A/N: And I'm finally back with another chapter. I must say that your reviews have been very encouraging, as at one point I did consider briefly on giving up and discontinuing or continuing the hiatus on this story. :) Happy reading! LL99

Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without


Sun Tzu

Chapter 15: A Prelude to Disaster

"S-Sir J-Joren! This n-necklace belongs t-t-to your s-sister?" stammered Tobe.

"Yes," growled Joren darkly. "And you had better tell me why it's in your hands."

"I was t-trying to stop the a-assassin who was after L-Lady Keladry, b-but instead I m-must have pulled off her n-necklace, S-Sir."

"What?" hissed Joren. "Are you … are you saying my sister is an assassin? And that she was after Lady Kel. You lie!"

"I don't, Sir. Honestly, I'm only t-telling you the t-truth!" sobbed Tobe.

Joren tighten his grip on the sword pointed at Tobe's neck. "I'm asking you nicely. Where. Did. You. Get. That. Necklace?"

"S-Sir Joren, I swear upon Mithros' sword, I'm telling you the t-truth!"

Joren growled. "You'll pay for your lies, boy," he spat.

In one smooth motion, Joren's sword was unsheathed and Tobe was pushed against the wall, Joren's hand around his throat.

"Sir Joren, please! PLEASE! I'm telling you the truth!"

Tobe's pleas fell on deaf ears as Joren simply tighten his grip until the boy started choking.

"Please, sir. Don't kill me," whispered Tobe hoarsely.

"I'm not planning on killing you … yet. I plan to make you suffer for what you've done to my sister. I plan to torture you until you finally admit the truth, boy," laughed Joren mirthlessly.

"What is going on in here?"

Joren spun around to face the door Tobe still within his grasp.

"Lady Keladry," he replied astonished. "What are you doing up so early?"

Kat's voice was cold as she responded. "I was going to check up on the boy. It seems it is lucky that I did. Joren. Put. Him. Down!"

Joren stared hard at Kat before dropping Tobe. He watched as Kat ran to the boy and pulled him into her arms. He heard her whisper soft words of comfort as she rocked him gently back and forth.

Kat lifted her head and glared hard at Joren. "What were you doing to the poor boy, Joren?"

"He was in possession of my sister's necklace," replied Joren showing Kat the jewelry. "He would not tell me the truth as to how he happened upon this object of Serena's."

"What is your name?" Kat asked the boy kindly.

"Tobe, my lady," sobbed Tobe.

"And how did you find this necklace?" asked Kat gesturing at the object in Joren's hand.

"The girl, the archer who was trying to kill you, I tried to stop her from leaving. But she was too strong; I only managed to rip off her necklace it seems."

"He's lying!" hissed Joren.

Kat ignored the squire and cradled Tobe in her arms. She gently placed him back on the bed and told him to sleep. Walking over to the infirmary door she gestured for Joren to follow her, before slamming shut the door.

"Joren, I'm very disappointed. You should know better! He is but a young boy. And I know for a fact that he is telling the truth. I do not know the details of what you know about the day when there was an attempt on my life, but Tobe saved me by jumping onto the archer. I saw them both fight for possession of the bow and arrow. I was the one who ran over to Tobe. I was the one who took his injured body back to the infirmary! I know he is telling the truth!"

Kat glared at Joren with a defiant look in her eyes.

Joren sighed. "You're right. I wasn't … thinking. I just saw the boy holding onto the necklace and I … I guess I just snapped. This necklace … I was the one who gave it to Serena just before she left for the convent. I made it for her. When I saw Tobe with the necklace, I just thought he had something to do with her disappearance. I'm sorry, Kel."

Kat stared at Joren in stunned silence. "Y-You apologise?"

Joren smiled wryly at Kat. "You may not remember much about our time spent together, due to your memory loss, but I have changed. For the better."

Kat smiled. "I can tell."

"If what Tobe says is true, that assassin … that archer … she must have been … my sister," whispered Joren. "But why would she want to kill you. From the letters I received when you and she were both still at the convent, you two were good friends. Why would she be trying to assassin you?"

Kat sighed. "Joren, I don't know why! The last time I saw her we were … we were …"

"You were?" prompted Joren.

