Chapter Thirty-Eight –

A Meeting of the Circle of Mages:

Familial Concerns,

Sudden Introductions,


Lord Shadowstrike's Penchant for Explosive Materials

Night fell slowly over the mysterious and beautiful desert oasis that no one in the world had ever previously known of. The air had long since grown pleasantly cool, its breezes soft and soothing and fragranced with the faint nuances of many exotic blossoms, and the sky was painted in a gorgeous mélange of smoky colours.

Though it was a mere hour 'til midnight, the sun had only just died to a ruddy ember in the furthest reaches of the horizon – the globe itself had long since been obscured by the far-off mountainous desert hills, yet its deep golden-crimson colour remained, glowing steadily. Immediately above it was a deep ginger band, and beyond that, lavender, and then sapphire blue, and finally, a star-studded, velvety black. The crescent moon hung in her place, slowly advancing from the opposite side of the sky: following in the path of the sun.

In the valley at the center of the pristine oasis now lay an immense encampment.

There were hundreds of tents – all white in colour, with golden pennants waving at their pointed tops – and what had once been no more than a silent, uninhabited meadow now sparkled with the light of many torches and fires.

And these were very clearly attended to by some very unusual folk, and magical folk, at that, for the fires themselves were not of any sort of uniform colour. Instead of burning bright orange, yellow, and red, these fires alternated in other hues, filling the twilight darkness with a myriad of coloured flames: deep emerald green, sharp blue, rich amethyst, and more.

No ordinary people could create such fires, and, indeed, these were no ordinary people.

The day had been long and wearying; there had been many hours of debate and council, but now the people of the White Realm had at last united in purpose and method, and were at peace with one another. They could not afford to argue amongst themselves while the fate of everything in their world was held in precarious balance: Lord Jaedin's words had convinced them of that. He, who had been the Dark Lord of Sytherria and also the former greatest enemy of the Light in the world…if he could see what was at stake here, and tell them of their danger, and beg them to unite and cease their petty arguments…it was enough. And now they would go to war.

On the very morrow, the march to the Dark Gate would begin.

Within the valley, the camp revealed itself to be a neatly organized and dignified impromptu dwelling place, rather than a slapdash conglomeration of many vastly different and confused magical beings.

It was true that they were all still somewhat mystified as to how they had been brought to this strange but wonderful place. That they had been summoned, they knew, but how they had all been taken from their homes and brought here was more than any one of them, even the oldest and wisest among them, could comprehend or explain. It was a deeper kind of magic than they had ever dealt with, yet.

The two Children of the Prophecy – she who was of the Light and he who was the Dark One – seemed to know more about it than anyone else, but they had, as of late, been remarkably difficult to catch sight of for more than a moment or two…and no one had been able to corner either of them for questioning.

It was very odd.

The magical beings, however, knew that just as they had no time to argue amongst themselves about how the war against the evil in their world ought to be fought, they also could not spare a moment questioning everything they saw, heard, experienced, or felt. And so, after a little while, the questions ebbed, and the camp was made.

Among the most withdrawn and elusive races of Evyrworld was the vampyre people. Excepting the extremely widely-traveled and knowledgeable, there was almost no one who could boast of having spoken even so much as two words with one such creature. Truth to be told, however, the vampyres were not the only enigmatic citizens of the White Realm, for there was also a sect of people within the elven race who were quite hard to find.

The dark elves.

Many people often confused the dark elves with their sometimes sinister contemporaries, the drow, but the dark elves of Evyrworld were much different in looks and temperament from these. In contrast to the dark complexions, pale hair, and pale eyes of the drow, the dark elves were pale of complexion, though dark of hair and eye. Dark elves were often assumed to be vampyres because of their immediate appearance – at first glance – but a closer look would tell an onlooker that it was the dark elves who had the pointy-tipped ears, and the vampyres who had the sharply-pointed incisors.

