anya said, "And it hasn't gone away yet, Kale."
Kale allowed a few moments to pass. A thousand bitter retorts stood at the edge of her tongue, ready to leap forth and cause their damage. Kale felt the same way about Jared that Anya did, after all. But the fact of the matter was, Jared didn't love her. He loved Anya, and who was Kale to stand in the way of love, though it might leave her with pain. Anya was her only family left, and as older sister and Queen of Avalon, she had the duty to make sure her little sister was happy.
Kale took Anya in a deep embrace. "Then my royal decree is to make sure that feeling never leaves between the two of you. Make it up to me by being happy, Anya," she whispered, her voice catching slightly.
The colors bled again, and Kale caught quick images, as though walking down a long hall filled with tapestries. She saw herself walking a radiant Anya down the aisle at her wedding, the gallant Jared waiting at the end. Lights twinkled at the reception. Happy picnics and festivals passed between the three of them, and over time the pain lessened until one day Kale realized it had completely disappeared.
Scenes shifted, and Kale found herself cradling her newborn niece. Anya was propped up on a large stack of pillows on the bed, with Jared hovering nearby. Anya's purple panther Wintermane was curled up beside her, providing comfort and support to the princess.
Kale looked down at the tiny girl and wondered if she had ever felt so much love for anything in all of Avalon. "What will you name her?" she asked her sister and brother-in-law. "I am due to announce the child's birth before the day's end, you know. No pressure."
"We were thinking of Blanchefleur, like grandmother," Anya replied, before chuckling, "Though Jared is less than fond of that selection."
"If you have any ideas, the floor is still open to suggestions," Jared said. "And believe me, anything helps."
Kale thought for a while as she spun around the room with the little princess. The sunlight caught the wisps of the baby's golden hair, setting it aglow. Kale was reminded of the greatest queen in Avalon's history, another flaxen-haired maiden.
"How about Gwenevere, like Camelot's last queen?" she suggested.
Jared smiled. "Say, that has a nice ring to it – Princess Gwenevere."
Anya looked thoughtful for a moment as Kale placed the child back into her arms. "You know, sister? I think that might be perfect," she said with a smile.
"Then it's official," Kale replied, taking out a quill and writing the baby's new name on her Record of Birth before dripping wax on the document and pressing the royal seal into it.
Kale kissed her sister cheek and hugged Jared before leaving the room. In the hallway, she found Merlin meditating quietly on one of the plush benches while his familiar – the owl Archimedes - paced the stone floors.
"Dooh, Queen Kale!" the little owl exclaimed, tugging on his red brocade waistcoat and adjusting his spectacles. "Is everything all right? Is the baby healthy and well?"
"Yes, Archie, the new Princess Gwenevere is healthy and well, though I don't think it would hurt if Merlin looked her over."
Merlin opened his eyes and looked straight at Kale. "I would be happy to, my Queen. But first I must make sure my other charge is properly looked after."
"What other charge, Merlin?" Kale asked, confused by the old wizard.
Merlin smiled the knowing smile of a wizard. "Why, you of course. Now help me up from this bench, dear."
Kale assisted Merlin up, and they began their stroll down the hallway, Archie fluttering behind.
"And in what way do I require looking after, Merlin?" Kale asked.
Merlin stopped briefly and leaned on his jewel-topped walking stick. "Will you be all right with the fact that the young princess is now next in line for the throne if you bear no children?"
Kale paused a few paces past Merlin. "Merlin, I am simply happy for my sister and her husband. If I never marry or bear a prince or princess of my own, I would still be proud to see my niece take the throne."
"Then that is all I need to know," the wizard replied as he began walking again.
They arrived at a set of double doors leading out onto one of the Crystal Palace's balconies. Two burly guards quickly opened the doors as Kale strode out into the warm sunlight, followed by Merlin and Archie. Below them, a crowd of people had gathered waiting for news of the new royal birth.
Kale held up the Record of Birth before the audience. "People of Avalon!" she said, as Merlin did a small spell to amplify her voice to carry across the crowd. "We are blessed with the birth of a healthy princess, and her name is Gwenevere!"
The world shifted again, and Kale saw herself walking out of the palace toward Grim and her dragon wagon. Gwenevere, who now appeared to be about eight or nine, was beside her grinning from ear to ear.
"Oh Auntie Kale, I'm so excited!" the young princess nearly squealed. "I can't believe Mom finally let me come with you in the dragon wagon!"
"There's nothing for her to be worried about with a flyover of the Forests of Arden, after all," Kale replied to her niece. "It's not like we're going to Dragon Beach!" She then bent down to Gwen's level, "Though we'll have to do that sometime when she's away on an excavation," Kale said in a conspiratorial whisper.
Gwen laughed. "Oh Auntie, do you think we'll see any Fairy Wraiths? I want to see their beautiful dance so much," she added wistfully.
"Who knows? The dance of the Fairy Wraiths is said to be one of the most magical sights in Avalon, so perhaps we will get lucky and they'll come out for the Sun Stone?" Kale replied.
Gwen's eyes lit up at the thought. Kale loved nothing more that spoiling her niece. She boosted Gwen up into the dragon wagon's seat before climbing in herself. If Kale was traveling alone, she would have been more than happy to ride on Grim's back, enjoying the flexing of the dragon's muscles as his powerful wings carried them through the skies. But traveling with anyone else required the use of the dragon wagon
"Take us up, Grim," Kale said to the great red dragon as he clasped the perch atop the dragon wagon and lifted it into the air. Gwenevere hung onto the railing surrounding the open cabin and gazed down in amazement as they left the earth behind and swept over the Crystal Palace, which sparkled with sunlight hitting its faceted surfaces.
Soon, they left New Camelot behind and began following the path of the River Avon as it traced its source back to Sugar Mountain. They wouldn't be flying that far, however. The Forest of Arden was only a few leagues outside of New Camelot. Though it was a pleasant summer day, the air was chill up so high, and Kale wrapped a shawl around Gwenevere to keep her warm.