"I-I can't seem to remember. It was just there for a moment – my memory. I saw it for a second. But it's gone now."

Joren's face fell. "Never mind, Kel. I'm sure it'll come to you soon."

Kat turned and gave him a grateful smile. "Come now, you should go and apologise to Tobe. That's if he's still awake." Kat turned the knob and opened the door. She took a step and collapsed. Kat clutched her head and moaned.

"Kel? Kel! What's wrong?"

"Ahh. My head hurts. I think I'm remembering something."

"Kel! Just relax. Everything will be fine …"

"Kel! Just relax. Everything will be fine …"

"Relax! How can we relax?"

Serena sighed. "Kel, calm down. Mel – can you use your gift and light a candle?"

A candle was lit and placed on the table. Serena turned towards Kel who was frantically pacing across the small dimly lit room.

"I just can't believe it," whispered Kel. "I can't believe one of the Daughters here, betrayed us. They didn't just betray the girls here. But the other Daughters of the Convent. They even dared to betray the Great Mother Goddess, who this convent is dedicated to! Serena we need to do something! Anything! We can't just leave the other girls out there to fend for themselves. They don't know how to fight, whereas we have our fancy fans."

Melanie nodded. "Kel's right. We have to do something … anything to help. We can't just hide in here forever!"

Serena stood. "Alright then. Let us go. Stick together so we don't split up – we all know how dangerous it'll be out there."

The three girls snapped open their shuskens and hurried to the door. Pulling it open they ran quietly up the stairs and into a corridor. Walking to the end of the corridor they lifted the tapestry and stepped out.

"We need to head towards the West Wing," whispered Kel. "That's where everyone is most likely to be at this time of the day."

"Okay," chorused Serena and Melanie.

The girls crept softly pass numerous doors until they reached one of the corridors near the West Wing.

"Daughter Beatrice, have you done as I asked?"

Kel paused. She turned and motioned to the other two to keep quiet, before pressing an ear to the door on her left. Melanie and Serena hurried to do the same.

"Yes I have, my lord. Everything is going according to plan." Daughter Beatrice laughed. "The other Daughters are so stupid. They do not suspect anything at all. To them I'm just sweet Daughter Beatrice, dedicated follower of the Great Mother Goddess."

A masculine voice chuckled. "You have done well, Beatrice. Tell me … have you informed the bandits to not harm the Ladies Keladry, Serena and Melanie?"

The girls stiffened and glanced at each other warily.

"Yes, yes. That has already been done," snapped the Daughter. "But why would you want to concern yourself with them?"

The man laughed, amusement tingling his voice. "Why would I? Hmm. The Lady Melanie has a very strong Gift, even though she does not realise it. The Lady Serena will prove to be a useful bargaining tool against the Lord of Stone Mountain. And the Lady Keladry … she'll prove to be useful in many, many ways."

Daughter Beatrice sniffed. "Am I not useful enough, my lord? Surely I have proved my value time after time."

"Beatrice, Beatrice, Beatrice. You have proved to be exceedingly useful. But now we must go and put the second part of my plan into action. You will stay here and lure the girls of the convent to the North Wing. When they have calmed down enough, you will turn to the other Daughters and request their permission to take Ladies Keladry, Serena and Melanie to the Red Corridor near the West Wing. Meanwhile I will go and inform the second band of bandits to ready themselves. I assume the first band has retreated already?"

"Yes, my lord."

"Good. Well what are you waiting for, Daughter Beatrice? Go now!"

The girls quickly moved away from the door and ducked into the hidden alcove behind the nearest tapestry.

Peaking out of the tapestry, Kel saw Daughter Beatrice exit the room.

Serena turned and whispered softly into Kel's ear. "I knew there was something strange about Daughter Beatrice after that time she 'accidentally' pushed you down the stairs."

"Wasn't that the day of the first bandit attack?" inquired Melanie.

Serena nodded. "It must have been a ploy to keep us all distracted. She knew that both Melanie and I would not leave your side if you were injured."

Kel nodded. "Now we know which one of the Daughters is the betrayer. We should have suspected it earlier."