The dark elves were slightly more sociable and easily found than the vampyres, and their interests mostly lay in the arts of mining, jewel-craft, and weapon-making. Because of this, the dark elves often shared a close kinship with the dwarves, and were more likely to be seen in their company than in that of their fellow elves. They were also expert scouts and spies: keen-eyed and able to move with such stealth and grace that no one, not even the most adroit and skillful sentry could spot them – until it was too late.

As a result, the lord of the dark elves had put forth the proposition that his following ought to place themselves in a ring about the rest of the encampment. The dark elves could operate and move about effortlessly, and successfully, in the darkness, for it was their element. They were many, and were willing to risk putting themselves nearest to the world beyond the camp.

This agreed upon, the inner circles of the encampment were put together. The dwarves would be allotted a goodly space for their movable forges and kilns, so that they could construct the weaponry and assault equipment that the upcoming battle would require. They were placed on the westernmost side of the camp. The elves and the faeries – along with the few magic-wielding mortals who were among them – took their place on the east side, while the vampyres withdrew to the north side.

As co-rulers of the vampyric empire, Lord Morthalion and Lady Valwen were truly figures of legend, as Elowyn herself had recognized within her mind in the Council earlier that day. Already it was known throughout the camp that he had once been Lord Jaedin's teacher, which was evidence enough of his immense age and experience – and she, it was said, was almost of an age with the former Dark Lord of Sytherria. The two had governed over their quietly withdrawn realm for many thousands of years, never once bestirring themselves to become involved with affairs outside of their lands or to make trouble with those who surrounded them. The vampyric empire had once been known for its arrogance and its propensity for conquest and strife…

But no more.

Time had changed that realm.

Lady Valwen was a surprisingly sociable creature, however, in spite of her half-vampyric heritage. She was, as everyone soon learned, a healer of a caliber that was remarkable even among the innate magic-wielding denizens of the White Realm.

Lord Morthalion was a full-blooded vampyre, and he was a much more mysterious and cagey figure. He was never once seen without his cloak and hood in that entire day, and he tended to disappear abruptly whenever anyone looked his way for too long. Speculations as to why he perpetually wore his black-velvet disguise were put forward, but no one among the gossipers ever summoned up the bravery to seek a direct answer of him. He was often in conference with Lord Jaedin and the princess Elowyn during the remainder of the day.

As the hour of midnight drew near, still preparations for the journey to the Dark Gate went on…

Elowyn stirred slightly in her husband's light but possessive embrace, her green eyes distant and warm with memory. Jaedin's own expression was distant, but harder and more determined, as he continued to gently run his ungloved fingers through her silky golden locks. Their minds dwelt in separate spheres of the world now – hers in the past, and his in the future – but they were together, and were, thus, happy.

She remembered that morning all so well.

The first frost had laced the ground that morning, covering every single branch, every single fallen leaf and creeping vine in the forest – and it was cold. It had been dawn when she had awakened, and through the trees a dim silvery-grey light had filtered. Everything was in a haze.

She remembered how she had turned over slightly in the arms of her immortal beloved, and rubbed her face against his black-velvet chest, reassured and contented by his warmth, the sound of his breathing, and his heartbeat.

'So very, very happy…'

Then, very faintly at first, then more and more, she became aware of an awful, twisting and churning feeling in the pit of her stomach. It was very unpleasant, and it reminded her of a time, long ago, when she had visited her older sister, Elladine, and her family at their castle. Robbie – Elladine's oldest child and Elowyn's 'nephew' – had fallen sick with the flu, and the malady had passed onto his sisters, Joanna and Echo, and then Elowyn herself in rapid succession. Her stomach began to flip-flop, and she froze.

'Oh Fates…I'm going to…I'm going to…'

And in the next instant, Jaedin had found himself deprived of his princess – who also happened to be his primary source of warmth on that cold morning – as she scrambled to her feet and lurched away, disappearing hastily behind some nearby bushes.