"Do you like what you see, Gwen?" Kale asked her niece.
Gwen turned to her aunt and smiled. "Oh yes, Auntie! I want to be a Jewel Rider and fly around just like you when I grow up!"
"Well, if you study hard with Merlin and your mom, I have no doubt you'll have an enchanted jewel of your very own one day," Kale replied, smiling at Gwen. As Kale took her seat again, she wondered if Gwen would end up with the Sun Stone as her own enchanted jewel. After all, if Kale never married, Gwenevere was the next member of the royal family in line for the throne.
While Kale ruminated on life, the dragon wagon soared over the southeastern edge of the Forest of Arden. A lush green canopy spread below them like a carpet, and Kale glimpsed a small herd of deer grazing peacefully in an open meadow.
Their peaceful reverie was broken by a loud roar that sent flocks of birds soaring up above the trees. Kale was shocked – had there been a wild magic outbreak here? Arden was generally one of the most peaceful places in all of Avalon. She had better investigate.
"Gwen dear, get in the seat and strap in – we're going to investigate that roar!" Kale said. She clasped the Sun Stone on her belt and held it aloft. "By the magic of the Sun Stone!" Magic swirled around Kale and Grim, cloaking them in jewel armor.
Kale held the golden jewel in front of them. "Sun Stone strong with heaven's light, take us to the source of fright!" The jewel shot a beam of light out toward the place where Kale had seen all the birds flying out of. "Dive Grim, dive!" Kale cried as the dragon wagon sped toward the disturbance. In moments she saw the cause.
A young boy with blonde hair was caught in a trap, surrounded by a menacing group of bandits. Kale was suddenly filled with righteous fury – human trafficking was illegal in Avalon. "Take us down, Grim!" she yelled, before casting an invisibility spell on Gwenevere and hiding her underneath the seat. Grim roared as the dragon wagon landed, smoke coming out of his nostrils and flames licking the edges of his mouth.
Kale let off a couple of warning shots from the Sun Stone as she leapt from the wagon. "This is Queen Kale of Avalon – I command that you stop this activity immediately and surrender yourselves!"
One of the bandits yelped as the beam of light struck near his feet, leaving a scorched mark on the forest floor. He turned to his companions and said, "I don't care what the witch says – no boy is worth facing down a Jewel Rider!" The others seemed to agree, because they fled off into the depths of the forest. Kale sent a few wide shots from the Sun Stone after them, but was more concerned with the boy.
As she approached him, the child seemed to shrink back from her, covering his face with his hands. Kale could see he was grasping something tightly in one of his fists that hung on a cord around his neck. "Stay away from me!" he said, a note of terror in his voice.
"Shh, I'm not going to hurt you," Kale said, bending down to the boy's level. "I'm a Jewel Rider – I'm here to help you," she added.
The boy slowly looked up at her through a haze of pain. "What's a Jewel Rider?" he asked.
Kale arched an eyebrow. She had never run into anyone in Avalon who didn't know the Jewel Riders. Could this boy be an escaped slave? "A Jewel Rider uses good magic to protect Avalon," she said with a smile, holding the Sun Stone out. The jewel gave off calming, cheerful pulses of light. "Now, I'm going to get you out of this trap."
Kale concentrated on the Sun Stone's magic, forming it into an expanding wave between the jaws of the trap, slowly pushing it open. Where the metal jaws came away from the boy's leg, there was raw and bleeding skin. As soon as his leg was free, the boy quickly pulled it out of the trap and tried to stand up and escape. Letting out a cry of pain, the boy collapsed into a dead faint.
"Gwen dear, please bring me the bandages from the healer's box," Kale called back to the dragon wagon. Gwenevere appeared moments later with the bandage rolls.
"Oh Auntie Kale you were wondering against the bandits! Is he all right? What's his name? Why were they after him?" Gwenevere said with barely a breath between questions.
Kale chuckled, "I haven't the faintest idea, child. But I'm hoping Merlin will be able to help me." Kale passed the Sun Stone over the injured leg, removing any traces of infection and reducing the redness and swelling before wrapping it up in the bandages. What I wouldn't give for Charity and her Heart Stone right now – she would have this leg completely healed.
Kale picked up the boy and loaded him into the back of the dragon wagon before helping Gwen up. "Gwen darling, stay with the boy in the back and keep an eye on him." Climbing into the front of the wagon, Kale looked at Grim. "To Merlin's, Grim. As fast as your wings will carry us."
Merlin's cottage was just on the outskirts of the Crystal Palace grounds – far enough away for the wizard's privacy, but close enough to be available when he was needed. The dragon wagon made a smooth landing beside the house before Archie burst out of the door.
"Doohoo, Queen Kale! What's the matter?" the excitable owl asked.
"We found this boy in the Forest of Arden being hunted by some no good bandits," Kale replied.
Archie gave a loud squawk. "How terrible – imagine, such ruffians hiding out in Avalon! Why bring the boy here though?"
"The queen brought him to us because of what that child carries, Archimedes," Merlin said, appearing in the doorway.
Kale nodded before picking up the child and following Merlin into the cottage. As always, the place was a complete disaster – maps, scrolls, scientific instruments, and bubbling experiments lined every surface. She set the child in Merlin's large easy chair. "Gwen, watch the boy while I make some tea," Kale said. She bustled into Merlin's kitchen and pulled out a sweet herbal blend that would be restorative for the boy when he awoke.
Kale knew her way around Merlin's tiny kitchen (having spent many hours under the wizard's tutelage after her parents' death). The cupboards were mostly bare, however, as Merlin usually took his meals in the palace dining rooms. Soon, the kettle was whistling, and Kale filled the teapot and found five mismatched clean cups and a tin of biscuits before taking the tea tray back into the cottage's main room.
She found Merlin and Archimedes crouched over the boy, with Gwen trying in vain to see over them. "Please back up and give him some space – this poor lad has had a rough day." As they parted, however, it was definitely not a boy that sat in the chair.