Serena nodded and peered at the door. She held a finger to her lips. From the corner of Kel's eyes she could see the man exiting the room that was previously occupied.

A man wearing a cloak.

A black cloak.

"Pratfall Moots," muttered Kat softly to herself as she scanned the bookshelves.

"What are you doing, dearest Shang Griffin?"

Kat spun around, her hand on her sword. "Oh, it's you."

"Disappointed?" teased the man.

Kat rolled her eyes. "Shut up, Meathead."

Neal made a face as he held his hand to his heart. "Oh how you wound me fair lady. Wait! Meathead?"

Kat grinned. "Yep. Meathead."

"You've been spending way too much time with my cousin!"

"What can I say? Dom's an absolute gentleman."

Neal laughed. "Mother did always say he would grow up to be a ladies' man. What are you looking for, Kat?"

"Remember how a couple of days ago, I told you about my dream. The note had the words Pratfall Moots – a book written on it, so I thought I would go to the library to search for this book. I haven't had any luck so far."

Neal grinned. "That's because you haven't had me helping you."

"Shut it Meathead."

The two friends quickly got to work searching through the library. Before long, a few hours had passed and yet there was still no sign of the book.

"Kat, this is hopeless. We've been searching for hours!"

Kat collapsed on a chair, exhausted. "But it has to be here. Tortall is known for its library which has almost every book there is. If it's not here, than there is no chance of finding it anywhere else!"

"Maybe we're just not decoding the message properly. Pratfall Moots … what else could it mean?"

"It could be an anagram," stated a soft girlish voice.

Kat froze as Neal turned around.

"And who is this fair maiden before us?" questioned Neal flirtatiously.

The girl standing before them had flaming red hair and wide brown eyes. She was of slender build and her skin was tanned from days spent out in the sunshine. She was dressed simply in a grey shirt and breeches. At her waist hung a belt with a sword attached to it. She smiled as she registered Neal staring at her.

"My name is Leona," she said with a slight Scanran accent. "And who might you be?"

"I'm known as Neal around here. I must say you have the most startling shade of hair I've ever seen."

Leona smirked. "It's a rather pretty shade, don't you think?"

Neal laughed as he approached the girl. "Redheads are just my type."

Kat rolled her eyes as she stood up and approached the two who were enchanted by each other. She coughed politely.

Leona turned to face her and Kat was startled to see tears in her eyes.

"Kel! I knew it! I knew you weren't dead." Leona threw here arms around the surprised Shang.

Kat stayed silent as she awkwardly hugged the girl. Leona pulled away, hurt by her indifference.

"Kel. Kel! It's me, your friend Leona. Don't you remember me?"

Kat shook her head. "I'm sorry, but I don't think we've ever met before."

"How can you say that, Kel? We've known each other for ages. Don't you remember anything at all?"

Neal gently placed his arms around the distraught girl. "Leona, Kel has been through a lot. She is suffering from severe amnesia."

Leona's eyes widened. "Kel? Amnesia? No! Kel, don't you remember me? We were … are such good friends. Surely you remember me."

We were … are such good friends. Surely you remember me.

Clara smiled kindly at Kel. "This is Leona. She's like a daughter to me. I'm sure the two of you will get along just fine."

Kel took a hesitant step towards Leona. "Hello Leona, I'm Kel. Clara has been taking care of me for the last few weeks. I owe her my life."

Leona smiled and clasped Kel's hand, before pulling her into a hug. "I have a feeling Kel, that we're going to be such good friends."

"Kelll!" sang Leona. "Time to get dressed up for the ball!"

Kel made a face. "More dresses, Leona?"

Leona laughed. With a flourish she pulled a lovely, green dress from behind her back. "Ta da! This is your dress for the night."

Kel smiled as she ran a hand along the soft fabric. "It's too beautiful for me to wear."

Leona snorted. "Nonsense Kel. It was made especially for you and it'll make you look like a princess."

"Leona, have you forgotten that we have work to do at the ball tonight. Important work," stressed Kel.

"But that doesn't mean we can't look our best. Besides it'll make our work so much easier if the men are too busy eying us, to pay attention to our questions!"

Kel laughed. "Oh, Leona. You really are something."

They were running through a forest.