"Elowyn!" he called after her, getting up and following behind in an instant. She did not reply, and his worry intensified. He stepped towards the bushes, and heard her croak—

"It's…" She gasped raggedly, and continued, still hoarse, "It's alright, Jaedin. I just…I…my stomach…no; don't come over here; believe me, you don't want to…"

But he did, and then he was at her side again, moving with lightning fast reflexes. She was standing: bent almost double, one hand resting flat against the rough bark of the tree she stood beside. Her beautiful golden tresses were mussed and wild, hanging over her face and obscuring her features from him, but he could tell by the hue of her slender hand that she was very pale. She had been sick.


And she whimpered, suddenly, and flung out a hand at him.

"Jay—get back while you can; I think I'm going to—"

He stepped hastily to her side and caught her about the waist as she lurched forward again with an almost convulsive gag; when the very last traces of everything that had been in her stomach had been purged from her, she inhaled, shuddering, and fell limply back against him, leaning fully into him.

Jaedin carefully knelt, lowering her with him, and then gathered her into his arms, holding her against his chest as she clung to his shirt and began to sob. She was far from small, being a full-blooded faery, but she was almost as tiny as a child next to him. He cradled her in his arms, rocking her gently back and forth as she continued to weep – messily and unapologetically, with lots of sniffling and hiccupping – and then, finally, when her tears had abated, he reached out and tenderly wiped them from her face. Elowyn's eyes were large and frightened as she looked up at him, and her skin was strangely pale.

"Jay," she said. "I'm…I don't…I don't understand. I've not been sick in years now…I can't have gotten anything, because we haven't been around anyone…but I feel so awful…"

"Shh," he told her, laying his face alongside hers and allowing her to muffle her unsteady breathing against the collar of his shirt. "Shh. It's alright…you're alright; there's nothing wrong with you."

There couldn't be; not now

He stood, lifting her with him, and then he carried her back to where they had rested the night before. At a few words from him, a blanket and several pillows appeared, which he magically lifted and placed in the hollow of the tree's roots, creating a makeshift bowl-shaped seat of sorts. He placed her down on the blanket, settling her against the pillows, and drew both her cloak and his over her.

Then he stood straight again, and looked down upon her.

"Wait here," he commanded, with gentle but firm authority. "I shall return in a moment."

She did as she was told, feeling suddenly weak as a butterfly freshly emerged from its chrysalis, and waited: watching him as he strode off into the trees. Her eyes slipped closed without her having realized it, and it seemed that it was only a split second later when he returned, and was suddenly placing a steaming hot mug of something into her hands, ordering her—

"Drink it."

The drink was very hot and rather bitter, with a definite sharp mint edge; she swallowed it down, in spite of its bitterness, and curled into his arms as the turbulence in her stomach began to subside. Jaedin's fingers ran through her hair, carefully, and his chin rested familiarly atop the crown of her skull. They remained in silence for a moment, and then he said, softly, "I can't find any trace of sickness on you, Elowyn – something is different, something has changed – but I can't tell what. You're not ill, though…not in any way that I've encountered before."

"Hm," she replied, feeling very tired and cross, suddenly.

This was not the way she had wanted her morning to start; not at all.

She was quiet for several moments longer then, and in the very back of her mind, she sent a tendril of searching thought into her tangible self, absentmindedly looking for what it was that had caused her body to so violently rebel against her, and in such an unpleasant way.

And then, suddenly, she felt – she knew – exactly what it was. Her eyes flared wide and she grabbed a hold of her husband's arms, looking up at him abruptly. The Dark Lord of Sytherria's grey eyes were filled with concern and surprise as he stared down at her.

"Elowyn, love, what's wrong?" he asked her, reaching out to touch her face with one hand. "You are so pale – are you alright? Do you feel ill again?"

She shook her head hastily, tightening her grip on him.

"No, Jaedin; no!" she said. "I know what…I felt…I know what it is. Oh Fates – Jaedin…"

She smiled again now, remembering the moment.

It had been an unpleasant occurrence at the time…but now it was a wonderful memory: a memory that held both the warmth of the past, and the promise of the future.