The creature still had long blonde hair, but his skin had been replaced by blue fur, hands by claws, and his face was slightly elongated into a snout. Kale noticed the cord missing from around his neck, though, and she saw why as Merlin held a leaf-shaped golden jewel that was attached to it.
"I thought all the Enchanted Jewels were accounted for, Merlin," Kale asked, pushing some books aside on the coffee table and setting down the tray.
The wise wizard nodded. "They are indeed, my Queen."
"Then what, pray tell, is this?" she asked, gesturing to the golden leaf jewel.
Merlin gave her a piercing gaze. "Something far, far older and more dangerous," he replied. "This is one of the lost jewels of the great wizards."
Kale's eyebrow rose at that. "But you are the only wizard, Merlin."
He simply shook his head. "At one time, Queen Kale, there were many wizards."
"What happened to them, then? Why has nobody ever heard of them?" Kale pressed.
Merlin gingerly draped the jewel around the beast boy's neck, and they gazed in awe as his blue fur disappeared, to be replaced with smooth, human skin. The old wizard tucked the jewel back inside the boy's shirt. Kale wondered why he would simply return such a priceless artifact to this strange beast boy, but she knew by this point to not question her mentor too closely about such things.
Merlin looked pointedly at Gwen, watching over the boy but obviously hanging on their every word. "Princess, please go with Archimedes and fetch some cool water from the stream," Merlin asked. Once Gwenevere had left, he continued, "Because they all either died during the Great Wizarding War over a thousand years ago or were banished to the Wild Magic for their crimes."
"I gather they weren't a very pleasant bunch," Kale said. "So you sentenced the evil wizards to the Wild Magic for their crimes?"
"What makes you think I was there, child?" Merlin asked.
"Call it a queen's intuition," Kale replied as she poured a cup of the tea and handed the saucer to Merlin. "You've said Anya and I were some of your best students, so obviously you know we poked around your library when you left on errands."
Merlin simply smiled. "And something you found there caught your interest?"
Kale took a sip of her tea before continuing. "There's a case of maps behind your bookcase. They each have a jewel marked on them; I didn't know what they were then, but now I realize they're something to do with the ancient wizards. You wouldn't hide it if you didn't have something to cover up."
"I trust you understand why I kept it secret?" Merlin asked.
Kale nodded. "Naturally. Were word to get out that you deposed the ancient wizards, the people might lose trust in you."
"The people, but not you?" Merlin probed.
"Of course not – I see what you do for Avalon on a daily basis. Your work with the Crown Jewels keeps the magic of Avalon good and focused. We'd be lost without that," Kale said. "Besides, everyone has secrets they'd rather not tell. And yours is safe with me."
"Thank you, my queen," Merlin said, letting out a sigh just as Gwen returned with the bucket of water. The young princess took a cool rag and bathed the boy's forehead. He began to stir, and his eyes fluttered open.
"Golden…flower…" he said in a weak voice, reaching out toward Gwenevere.
Gwen giggled. "I'm not a flower, silly. My name is Princess Gwenevere." The boy sat up slowly, transfixed by Gwen as she helped him up. Only when he was finally sitting up in the armchair did the boy's eyes take in the cottage, Merlin, Archie, and Kale. He tensed and backed into the chair as far as he could go.
"You have nothing to fear from us, child," Merlin said. Kale could recognize a simple calming spell woven into Merlin's words. The boy visibly relaxed, and Gwen took his hand to help calm him. "My name is Merlin, this lovely lady is Queen Kale, and Princess Gwenevere is her niece. And the distinguished owl getting into the tin of biscuits is Archimedes," the wizard said, indicating each member of their small group. "What is your name?"
"Rrrian," the boy said, and Kale could have sworn the first part of the word was a little growl.
"Your name is Ian?" Merlin pressed. The boy's face reddened, and he simply nodded an affirmative. "Very well, Ian – can you tell me why those bandits were after you?"
Kale saw the boy involuntarily clench his shirt and feel the hard outline of the jewel beneath. How in Avalon did second rate bandits know where to find a Wizard Jewel? Kale thought to herself.
"Ian, we know you carry something very important," Merlin said.
Ian's eyes flashed with anger and fear. "You can't have it! It's mine!" he said, leaping up onto the back of the chair and puffing out his chest.
"Calm down, my child," Merlin replied, his voice laced with the calming spell again. "We're not going to take your jewel away."
"You're not?" he answered. The fear suddenly drained away, leaving Ian looking a little deflated.
Kale wasn't sure where Merlin was going with this. It obviously wasn't safe for Ian to hold onto such an ancient valuable artifact, even if it did allow him to look human.
"What I propose is a trade," Merlin ventured. "In exchange for your jewel, I will use my magic to give you one wish."
Ian thought about it for a minute, his small face screwed up in fierce concentration. Finally, he said in a very small voice, "Could you bring back my parents?"
Merlin gave the boy a sad, knowing look. "Some things are even beyond my power, my young friend."
Ian crawled back down off the top of the chair and curled up in the seat next to Gwenevere. "The jewel couldn't either…" he said.
"Do you have any other…family, Ian?" Kale asked. He may be a magical beast boy, but Ian was still one of her subjects. Kale felt a certain sense of responsibility toward the child after pulling him from the trap's metal jaws.
He shook his blonde head. "Only the Fairy Wraiths."
Gwen perked up instantly. "Oh, you know Fairy Wraiths? I'd love to…" she started excitedly before being cut off by a withering look from Kale.
"Now's not the time Gwenevere. We're trying to help Ian here," she said dryly.
Merlin looked thoughtful for a moment. "Ian, I may not be able to bring back your parents, but what if I could make you human without you needing the jewel?"
His eyes got wide. "You could do that?" His eyes got suspicious. "How did you know I need the jewel?"
"I am a wizard, my young friend – don't underestimate my powers of magical perception," Merlin replied with a chuckle. The real question is would you like me to try?"
Ian nodded as he took the golden leaf jewel off, reverting to his blue-furred body. Merlin held out his hand, and Ian reluctantly placed the jewel into it. Merlin then took a jeweled key from the sleeve of his robe. "You may feel a little funny, my boy, but stay still while I work the spell," Merlin said.