Looking down, Kel saw Leona clutching her hand, urging her to run faster.

"Faster Kel!" panted Leona. "We're almost there!"

An arrow whizzed above them and hit the ground in front of them. Leona's eyes widen when she recognised the feathers. A raven's.

Gasping, they whirled around to come face to face with Phyllis.

"Phyllis," cried Leona rushing forward to embrace him. Kel let out a sigh of relief.


"Yes, Leona," replied Kel glancing up from her book.

"Look, what your a-d-m-i-r-e-r sent you!"

Kel looked up to see Leona holding yet again another bunch of red roses.

"They're from Braiden again, right?"

Leona nodded. She walked over and placed the roses in Kel's lap. "Isn't he just romantic, Kel? Sending you bunches of roses. He really does like you."

Kel sighed as she inhaled the fragrant scent of roses. "Nothing will ever happen between us, Leona. After a time he'll just grow bored with me."

Leona glanced slyly at Kel. "I wouldn't be too sure of that."

"What are we doing here?" hissed Leona.

Braiden turned around and calmly smiled at Leona. "We're here to find the ancient prophecy. There is nothing else we can do. Phyllis and the Ravens think that if we find the ancient prophecy, it'll hold the answers to some of our questions."

"And will it?" questioned Kel.

"Maybe," answered Braiden.

"Leona," Kel whispered. She felt a tear roll forlornly down her cheek.

Leona turned and smiled weakly at Kel, her eyes glistening with unshed tears. "Here is where we part. Be careful Kel, you are one of my best friends; I don't want anything to happen to you. I hope you'll find what you're looking for."

"Leona," croaked Kel. "I'll miss you! And you too, are one of my best friends."

"Leona," whispered Kat. She looked sheepishly at the girl. "You wouldn't happen to know a person named Braiden, would you?"

"Kel? Do you … do you remember me?"

Kat nodded weakly as she rubbed her head. She had only a few seconds to register Leona flying towards her, before the girl had wrapped her arms around the stunned Shang.

"But how?" whispered Leona with wonder. "Just a few minutes ago you didn't remember."

"I had a few flashbacks of our time together. Leona, how I've missed you!"

"I'm feeling a bit left out here," pouted Neal. "Leona why don't I get a hug?"

Kat chuckled. "Shut up, Meathead."

"Meathead?" asked Leona.

"It's a nickname for our dear friend here."

Leona grinned at Kat. "It suits him."

"Hey! I'm right here!" Neal said affronted.

"Leona – before you said something about an anagram. Can you explain what you meant?" Kat asked remembering Leona's strange comment from before.

"Oh that. Well Pratfall Moots may be an anagram. You may not remember this, but you and I used to spend part of our days deciphering the anagrams that our allies would send us."

"Anagram. You may be right. Now all we have to do is decipher this anagram."

Neal shook his head. "Kat, that's easier said than done."

"Ah, Melanie! There you are. I've been looking for you all day."

Melanie turned reluctantly around to face the man she abhorred. "My lord."

"I have another job for you sweetheart."

"What is it, my lord," replied Melanie forcing a sweet tone to her voice.

"I need you to use your magic on a prisoner. He has refused to answer any of our questions. I believe that your sweet presence and Gift will force the answers from him. Come along now."

Melanie sighed as she obediently followed The Man In The Black Cloak out the door and down a flight of stairs to the dungeons. Her eyes pricked with tears as she glanced around at the many cells filled with innocent people. Men, women, children – King Maggur did not spare any from the horrors of his torture, and when they still would not spill, it was her job to charm the answers from their lips.

The Man In The Black Cloak stopped in front of the last cell. Inside lay a young man with hair as black as night. He knelt in a crumpled heap on the dirty floor near the small barred window. Despite the dim light, Melanie could tell that he had dark skin like the Scanrans and strong features in his face. His lashes were extra long, framing his dark eyes and there were hard lines in what used to be a cheerful face.

Melanie's captor opened the door and ushered her in. Her heart filled with pity as she placed a hand on the man's shoulder. The man turned around and looked blankly at her. He licked his dry, cracked lips. "Who are you?" he gasped.

"My name is Melanie."