Wrapping one arm about herself, she snuggled closer into her love's arms, and felt him shift slightly to accommodate her. She reached up with one hand and ran her fingertips lightly over his jaw line, letting them come to rest just below the fullness of his lower lip, tickling against his skin. She sensed that he had returned to reality from whatever realm of thought his mind had been traversing just then, and heard a low chuckle rumble deep in his chest. He turned his face to the side, and pressed his lips to her forehead, just below her hairline, and she closed her eyes.

What happiness she had found with her dark lord…

"You know, my love," he commented, in a low voice. "I am very much aware of the fact that you are, undoubtedly, entirely worth every struggle that I might have to put myself through in order to be with you…but I find myself increasingly nervous at the thought of confronting your family, and speaking to them on the nature of my relationship with you. Does the White Realm Council have…"

And suddenly he hesitated, unwilling to speak the words, and yet knowing that he had to. A horrible new reality had dawned on him: a reality that sent chills up and down his back and caused his heart to flinch within him. In a low, unsteady voice, he asked her, then—

"Do they…can they sanction enforced marriage annulments?"

Elowyn's eyes shot wide open and she sat up, drawing away from him slightly. "No!" she said, startled but also worried. "Never! They can't take me away from you – not after all that has happened!"

"But can they, Elowyn?" he asked, grimly.


She balked.

"No…I've never heard of a couple – faery, changeling, elf, or other – ever having been forced to part ways by the Council. It's simply never been done."

Quickly, but silent, he reached out and drew her back into his arms again, and she clung to him desperately. The White Realm had been willing enough to accept him as an ally, but only after he had invoked the solemn and enormous power of the Tongue of Truth – would they be as willing to accept his bond to his princess? He feared to think of what could befall them after the battle against the Dark Realm.

If the world did not end, what was there to stop the Council from forcing him to rescind his marriage vows to the Princess Elowyn? No one of the White Realm would happily acknowledge him as her husband. But… he thought, then, as they held one another in fearful silence. It's too late for that now. It's too late.

They don't know.

Suddenly, they both became aware of a new presence within the temple, and withdrew from one another hastily. Jaedin stretched forth his powers and sought out the identity of the person who had now joined them within the colossal structure, and then he turned to Elowyn, exhaling a soft breath of relief.

"Never fear, my sweetest," he told her, quietly. "It is naught but Lord Morthalion. He'll not question us or interfere. In fact, I believe that he is here with important information for us. Come, dear."

He stood, black robes falling into place about him, and she took his outstretched hand.

Together, they stepped forth from the room they shared, and went forth into the main audience chamber of the temple. There, they did find Lord Morthalion. Elowyn kept close to her husband's tall, reassuring shadow, for though she knew the legendary vampyre-ruler to be a friend, she was yet unnerved by his looming, black-cloaked presence. Lord Morthalion bowed slightly as they approached, and the two returned his salute.

"What news do you bring us, my friend?" Jaedin inquired.

The intimidating older vampyre's head nodded slightly to one side beneath its hood, in acknowledgment of these words, and then his deep, resonant voice broke into the silence. His tone was soft, but also authoritative and even slightly grim, sending a shaft of unease into Elowyn's heart.

"The other four have arrived," was his succinct reply. "The Circle of Mages is now complete."

Elowyn shivered, drawing the folds of her thick wine-red velvet cloak about her, and gripped her husband's hand more tightly as he led her along after him, finding a path in the darkness of the night-draped camp. All around her were the dim large, white forms of the tents that housed the hundreds of magical beings that had been Summoned to the Council of World's End, but so black was the night that she could only just see them.

Jaedin strode purposefully, confidently, and grimly along – following after Lord Morthalion, who was leading them – and she was glad that he possessed the eyesight and heightened senses of the vampyres, for she would have lost herself in the dark alone.

The night was cold, and it only served to remind her of what was yet to be.

In another few moments, an impressive scarlet tent – standing out sharply among the white structures that surrounded it – loomed before them, lit from within by many torches. Elowyn made out the forms of at least seven armed guards standing before its entrance; all of them were very heavily armed, and all of them were vampyres.