"Jewel of magic, field and wood, give a kindness to this boy, grant his one heart's true request, turn the key to find his joy," Merlin said, as he placed the tip of the jeweled key to the golden leaf and gave it a quarter turn. Immediately, a swirl of magical light shot from the jewel and alighted on Ian. It raised him up from the chair and levitated him a few feet off the ground. The magical light suffused his body, and as Kale watched in awe his claws retracted, his fur disappeared, and Ian was left as a human boy.
"Fancy bit of magic," Kale said, looking over at Merlin.
"The Jewel of Arden was slightly tuned to him – I simply tapped into its power," the old wizard said with a chuckle.
For his part, Ian was feeling all over his body, a grin as wide as the River Avon on his face. "You really did it! Thank you!" he said, launching himself at Merlin in a huge hug.
"You're quite welcome, my child," Merlin said with a laugh. "But now we must find you somewhere to stay in New Camelot."
"That's already been decided," Kale said, before draining her cup of tea. "If he wants to, Ian will live with me in the Crystal Palace as my royal ward."
"Dooh! That's very generous, my queen!" Archimedes said.
Merlin's eyebrow arched. "I agree – very generous indeed."
Ian's eyes were huge again. "Are you sure it's okay?"
"Of course my dear – I wouldn't have offered it otherwise. You have no home or family, and I am short on that commodity as well. Plus, my niece could use someone her own age to befriend," Kale said. She looked at the boy with a smile on her face. "I don't think it will be easy for either of us, but it feels like the right decision."
"Oh, thank you!" Ian said, launching himself from Merlin to Kale.
Kale's dream seemed to bleed colors again, and she saw windows into a beautiful life slip by. Ian was the child she had always dreamed of having – adventurous, kind, and loyal. She saw birthday celebrations, balls, and adventures all over Avalon. Ian became like a nephew to Jared and Anya as well, who both grew to love the boy. Whispers spread over the kingdom that he might one day marry Princess Gwenevere. Kale found herself hoping those rumors would come true.
The scene shifted again, and Kale found herself in the Jewel Keep of New Camelot, high atop the Crystal Palace. She was joined by Merlin, her sister Anya, and Ian.
"I've spent the last several years studying this jewel, Merlin," Anya said as she adjusted some of the control rods on the central operations module in the middle of the Jewel Keep, "and I'm telling you it shares many properties with the Forest Stones."
Merlin raised an eyebrow. "I designed the Forest Stones, though, and I can tell you I didn't have this jewel around for comparison when I did."
Anya gave the old wizard a skeptical look. "That may be, but we know that like magic attracts and calls out to similar magic. It's conceivable that the Jewel of Arden was drawn to Avalon by the magic of the Forest Stones."
"Even if that is true, what good would it do?" Kale asked.
"And what am I doing here?" Ian added.
Anya gave them both sheepish looks. "I'm hoping that we might be able to use the Jewel of Arden to draw other Wizard Jewels to Avalon. And since the jewel is still tuned mostly to Ian, he is the best candidate to try reaching out with it."
Kale gave both Merlin and her sister a pointed look. "Is it…safe? For Ian and the kingdom?"
"Ian should be fine," Anya replied. "Merlin has consented to use the Crown Jewels to stabilize the Jewel of Arden's magic."
"The kingdom is a trickier question," Merlin added. "As I've told you, not all the ancient wizards were benevolent individuals. It would be dangerous if jewels that were tuned to evil wizards ended up landing in Avalon."
"But how will we ever learn any more about them otherwise?" Anya asked. Kale could see that Merlin had never gotten around to telling her sister the story of how he had banished the majority of the ancient wizards into the Wild Magic.
"Indeed," Kale said thoughtfully. "I will also add the magic of the Sun Stone, but at the first sign of trouble, I want you to shut it down," she said to Anya, who nodded her assent.
The next few minutes were a flurry of activity as Princess Anya made her final adjustments to the controls. Merlin then opened the Jewel Box containing the Crown Jewels of Avalon, and directed them in forming a containment field around Ian. Even as Queen, Kale had only seen the Crown Jewels a handful of times, and was mesmerized by their magic glow.
Anya twisted a control rod, and a portal opened into the Wild Magic. Kale shot a beam of light from her Sun Stone, stabilizing the portal and blocking any stray Wild Magic from entering the Jewel Keep.
"Now, Ian," Anya said. "Send a call out into the Wild Magic with your jewel."
Ian took a deep gulp of breath before concentrating on the jewel. Thin, tentative tendrils of magic emerged, looking for all the world like misty vapors or smoke. They curled round each other, and Kale could see Ian was having a hard time controlling them. It was understandable – since he had become human five years ago, he hadn't had much time or use for the jewel.
Kale sent out a separate beam from the Sun Stone, creating a tunnel from the Jewel of Arden toward the Wild Magic portal. With nowhere else to go, the tendrils of magic wormed their way toward the portal before disappearing inside. Kale saw Ian let out a breath and wipe the sweat from his brow.
"Are you all right, Ian?" Kale asked with concern for her ward.
He nodded while taking big gulps of breath. "I feel Iike I just competed in a Craft Faire obstacle course," he said. "It wasn't at all like when I used to use the jewel as a little kid."
Merlin nodded. "That is to be expected. There, the jewel was simply reading your inner desire and granting it. It's much different from trying to make a jewel do what you want it to."
Anya whooped from her seat at the control module. "Success, people! Our magical call went into the Wild Magic!"
"What comes next?" Kale replied.
Anya simply shrugged as she patted Ian on the shoulder. "Now we wait for an answer."
They didn't have long to wait. Within a day, reports of a Wild Magic outbreak deep in the jungle had reached Kale. "Are you happy, sister?" Kale asked, only somewhat petulantly as she climbed into Grim's saddle. They were gathered at the Travel Tree ring closest to the Crystal Palace. "I get to clean up this mess that you began."