He smiled a mocking smile. "They've sent you here to charm the information out of me, haven't they? Well I will not tell you anything."

Melanie sighed. "Very well then. I will not make you tell me." She stood up and walked towards The Man In The Black Cloak.

"You heard him," she said. "He will not tell me anything."

Her captor looked at her in surprise. "Giving up already? That is unlike you, Melanie."

Melanie swallowed nervously. "There isn't any point. He's already made up his mind."

The Man In The Black Cloak took a menacing step towards her. "Are you defying me? Go back and get the answers from him!"

Melanie steeled her nerves. She lifted her chin and stared straight into her captor's eyes. "No."


"No," replied Melanie firmly.

"Then you'll stay here and starve until you agree to do as I've asked."

"That is perfectly fine with me," spat Melanie.

The Man In The Black Cloak chuckled as he locked the door. "I have no doubts that you'll cave soon. Think carefully about this, Melanie. If you do not agree to do as I've asked, your friend Serena will suffer too. I'm giving you a week to think about this."

Melanie sunk to the ground as he strode away, his footsteps ringing heavily.

"You were very brave. It seems that I've misjudged you."

Melanie turned around to be met with the penetrating stare of the man. "My name's Melanie. What is yours?"

The man shook his head. "I'm sorry, but I cannot tell you yet."

Melanie nodded her head in understanding. "Because you do not trust me."

The man's eyes were sorrowful. "And because the memory of what I've done still pains me, even though it has been years. Years since that fateful night. Years since I last saw her."

The Shang Phoenix stood by the sea. He glanced down at the letter he had just received from his student turned Shang.

459 H.E – Midsummer

Shang Phoenix,

I hope this letter finds you in good health, my dearest teacher. I bring good and bad news from Tortall. Firstly, I'm proud to announce to you that I have successfully passed my Ordeal and am now known as the Shang Griffin. Can you believe it I finally did it? Of course I have you to thank as well as Isadora.

Speaking of Isadora, here is my unfortunate news. A day before my Naming Ceremony, Isadora pushed me out of the way and was struck in the chest by a poisoned arrow clearly meant for me. She was taken immediately to the infirmary, but after my Naming Ceremony she passed away in her sleep. Duke Baird has assured me that Izzy did not suffer in her death.

I'm sorry, Phoenix …for all the trouble I have caused both you and Isadora. If she had not taken me on as her student, she might still be alive. The only comfort I can offer you now is that she loved you. Yes, Phoenix, she loved you dearly.

I hope that we'll see each other soon and that you'll find it in your heart to forgive me.


"Oh, Kel, I do not blame you at all. All Shangs know that their life is fraught with danger. It is not your fault Izzy died. Do not blame yourself."

The Shang Phoenix sat wearily on the sand. Tears fell from his eyes, mysteriously healing the cut on his arm. He glanced down and smiled wryly. "Tears from a phoenix can heal the most death threatening injuries. If only they can heal my injured heart."

"I love you, Izzy. I always have and I always will."

"I've got it!" shrieked Neal triumphantly.

"Really?" Kat asked dryly. "What is it this time?"

"A Platform Lost," announced Neal proudly.

Leona banged her head on the table. "Nealen," she moaned. "Think of something reasonable."

Kat laughed. "Leona's right. All the ones you've come up with are simply ridiculous. Floral Topmast, Formal Platsot and Atlas Profmolt? Seriously Neal, come up with something that actually makes sense."

"Well let's see you come up with something reasonable from Pratfall Moots," huffed Neal indignantly.

"I've got it," screamed Leona happily. "Finally!"

"And what is it this time?" inquired Kat. "It had better be something good."

Leona rolled her eyes. "It's tons better than Nealen's one. And it actually makes sense too."

"Well what is it?" asked Neal.

"Maps of Tortall."

"Leona, you are a genius!" exclaimed Kat. "Pratfall Moots – a book is actually Maps of Tortall – a book."

"Now why didn't I think of that?" Neal wondered.

"Because Nealen you are obviously not as smart as me."

Neal sighed sadly. "Why Kat? Why did you tell her my full name?"

Kat giggled. "To make you suffer. Now enough talking. Let's go and find this book!"

