Chronicles of the Dragon Nations
#1: Young Guardian and the Dominionites
Part One: Dream Realm Crusaders
Prologue: Dream Memory
The Young Guardian of Dreams
Dream Realm Crusaders
I was stuck in a dream, paralyzed by a magical spell, yet I could hear every word. The magic that wrapped itself around me was warm and tingly, a gentle touch of freesia mixed in. I could not move, speak or open my eyes, so I listened.
“Well?” A woman asked. It sounded like my Countess Sita – sister – Dracora Dratianos. “Who was at the door, O’Dell?”
“Chase Moondancer with my successor,” that voice was the one of a fellow ruler, Lord Guardian O’Dell of the Mystic Realms. “Enchantra took Chase to rest in another room. He may need to Feed, Dracora.”
The Dragon Nations have always had warm relations with those of the Mystic Realms, as those Realms signed a peace treaty with us a century ago. Brakkon, the former Emperor of the Dragon Nations and my mate’s father, was like a brother to O’Dell.
“Aye; thank you.” Dracora sighed.
They left the room, closing the door behind them.
I continued to listen as conversations intrigued me. Perhaps I would gain a clue as to why I was there, paralyzed with magic?
O’Dell lowered his voice. “Does Dixie know what must be done?”
Dixie? Does he mean his eldest daughter, Dixilynne? Last I knew, she was a mere child when she and her two sisters were exiled to the Mortal Realm for their own safety. What did she have to do with anything?
“Aye, she knows and will follow your lead, as always.” The eldest Mystic Sister Enchantra announced. She was Dixilynne’s mother as O’Dell was Dixilynne’s father.
“The Empress is resting and under deep enchantments to stay that way.” O’Dell supplied.
A third voice cleared their throat. “So, what do we do next, my Lord? Just sit and wait?”
I knew that voice, and did not like it. That was Challandra, Enchantra’s twin who was haughty, thinking she was better than anyone else.
O’Dell sighed. “There is naught much we can do, Challandra. Destiny will take care of its own when it is good and ready.”
“Destiny is such a strong word.” Dracora announced as if bored when she walked in. I could sense as my Sita’s emotions turn to fear as she mumbled. “Uh oh.”
“Countess?” Enchantra asked.
The room was quiet until I heard a thump and the sound of a male voice moan desperately. “Don’t die on me now, Adarramena. I need you.”
That was Drakkar Dratianos, my mate’s twin brother and my own twin’s mate. I tried sensing my twin. She was currently knocked out with the same type of spell I was under, magic worn to the near-ends and mind exhausted. My heart raced to get to my twin, and I was at a loss of what to do. I tried telepathy.
Adarra? Her mind was fuzzy; I could barely feel the twin link between us. Now I was concerned. Please, awaken your mind. Break through the bindings and speak to me!
I received no answer, so I tuned my ears again to the conversation outside my door.
“What can we do for you, Prince?” Enchantra asked the question.
“It’s my mate, Lord Guardian.” Drakkar supplied.
“She overexerted both herself and her duo.” Enchantra surmised.
That explained the fuzzy mind-path. Not to mention why I felt magically drained when I had not used magic since terrifying visions forced me to leave my mate.
“Now you know why I took some of our people to the Mortal Realm.” Dracora explained. “Your duo has gone chaotic, and there is no end to his destruction.”
“There has to be a way to save Adarra from him.” Drakkar agreed.
“I believe we can help with that.” Enchantra looked to O’Dell. “My love?”
O’Dell took a moment before responding. “Challandra, please bring her in and set her beside her sister.”
They continued to talk as if I could not hear them. I heard the door open and felt myself rising from my position. I was floating in air, my DragonWolf wings useless.
Dracora gasped. “Adellandra is your successor?”
I must have been in the main room now, because I felt myself gently landing on a soft surface. I sensed my sister Adarra, my very twin, lying beside me in a binding quite like my own.
“I told you of my vision, Countess.” O’Dell supplied.
Dracora huffed. “Very well; carry on.”
I could tell my Sita was exhausted of O’Dell already. She and the Lord of the Mystic Realms never got along.
“There is something about those girls, O’Dell.” I could feel Enchantra staring at me. “Something that screams magic.”
“They are Draconian.” Drakkar said, hoping that would explain it. “They have great power.”
“Nay, it is something else.” Enchantra supplied. “They are worth saving. They must live, but not here. Not now. Not while many wars are being fought.”
I agreed; too many wars, between the Demon Realms and those of the Fire Nations south of the Dragon Nations. I fled to my childhood home to get away from them.
“For once, I agree.” Dracora’s voice broke my thoughts. “But what are you going to do with them?”
Enchantra smiled. “Give them another destiny.” She looked up to O’Dell. “Find Susan and bring her here.”
Susan. Why did that name seem familiar?
“Who is Susan?” Dracora asked for me.
“My Grankana, as you would call her.”
“Your Earthbound Granddaughter?”
“Aye,” Enchantra was proud of herself for remembering the Draconian word for Granddaughter. “She has five children already and more than enough room in her home and heart for three more.”
“Three?” Dracora asked.
That could only mean one thing.
Anton! I thought to myself, my mind trying to seek his. My satil – brother — was near; I could sense him.
“Do you mean Anton as well?” Drakkar inquired. It seemed even he read into my thoughts.