"I'd be happier if I could go with you," Anya said with regret. "Just try to bring the jewel back in one piece - and don't get yourself hurt either," she added, almost as an afterthought. Anya turned to Argent and Charity, holders of the Moon and Heart Stones respectively, who had joined them. "Both of you be careful as well! And keep Jared out of trouble," she said with a wink at her husband who had just arrived on the back of his great wolf Goliath.
"I rather think I'll be the one keeping them out of trouble," Jared replied, before kissing his wife goodbye. Turning to Kale, he reported, "The rest of the Pack is staying to protect New Camelot, per your orders."
"Not ready to let young Drake on a real mission yet?" Charity asked with a giggle as she mounted her pegasus Morning Glory.
"He'll be a fine leader for the Pack one day," Jared admitted, "but that day is definitely not at hand today."
Argent quirked an eyebrow and pulled a lock of white hair behind her pointed elven ear. "I thought he was making real progress during field exercises last week. He nearly beat Aquilon and I during the final leg of the race," she said, patting her black unicorn's neck.
Jared simply snorted. "I think you're giving him a bit too much credit there, Argent – you and Aquilon have yet to be beat in that race for the last five seasons."
"I realize you're all excited to see each other and catch up after your long assignments," Kale interjected, "but we really must be getting underway before the entire jungle goes haywire."
Anya remounted Wintermane. "Merlin and I will be in the Jewel Keep monitoring your magical signatures. Call me if anything comes up and we'll send Drake and Josh out to your position."
"I think we can handle a little Wild Magic outbreak on our own," Charity said. "We're not exactly new out of the Friendship Ring."
"I know you can," Kale said. "But we could be dealing with a Wizard Jewel in Avalon for the first time in centuries. I want everyone to be on their guard. Now suit up people! By the magic of the Sun Stone!" Kale said, as the warm magic washed over her, leaving jewel armor in its wake.
"By the magic of the Moon Stone! By the magic of the Heart Stone! By the magic of the Forest Stone!" Argent, Charity, and Jared said in turn as the magic of their own jewels surrounded them, armoring the trio for their flight through the Wild Magic.
"We call upon the Travel Trees," Kale said. "Please take us to the southern jungles!"
The great trees took on their crystalline forms before speaking back to Kale. "We will try, Queen Kale. But there is a great disturbance in our tree tracks in that area!"
"We know," Charity said, pulling Glory up next to Grim. "We'd like to help in any way possible."
A shimmering, undulating magical portal appeared in the center of the tree ring. "Jewel Riders, let's ride!" Kale said, as Grim flew into the portal. Wild Magic sped past the quartet as they raced through the Travel Tree Tunnel.
But all was not well within the magic.
"Kale, do you see that dark area up ahead?" Argent asked as Aquilon sailed closer to Grim.
"Aye," Kale responded. It looked as though many of the magic tendrils had turned black. "Everyone, pull in tight. Charity, give us a shield!" Kale ordered. A pink bubble spread out from the Heart Stone, encompassing them all, and not a moment too soon. The closer they got to the end of the Travel Tree Tunnel, the magic turned inky and black, sloshing against Charity's protective bubble like horrible black waves.
"The magic's gone totally out of control!" Jared said. "I can't even see the tunnel's exit!"
"Leave that to me," Kale said. Raising her Sun Stone, she said, "When our paths grow dark and cold, Sun Stone lead with light of gold!" The Sun Stone emitted a beam of intense light, cutting through the black magic and leading toward the exit. "Follow me!" Kale said. Grim swooped and dived for the tunnel's exit portal as the magic tried to surround them again. Kale pushed the rest of her team into the portal before going through herself. And it hadn't been a moment too soon, as the black magic had begun to push against the power of her Sun Stone.
Emerging into the Travel Tree Ring, Kale saw all three of her compatriots had taken off their jewel armor and were breathing heavily.
"I have never seen anything like that," Argent said gravely. "It was not simply Wild Magic, and I do not believe it to be a coincidence that it appeared right after the Wizard Jewel landed back in Avalon."
Kale nodded. "You're probably right, Argent. Jared, Charity, give me a report," she said.
The Heart and Forest Stone riders had combined their magic, and were sending pulses out in every direction to get the lay of the land and any creature positions. Charity shook her head, red-auburn hair cascading over her shoulders. "I don't understand - the Jungle should be crawling with life! And I sense almost nothing."
Kale raised an eyebrow. That was certainly unusual. "Jared?" she pressed.
"The trees are...oddly silent here," he finally said after a few moments of deliberation. "Rather like animals when a predator is sniffing about."
"Well, that's awfully reassuring," Kale muttered. "Argent, can you track any source of that dark magic we encountered in the Travel Tree Tunnel?"
"I am already attempting to do so," the elf woman answered. She raised her Moon Stone above her head and said, "Moonless sky so dark has grown, lead us to dark magic's zone." A blue beam shot from the Moon Stone, followed by green and red beams from the Forest and Heart Stones as they scanned in that direction.
Jared's mouth was set in a grim line. "The trees whisper warnings, Kale."
"All I sense is darkness and death along that path," Charity added, shivering.
"By the First Queen, what have we drawn to Avalon?" Kale asked to nobody in particular. "All right, armor up, people. Something horrid is out there - whether or not it's related to a Wizard Jewel, however, has yet to be determined. Jared, Goliath, I want constant sweeps of the area. Charity, you, Glory, Grim and I will keep a magical shield up around us at all times from above. Argent, you and Aquilon lead the way. Jewel Riders, let's ride!"
Kale used the Sun Stone to call in her report to Merlin and Anya in the Jewel Keep, detailing their findings both inside and outside the Travel Tree Tunnel. As she and Charity took to the air on their mounts, Kale could see what the Heart Stone rider had been referring to. No creatures seemed to stir in this section of the jungle, not even birds flying above the canopy line. The air was hot and humid, and no breeze rustled the leaves of the trees.
"Argent, how far are we?" Kale called down.
Argent's white ponytail whipped back and forth as she shook her head. "It is very hard to tell. There is an incredible amount of magical interference interrupting my spell." The tracking spell's magic had grown thin and difficult to see within the misty haze of the rainforest.