Without a word, they allowed Lord Morthalion to pass by, with Jaedin and Elowyn still trailing in his wake, and in seconds they were filing one by one into the tent itself. Elowyn's eyes took a moment to adjust to the amber-toned light of the torches that were within the tent, and then she shrunk back slightly against her husband's arm…for before her stood four of the most striking, magnificent, and yet daunting masculine figures that she had ever seen. Lord Morthalion stepped forward, and they came to a halt.

Elowyn let her eyes travel across the features and forms of the four men – her sense of curiosity overwhelming her shyness – and took in the sight that was before her.

All four of the mages, for this was what she assumed they were, wore the same black robes that Lord Morthalion and her husband wore, but here their resemblances to one another ended. No four men could be more different.

"My friends," Lord Morthalion then said, after a brief span of silence. "May I present to you Jaedin, Lord of Sytherria, whom you already know…and Elowyn, Princess of Avalennon?"

Instantly, the eyes of the four focused on her intensely, and Elowyn took control of her emotions, and stood straight and bold at her husband's side, meeting their eyes evenly.

"And, milord and milady," continued Lord Morthalion. "May I present the remaining four members of the Circle of Mages?"

He gestured to the first man with a wave of one gloved hand.

"Lord Lucius Drake."

This mage was exactly as all the stories about him generally described his appearance. He was tall and very, very handsome, in a cold and aloof manner. He was a fae: not faery, not vampyre, nor elf or changeling, but a descendant of all three…and then some, most likely. This was reflected in his proud, noble, and elegant bearing, and his perfect, sleek features. His hair was a very pale blond – almost silvery – and it fell long and somewhat spiky, like a mane of sorts, to his shoulders. His eyes were of two different colours: one was emerald green, and the other was cerulean blue. His gaze bent itself towards her so coolly and so formally that she felt very small and childlike in his presence, though she knew that he was an ally, and a friend.

Lord Lucius Drake.

The Green Mage.

"Prince Erik Shadowrose, of Kryslora."

This was a man, and a name, altogether unfamiliar in person to Elowyn, though she knew of his story and his country.

Erik Shadowrose was tall and well-formed, like the other mages, and he too, of course, wore all black. He had an air of magic about him, which served to tell Elowyn that he had magical blood in his veins – he was an enchanter, and a powerful enchanter, at that. He was very pale, as if he spent much of his time indoors, and his hair was very dark brown, almost black. He wore it cropped short, reaching just to the high collar of his black velvet cloak, and a few wavy strands of it had managed to fall onto his forehead. He also was very handsome and regal, with an elegant bearing; his eyes were a sharp, clear blue, and the right half of his face was crisscrossed with the faint remainders of old scars.

Prince Erik Shadowrose.

The Gold Mage.

"Prince Mordred Andaríon."

Elowyn knew of this mage as well, for he was the crown-prince and heir apparent of the changeling kingdom; in the past, he had often frequented the grounds of Avalennon when court was being held. Mordred was lightly tanned in complexion, with a slight golden tint to his skin, and his eyes were a incisive yellow-green; his shoulder-length hair was naturally golden-brown, she knew, but he had long-since dyed it to an unmitigated sable hue, which oddly complimented his overall appearance. He had an air of mischief and slyness about him, and she knew him to be an enigmatic, free-spirited individual who had only found his happiness, finally, in a marriage to a mortal princess.

Prince Mordred Andaríon.

The White Mage.

"King Nikolas Thraantapolis XVIII, of the Middle Kingdom."

Elowyn was also familiar with the mortal king, who ruled over part of the enormous mortal empire. She had been well aware for a long time that he was not only a king, but also a mage, and a powerful one at that, and that he had had many dealings with the magical world because of both this fact and his connection to the elves – through a marriage to a half-elven princess. He was a kind and warm-hearted person, approachable in a way that most of his fellow mages weren't; he had looked as if he had wanted to smile at her upon her entrance with her husband into the tent, but the solemnity of the situation had prevented such friendly familiarities. There was a sort of gentle sadness about him, though his face was kind and very handsome: his features were strong and clear-defined, and his eyes were a vivid shade of sapphire-blue, while his skin was pale and his hair was jet-black. On the right side of his face, he wore a shiny silver mask that looked almost skeletal in the flickering candlelight.