"Your Highness." The Man In The Black Cloak bowed deeply before his King.

"Have you gotten any information from our newest prisoner?"

The Man In The Black Cloak shook his head ruefully. "I'm having … troubles with my sweet Melanie. She is not willing to obey me. Nevertheless she will not last long before bending to my will. Rest assured my King, we'll have answers before the week is out."

Maggur nodded. "Very well then. I have called you here to discuss another matter of importance. It seems your other pet, Serena, has also failed to complete her task. My sources tell me that Keladry is still very much alive."

"I sent Serena to kill Keladry with a poisoned arrow. She has since told me that Keladry's teacher, Isadora, pushed her out of the way and took the arrow herself."

Maggur smiled. "I take it that dear Izzy is dead."

The Man In The Black Cloak grinned. "Yes she is. That conveniently got rid of her. I was originally planning for Serena to shoot Keladry, before luring dearest Izzy to the stables where a man of mine would have taken her by surprise and finished her off."

"Well, we still have Keladry to deal with. She has proved to be quite a nuisance. I need her immediately out of the way, so my plans may continue on smoothly."

"I have given Serena one more chance after her failed attempt on Keladry's life. I will send her again to finish off Keladry. She will not fail me this time."

Maggur nodded. "She had better not. If she does I expect you to dispose of her immediately."

The Man In The Black Cloak nodded. "I understand."

Maggur rubbed his hands together. "Everything is coming along perfectly. Disaster will soon strike Tortall."

The Man In The Black Cloak smiled amusedly. "So this is like the calm before the storm.'

The King of Scanra laughed heartily. "Exactly. This is a prelude to disaster."

A/N: Review and tell me if you liked it, loved it or hated it. (I sincerely hope it isn't the last one, but even if it is – feel free to tell me.)

Here are some questions for you. I really would like to know what everyone thinks is going on right now.

1) What do you think of Joren's behavior at the start of this chapter with Tobe? Is it realistic? What do you think of Joren now? Has he really changed?

2) What do you think of Daughter Beatrice now her deception is revealed? Is there a reason why she is obeying The Man In The Black Cloak?

3) What do you think of Leona? Could there possibly be something going on between her and Neal?

4) Has Melanie risen in your esteem now that she has stood up to TMITBC (The Man In The Black Cloak)?

5) Does anyone know the identity of TMITBC's new prisoner?

And finally …

6) Does anyone have any idea what exactly King Maggur is plotting?

Review Responses:

Lady Blooddrop: Thanks! I would've written up this chapter sooner but I had a massive writer's block.

mistmagic: Thank you and here's the next chapter all ready for your approval! :D

surfgirl1: Thank you for your review. It is kinda hard to write due to a lack of motivation, isn't it? Well hopefully my muse is back and I won't have to take another break for a while.

Jasmett: Thanks again for your review. It's nice to know that everyone out there enjoys this story. Hopefully I won't need to put it on hiatus again.

DamageReport: Thank you.

Alexia cooper: What can I say? I guess I just have a real fondness for reviews. Lol. As a matter of fact I might go and check out your stories as well as some others. I haven't really read any fanfiction in a while.

soccachix101: Thanks again. Here's the next chapter. :D

smileysgoboing: *LL99 dogdes flying banana. She grins sheepishly* Thank you for the review and I hope you enjoy this chapter. :)

sokkr-rox: lols. Thanks for the review and hopefully this story won't go on hiatus again.

weilanna: :) lol. Once again thank you for the review and I've finally finallllly updated. Yays!

studentofwords: Thank you for your understanding. I hope you enjoyed the chapter.

vampiremuggle: *smiles sheepishly* Sorry for not waiting.

WarriorKnight: haha lol. Don't worry too much about Dom's fate … it's eligible to change cos after all the Tapestry is unraveling madly. But Dom and Kel/Kat's relationship will be … interesting … especially when Braiden is finally properly introduced into the story. *insert evil laugh* Thank you for the long awesome review and I hoped you enjoyed this chapter. :D

Anonymous :): Thank you! Hope you enjoyed this chapter! :)

Ray Wise: Thank you for your understanding. Writers block is so annoying! Hope you continue reading and enjoying this story! :D