"Charity, increase your power to the shield while I boost Argent's spell. You too, Jared," Kale commanded. "With Sun and Moon and Forest wide, no more let our quarry hide!" A golden beam of magic from the Sun Stone joined with a verdant green blast from the Forest Stone as they were focused by the Moon Stone. Argent's magical tracking spell intensified, the now-tricolor beam bursting through the gloom.
"There, up ahead in that clearing!" Jared shouted as he spurred Goliath forward.
The Jewel Riders emerged from the trees into a natural glade. Kale shielded her eyes from the bright sunlight. Argent's spell continued to the middle of the clearing, then simply...disappeared. "Eyes open, people. I want to know what's going on here!" Kale said. Grim landed, and Kale dismounted, while the rest of the group followed her lead. "Grim, I want you, Glory, Goliath, and Aquilon to station yourselves around the clearing and maintain the shield spell. Nothing gets in or out of here until we know what's going on." Grim nodded, and the animals dispersed, carrying Charity's shield spell between their jewels.
"I can feel my spell going somewhere," Argent said, moving toward the center of the clearing.
"Wild Magic portal?" Jared asked.
Kale raised an eyebrow. "None are documented in this area."
"Then where does the magic go?" Charity asked.
"Only one way to find out - form an enchanted jewel circle," Kale commanded. They moved to the four cardinal points around the disturbance.
"By the magic of the Heart Stone, with the heart we send out this call!" Charity said.
"By the magic of the Moon Stone, let the moon reveal what lies behind the wall!" Argent continued.
"By the magic of the Forest Stone, may the trees forever keep our path in sight!" Jared boomed.
"By the magic of the Sun Stone, I add the sun to shine the magic bright!" Kale finished.
Magic swirled together from the four enchanted jewels in the center of the clearing, opening what at first appeared to be a small Wild Magic portal. However, as the magic expanded, they could see a tall, crystalline shape as though through a veil. "We've almost got it - keep the jewels focused!" Kale called out.
With a burst of blinding magical light, the structure emerged from the magic. It was composed of three large purple crystals at least twenty feet in height. They spread out from a central point at the top, where another, shorter crystal hung down. Suspended below the central crystal was a smaller version of the structure, about the size of the Enchanted Jewels.
"Is that the Wizard Jewel?" Charity said.
Kale shrugged. "No way to know for sure without Merlin, but it sure looks that way." Kale reached out to touch the purple jewel. As her fingers brushed the crystalline surface, the Sun Stone rider felt a jerking sensation in her stomach. "Portal!" she yelled before the magic coursed through her and along the Enchanted Jewel Circle, pulling the rest of the Jewel Riders after her.
Unlike riding the Wild Magic, there were no extravagant colors flying past them. Instead, all was in darkness until Kale felt her feet touch the ground. She was still holding onto dark jewel from the crystalline doorway.
"Is everyone all right?" Argent said as she lit her Moon Stone. Its bluish glow revealed they had been transported into a stone antechamber littered with gruesome gargoyle carvings.
"I'm okay, but it looks like our partners didn't make it through the portal. I can't seem to make a connection with them either," Charity said, worry in her voice.
Kale tried to make contact with Anya and Merlin. "No contact with the Jewel Keep either. Looks like we're on our own."
Jared looked around. "Any idea where we've been taken?"
Kale shone the light of the Sun Stone into dark, cobwebbed corners of the antechamber. "Somwhere that hasn't been lived in a long time, I'd guess."
"A Wizard Lair, perhaps?" Argent ventured. "Perhaps belonging to the one-time owner of that jewel in your hand?"
At Argent's mention of the dark jewel, Kale became aware of how...cold it felt in her hand. It produced a feeling of heavy rain and dark whispers. Kale was beginning to regret ever allowing Anya to go forward with her little experiment now.
At the far end of the antechamber was an open doorway that led into a huge audience chamber. The group walked through, keeping their jewels at the ready should any trouble arise. The floor was of golden paving stones, the walls of red tiles, and the ceiling was of faceted glass like that of the Crystal Palace. But what caught Kale's eyes the most was the huge, double-sided mirror glass that hung in midair above everything. Looking more closely, she could see it was not suspended with any wires or hooks.
"I'm getting a very bad feeling about this," Charity whispered. "Perhaps we should start looking for the way out?"
Jared snorted. "We've got plenty of time to take a good look around."
A raspy, deep, and feminine voice boomed out across the room. "Time has little meaning in the Wild Magic, I'm afraid."
Kale gasped as she saw a figure appear in the hanging mirror. The woman it revealed was dark of skin and white of hair like Argent. And just like Argent, the woman had delicately pointed elven ears.
"Get down!" Argent yelled as she fired a beam of magic into the glass. It bounced harmlessly away, and the image flickered like a candle flame. Argent breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank goodness - it's just an illusion."
Jared brushed himself off. "What in Avalon was that all about, Argent?"
The image of the woman above them continued to speak. "Welcome great wizards! Time is running out. Shortly, Merlin expects us in the Friendship Ring, to bind us all together for the good of Avalon. He will not prevail! The Friendship Ring is the most magical place in all of Avalon; with my Dark Stone, Merlin will be destroyed!" The woman gave a dark, cruel laugh.
"What is this?" Charity asked, looking quizzically up at the hologram.
"A message," Kale said. "For a plan that never worked, thank goodness." A memory of her years-ago conversation with Merlin about the great wizards flashed through Kale's mind.
Argent began methodically scanning the room for magical traps with her Moon Stone. "You may not believe me, but I know the name of the wizard whose lair we have undoubtedly stumbled upon. She has passed into myth and legend among my people, but the old stories call her Morgana."
"So this jewel - this Dark Stone," Kale said, holding up the purple jewel, "Is the jewel of the ancient wizard Morgana?"
"So it would appear," Jared said, shaking his head. "You know, suddenly I really don't fancy hanging about around here after all."