The mages of Evyrworld, Elowyn had observed long ago and now saw as truth before her very eyes, mages were men who were possessed with great power—but this was power that came at a great price. It was a blessing and a curse: a reassurance, and a danger.


But Lord Morthalion had said that there was a Circle of Mages…and this implied that he and Jaedin were also parts of this circle, if she presumed correctly.

She glanced up at her husband, for affirmation, and Jaedin gave a nod of his head that was only just perceptible to her.

Lord Morthalion, she guessed easily enough, was the Black Mage…and Jaedin…she didn't know which colour was his. She intended to ask him about this, however.

Meanwhile, though, she turned back to the other men, and acknowledged them with a graceful, small curtsey.

"I salute you, my lords," she said. "Your presence here is a blessing and a reassurance."

"Nay," came the reply, from Nikolas, who stepped forward: his bright blue eyes scanning across her young face without the slightest hint of incredulity. "It is we who must say that your presence is a blessing and a reassurance to us. Now, after so many years, we may at last look forward to the destruction of the realm that has for so long been the bane of our lives. You are more powerful than they yet know, Princess Elowyn – and because of you, and Lord Jaedin…we have hope now. We are here…"

And he smiled, mysteriously and roguishly.

"We are here merely for…for backup, shall we say."

At that, the other mages laughed, appreciatively.

Lord Morthalion then made a gesture with one large gloved hand, and a semi-circle of chairs and a long rectangular table appeared before them. Each person present fell silent at his movement, and then he commanded—

"Let us be seated; we have precious little time, and none that can be wasted. We must chart out our plan here and now, while we still have the luxury of doing so."

"Unplanned campaigns are scarcely amusing work," commented Jaedin, as he escorted Elowyn to her seat, and placed himself next to her. His hand never once left hers, which she was glad of. Though she was the Star-Maiden and the Lady of the Fates, no one yet knew this, and she was still accustoming herself to the idea of her newly revealed true identity. Even after so many months, she was yet shocked when she found that she could manipulate matter at will, transport herself from place to place with a mere thought, and defeat entire armies with a wave of her hand. The armies that awaited them within the Dark Realm, however…those would be another matter entirely…

Not so easily dealt with… she thought, and concealed her shudder.


"Indeed. I sincerely hope that you didn't neglect to bring your ballistics charts, your Highness, Prince Mordred," said Lord Lucius, as he seated himself across the circle from Jaedin and Elowyn.

The changeling prince smiled dryly, and replied—

"My dear friend Lucius, I make it a solemn point in my life to never forget anything! It would be simply inexcusable – much like your sense of humor, at a time like this. Wouldn't you agree?"

Prince Erik shook his head, with a wry but amused look, while Jaedin, Morthalion, and Nikolas chuckled softly at the familiar banter between the two. Then the Black Mage summoned everyone's attention back to the meeting at hand. He stood up in his chair and reached forward, spreading out several well-worn and detailed maps of the lands that were within Evyrworld, drawing their attention to the enormous sand-coloured space that was, they all well knew, Sytherria itself.

"Lord Jaedin has informed me," he said: his deep voice resonant and somewhat strange-sounding within his hood, Elowyn thought now – it was as if he was speaking from behind a sheet of metal, or something of that sort. "That as of late, the Dark Gates have shown within themselves a remarkable propensity for movement. Now, this was not unusual before, as is known to those of us who have studied the Dark Realm and even frequented it ourselves in times past. However, in most recent times, the Dark Gates have moved further and more quickly than ever, which can only serve to tell us a very few things."

The odd, seemingly glowing green eyes in the hood shifted, and turned towards Jaedin.