Charity shivered as she nodded in agreement. "Let's just take the jewel and go. This place is giving me the creeps. I'm beginning to feel as though every happy thought I ever had is being slowly drained away."
The hologram of Morgana emerged from her mirror and drifted down to the golden floor, wearing a smug expression. "Never remove anything from a Wizard's Lair...if you do, beware the consequences."
A powerful force ripped the Dark Stone from Kale's hand, and it flew toward the hologram of Morgana. She caught the dark jewel, and it emitted a blast of Wild Magic. The hologram of Morgana suddenly gained form and substance, losing its partial translucence.
"I have to thank you, Jewel Riders," Morgana rasped. "Without you bringing my old jewel back to my lair, I would never have had the ability to pull myself out of the Wild Magic!"
"What trickery is this?" Kale said, staring in shock at the white-haired wizard..
Jared made a scoffing noise. "More smoke and mirrors to try and show off to her ancient wizard cronies no doubt." He pulled out his Forest Stone and shot a beam at Morgana. Except this time it didn't pass through any hologram. The wizard swung her Dark Stone in a wide arc and deflected the bolt of green energy, sending it careening into the wall.
"Insolent knave! As if your puny jewel could be a match for my Dark Stone," Morgana sneered.
Kale was in shock, trying to process exactly what was happening. Could this possibly be one of the ancient wizards, reanimated from their banishment by virtue of their own jewel returning to them? If so, the Jewel Riders had never faced a more dangerous enemy. "Argent, give us cover, Charity, shields!" Kale yelled as her teammates snapped to attention and went to work. Pink shield bubbles surrounded each of the Jewel Riders, and a dark fog began to fill the room.
Morgana cackled. "Merlin could barely stop me, and you think that wispy bit of magic stands a chance?"
Kale began to run toward the antechamber, and hopefully a way out of this nightmare. If they could just tune their jewels at the entry point, they just might make it out of Morgana's lair alive. Suddenly, arcs of dark, violent magic whizzed past Kale. One hit the shield, tearing though it like a sword through paper before singeing her arm. Kale gave an involuntary cry of pain.
Stopping for a precious moment, Kale aimed the Sun Stone back toward the direction of the shot and let off a wide-field beam of her own. She was satisfied when she heard Morgana give a shout of surprise. "Not such a puny jewel after all," Kale muttered to herself. Breaking through the magical fog, Kale arrived in the antechamber, noting that Jared, Charity, and Argent had arrived before her.
"Quickly, arrange our jewels in the same pattern we did to activate the portal," Kale commanded.
But it was too late. Morgana stormed into the room, her eyes ablaze with dark fire. "I will make sure your deaths are slow and painful," Morgana said. Holding out the Dark Stone, the evil wizard shot a bolt of flaming dark magic toward them.
Kale reacted instantly, raising the Sun Stone and firing back. The beams of magic met in the middle of the room with concussive force, shaking the room around them. "Go!" she yelled to the other Jewel Riders through gritted teeth as she tried to maintain the incredible power necessary to counter Morgana's dark spell. "I'll cover your escape!"
"No, we won't leave you!" Jared said, his eyes frantic.
Kale shook her head almost imperceptibly as she began to sweat and her body ached from the strain of the magic. "That's an order from your Queen!" she retorted.
Looking away, Jared simply nodded and began the portal spell with Charity and Argent. A portal began to form, and Kale could sense the pure magic of Avalon on the other side. However, Morgana saw the portal as well, and the wizard started pouring incredible amounts of power into her spell. "You will not leave here alive, Jewel Riders!" Morgana snarled. Her beam of magic began to overtake Kale's own, absorbing the magic of the Sun Stone.
Kale saw Argent push Charity through the portal before she followed. Jared stood there with a pained look on his face. "Come on, Kale - we can't keep the gateway stable for much longer!" he yelled. Kale simply shook her head, unable to speak, as Jared too escaped.
With a great shout, Morgana pressed her spell forward. It was now mere inches from Kale's Sun Stone, and the queen knew she would not survive contact with such malevolent magic. At least the other Jewel Riders will be safe, she thought with some small comfort.
Suddenly, Jared materialized beside Kale. "I'm sorry Kale - tell Gwennie and Anya that I love them," Jared said. He slapped his Forest Stone onto her belt where it grew into a vine wrap that ended in the portal mouth. Then, he stepped into the beam of Morgana's dark magic as Kale was jerked violently backward into the portal by Jared's final spell.
Kale screamed as she flew through the Wild Magic, but no words, no sound could contain her grief and fury. Jared was dead, and it was all her fault.
The colors ran again, though this time they were all tinged dark purple, red, and black. The colors of the Dark Stone's wild magic. Kale felt sick, as though she might throw up. The cost of dark magic was higher than she could have ever imagined.
Scenes flashed before her again. Once the Dark Stone had been returned to Morgana's possession, she had begun an all-out assault against Avalon. Though the Jewel of Arden had set them on the road to Jared's death, it also proved their salvation; Ian worked hard to master its magic and call out to other wizards. A race began to find other Wizard Jewels and recruit their owners to the cause.
Kale's heart broke as her sister Anya retreated into a dark corner of her mind, full of self-loathing and blame for what had happened to her beloved husband. Kale felt responsible as well, but submerged those feelings as she was left with the challenging task of fighting a war and raising her niece and ward at the same time.
Visions raced through Kale's mind - the Jewel Riders and the Pack battling the evil wizard's incursions into Avalon, Merlin and Morgana engaged in an epic battle at the very center of the Wild Magic, and the forging of a powerful stone out of the Wizard Jewels for the Staff of Avalon. When the carnage had ended, hundreds across Avalon had perished, but Merlin and his students were victorious, and Morgana had been destroyed once and for all.
The scene settled on a dressing room in the Crystal Palace. Gwenevere was gowned in a white dress with a long train, and Anya was fixing her daughter's hair while Kale looked on.
It was the young princess's wedding day. Heavens knew the people of Avalon and New Camelot needed something happy to celebrate after the bitter years of what had become known as the Second Wizarding War.
"There," Anya said as she finished pinning her daughter's golden locks into an elegant twist. Kale was pleased that her sister had regained some of her shattered health and innate curiosity in the years following the war, but knew Anya would be a fragile soul the rest of her days.
Kale picked up a small box on the bureau and carried it over to Gwenevere. "Not quite ready without this, though," she said with a smile. Kale opened the box, revealing a jewel-encrusted, glittering tiara resting on blue velvet. The crown was said to have been worn by Queen Gyneth herself at important functions, and was a treasured family heirloom.
"Oh, Aunt Kale," Gwen sighed, drinking in the sight of elegant gold filigree. "Are you absolutely sure it's okay for me to wear this?"
Kale nodded. "Not only am I sure, but tradition also demands it of Avalon's next Queen." Kale gingerly lifted the tiara and pinned it into Gwen's golden hair while Anya attached the veil. "You'll be a lovely bride, my dear. I can't wait to see Ian's face when he gets a good look at you." Kale kissed Gwen's cheek before glancing at the clock in the corner of the room. "Heavens, I should get to my post!"
Sweeping out of the room, Kale was joined by Merlin in the hallway. The wizard was wearing his best robes for the occasion, and Archimedes was flapping agitatedly around Merlin's star-embroidered hat. "Is the Princess ready?" the owl squawked.
"Ready and absolutely beautiful," Kale replied as they made their way out of the Crystal Palace and onto the back lawn where the reception arrangements were being set up. Kale greeted the head butler in charge of the engagement and made sure everything was going smoothly before heading to the Friendship Ring where the ceremony would take place.
Merlin smiled up at Kale. "I haven't presided over a wedding since your parents were married, my Queen." It was well known that the great wizard (though now not the only one after several others remained in Avalon after war) only stood in for the clergy at royal weddings.
"Has it always been tradition for the next ruler to be married in the Friendship Ring?" Kale asked.
Merlin nodded. "Just as we tap into the magic of Avalon for Jewel Rider ceremonies, so do we tap into it to bless our rulers and their bonds of love."
Kale smiled, a bit sadly. "It sounds nice."
Merlin arched an eyebrow as they arrived under one of the rose arch entrances. "Do you have regrets, my Queen?"
"Doesn't everyone?" Kale asked with a chuckle. "I suppose it would have been nice to be married, but I have never felt as though I was missing something. I had my kingdom and my family: Gwen, Ian, Anya, Jared, Grim, you and Archie." Kale hugged the little owl. "I have a life full of things that matter to me, and truly who can ask for more than that?"
Merlin gave Kale a small bow. "You are both wise and most kind, my Queen. I am humbled and honored to serve."
Ian strode up to them then and kissed Kale on the cheek. "Are we all ready then, Mother?"
Kale nodded, and the Avalon Symphony Orchestra began to play a march as Merlin and Archimedes strode down the aisle first and took their place. The other Jewel Riders marched then - Argent and Charity to stand for Gwen, and Drake and Josh to stand for Ian.
Once they were all in place, Ian offered Kale his arm as the entire gathered crowd stood and bowed to honor their Queen. Kale remained standing after they reached the end of the aisle as Ian moved to ascend the platform. Like a vision, Anya and Gwenevere materialized under the rose arch. Kale was pleased as she heard Ian's sharp intake of breath and the following sigh that rippled across the crowd. Gwenevere shone like the sun.
With that thought, the magic of the Dreamfields rippled again and Kale found herself at a party not unlike the one she had just been attending. This time, however, she stood on the platform at the center of the Friendship Ring. Below her, Gwenevere held up the Sun Stone to three different animals before the magic took hold between her and a beautiful winged unicorn.
Kale felt sad to be losing the light of the Sun Stone, but pleased that her niece would carry on their legacy. Grim stood next to her, his neck curiously barren without the weight of an Enchanted Jewel there. The Queen took one of her huge dragon's claws in her own hand and whispered, "We had a good run, didn't we Grim?"
The best. I have been honored to be your partner and friend, now and forever. The dragon's voice was rough with emotion in her mind, and Kale knew a gift had been granted to her - being able to speak with Grim even after passing her jewel on.
Tears stung the corners of Kale's eyes as her surroundings shifted again. She was dancing in the Friendship Ring, and all around her the Jewel Riders of Gwen's era were doing the same - Fallon, Tamara, and Drake. The Crown Jewel of the Dreamfields flashed above each of them in turn before coming to rest over Kale's head. The jewel was luminescent cut crystal in the shape of a cloud. She reached out her hand for the stone, knowing somewhere inside that she wanted - no, craved its power.
But scenes from the ephemeral life she had just witnessed flashed before her eyes. Ian, Jared, Anya, Gwen. Their love washed over her, covering up the avaricious desires that had taken root. Kale glanced down at her hand, overwhelmingly sad to see Morgana's Dark Stone there.
Kale's hand dropped. Glancing once more at the Jewel of the Dreamfields, Kale simply sighed. "It's...out of my reach."
The jewel vanished, reappearing in front of her niece, who used the magic of Merlin's Key to summon the Jewel Box and replace the once-lost Crown Jewel into its magical setting. Kale should have been angry at being thwarted again, but found that for once in her life she didn't really mind.
As the dream world dissolved around them, Kale walked back to her dragon wagon and wearily climbed into the chair. The Jewel of the Dreamfields had given Avalon's second princess a window into another path, another life. And she wanted to hold onto it for as long as possible.
AN: Full disclosure - several of the spells and speeches here have been taken and adapted from the show itself. The ending of the story, of course, is set at the end of the S1 episode 'Dreamfields,' which serves as a bookend. We saw Gwenevere's dark desires take root in the world of the Dreamfields, and I've always wondered more about what things Kale saw there that caused her to willingly give up a Crown Jewel. I always loved the glimpses we got of Kale as a good queen during this episode, where she uses the magic of the Sun Stone to keep Avalon strong and happy. It shows that she always had the power to use the Sun Stone properly, and could have been a great queen.