"She knows that she has lost her Dark Knight," the Black Mage continued. "She knows, and she fears what this means, for she is as much aware of the Prophecy of World's End as we are. She is taking all precaution to keep anyone from getting into her realm – and even seeing the way to get into her realm. If we move in haste, we may be able to usher our forces through in enough time to confront her openly."

"What are you proposing, Morthalion?" questioned Lucius, dryly. "That we go into the Dark Realm itself and meet her in battle on her own turf – which she knows infinitely better than any of us ever will? We six may be the most powerful magic-wielders on the face of this green earth, my friend…but I doubt that we can match her in combat within the lands that are now exclusively hers."

"There isn't any choice, Lucius," Jaedin said, interposing with quiet firmness. "A month ago, I might have agreed with you, and argued on your side. But now…"

He sighed.

"Now, it is no such case. She knows that her defeat is imminent – and with such knowledge, she has become very much like a wounded animal that has been rounded into a corner. She will strike back at us with whatever force she can, trying to injure us as much as she can before she and her minions are banished to the Void – she will aim to hurt us as greatly as possible, and she will not care if the accomplishment of her wishes also means the desolation and death of our world."

"It is our aim to protect the mortals," Lucius said, and nodded. "I understand."

There was a long moment of silence, and then Prince Erik stood up, and slid the map across the table to himself, glancing over it with unreadable eyes. A line appeared between his dark brows, and his lips pursed; then he looked up, the light catching on his startling blue orbs so that they seemed to turn almost white.

"So," he said, in a mesmerizing, melodic and rich baritone voice. "We shall meet her on her own turf…but what then, my lords? How shall we go about fighting her? The Black City is said to be the most invincible of fortresses – I have heard rumors in my own lands, through our lore, of the Watchmen she keeps there as her slaves, who may report to her everything that goes on within the city walls at an instant. She has magicked that black heap of stone with more of her evilness than can be described in words."

"This I am well aware of," Jaedin replied. "Our plan of attack will have to be multi-level."

He glanced shortly at Mordred.

"And speaking of your explosives knowledge, Lord Shadowstrike – we shall soon have need of it."

Mordred's yellow-green eyes darkened with sinister pleasure.

"I would be glad to be of help."

Nikolas, Lucius, and Erik exchanged looks, and then Lucius commented—

"Oh, marvelous. I do so enjoy a good fireworks show."

A/N: Sorry for the brevity of this chapter, but I hope you recognize/enjoy the characters presented here. Some are new, and some I believe a few of you may recognize. They're an interesting bunch, my Circle of Mages. Oh…cast list goes along with that too.

Lucius Drake: I'm not entirely sure about this casting yet, but I think of him as kind of looking like Jareth, the Goblin King, from Labyrinth. A cross between him, I suppose, then, and Alan Rickman as Severus Snape, perhaps… (purrrrrrr)

Lord Morthalion: (drumroll please…oh, the suspense! Oh, the mystery! Oh…the pent-up dramatics! Tsk tsk, Kates, eh? Heh…) Playing the roll of our infamous and intimidating Black Mage, is none other than the yummy-licious Billy Zane. Under a lot of makeup, a Nazgul costume, and a wig, of course. (Kates snickers)

Mordred Andaríon: Joaquin Phoenix. 'Nuff said.

Nikolas Thraantapolis: Gerard Butler. My gorgeous hunk of Scottish goodness!

Erik Shadowrose: (hehehehehe) If any of you have read my phic Le Fantôme et la Belle, you will recognize Erik, who is played by…don't shoot me, I couldn't resist…Gerard Butler. Again. He and Nikolas look a lot different though, as far as bearing, hair, etc.

And Jaedin: Tom Hardy, as Shinzon.

New chapters to follow soon…hopefully…but you'll have to pardon me if I don't update for some spaces, 'cuz I'm running myself mad between my increasingly frustrating college courses (thank goodness fall semester is almost over! YES!!!) and my new job. STARBUCKS ROCKS. That's all I have to say. (Kates grins.) I love my job.

Thanks to everyone who has reviewed! Now, here's hugs and enchanted roses to all of you dahlings…and do drop me a note again sometime!