“We found him unconscious in a trench and decided to bring him here as well.” Enchantra nodded. “He is resting in the other room. I had to put him under a spell in order for him to stay that way.”
What was with these Mystics and their spells?
“He is a fighter.” Dracora told her. “I mean, neither of the Dranna siblings are dead; just weakened and under your wretched spells. How are you going to give them another destiny?”
“They will be reborn as Earthbound Ancient Mystics.” Enchantra said simply. Footsteps were followed by a touch to my cheek. “This one is different; even from her twin and brother. I cannot place it.”
If she only knew, I thought to myself.
“Adellandra has always been different.” Dracora remarked. She knew my secret. “She has always been kind, loving, gentle and good; yet a fierce fighter and an honorable Empress.”
I tried using telepathy with Dracora. Thank you for the compliment.
You’re welcome, Sita. Dracora said in my mind. I’m just sorry it has to be this way.
“Only she knows why she left our bratton.” Drakkar said, using the Draconian word for ‘brother.’
“It was to save the children from destruction.” Dracora replied simply, and I could feel both my siblings-by-mating staring at me.
Take the Royal Crest for me, please? I asked Dracora; for she was the only one I could trust with such a precious pendant. I will not need it where I am going.
Certainly. Aloud, she cleared her throat and took the Royal Crest of the Dragon Nations from around my neck. It was the only piece of royal jewelry I had left, and it belonged in her hands now. I wish you luck on your new Destiny, until it brings us back together.
That was an odd thing for her to say. Before I could think anymore, she spoke up to the Mystics. “I will keep the Royal Crest until she is ready once more.”
“What about me?” Drakkar demanded. “I’m the next in line, not you.”
“As I recall, Draconis is still Emperor and I’m a Countess.”
“Yeah, of Monarch’s Glenn.” Drakkar sneered.
“Enough!” Challandra cried out. “You can bicker and fight later.”
Before either one could say anymore, a young woman’s voice broke the tension. “Gramere? What’s going on? Why did you send Granpere for me?”
“Fetch the DragonWolf male for me from the other room, Susan. “Enchantra instructed automatically. “Set him down beside his sisters.” Enchantra instructed.
“Yes, Gramere,” Susan was confused, but obeyed, leaving to fetch my brother Anton.
I sensed his condition, besides the spell he was under. He was war-warn, and wounded. There was a hole in his heart and soul that was there since his own mate of Alexia, Dracora’s sister, fled. I felt so bad for him, and wished I could get out of this spell to heal him. Darn the Mystics!
It took a moment for her to stare at us once she placed Anton next to me on the couch. She gasped. “I know who they are now! She is the Lost Empress of Mal’estar, Lady Adellandra, and that’s her twin, Princess Adarramena. The male is their younger brother Sir Anton Dranna.”
This Susan was a very bright Mystic. Now I knew why her name was familiar; she was Enchantra’s grandonan who single-handedly destroyed five demons, saving several dragon pups from death.
Enchantra confirmed. “Do you know what I wish you to do with them?”
“I-I-I don’t know.” Susan whispered.
“Keep them safe.”
I felt Susan staring at us. “I understand.”
“No, I do not think you do.” Enchantra shook her head. “Your Grand-Uncle is at it again. We must keep their existences a secret in order for them to survive long enough to destroy him.”
“How are you going to do that?” Susan asked. “They are already fully-grown and in a form our Realm has never seen.”
“The time rift between Realms is different.” Enchantra began. “We wish to use the Ancient Mystic chants to blood them as our own.”
Blood us! What was she talking about?
“‘Blood’ them?” Drakkar asked, speaking up. “I mean no disrespect Mistress, but, surely there must be another way?”
Enchantra shook her head. “Not if you want them alive to see Mal’estar once again.”
“But blooding them as Ancient Mystics will –” Dracora began but was cut off.
She was about to say, “Blooding them as Ancient Mystics would take the memories away of who they truly are.”
“I know what it will do, Countess.” Enchantra supplied. “I assure you, there is no other way around it. They must be blooded as Ancient Mystics in order to survive your brother’s chaos and Orthos’ reign of destruction.”
Draconis was still chaotic? I was sorry to hear it. My mate had not been himself since before the war he raged with the Demon Lord Archimonde, O’Dell’s duo Orthos, and Brakkon’s own Chaotic form of Thorn. All that pent up negative energy turned him and forced terrifying visions in my mind.
I could feel Drakkar’s anger at being separated from his mate when he growled. “If you hurt her, I will know of it!”
“No, you will not.” O’Dell confirmed. “Once the ritual is done, the three of them will have no memory of who they once were.”
“They will have their powers,” Dracora pointed out, “and their forms. The Mortal Realm is not ready for DragonWolves. Mortals still believe the Nations – the very worlds in which they live — are myth!”
She was right, it was not ready. Neither was I ready to forget her, my beloved Empire, or my once-loving mate.
“She’s right.” Susan pointed out. “Only those with the Magical Eye know the truth.”
“All will be well.” O’Dell said sternly. “They will assume Immortal Ancient Mystic form and be taught of whatever magic their minds believe they are ready for.”
My siblings – Draconis’ twin and his younger sister – could say nothing to the statement. Susan broke the silence.
“Shall we begin?” She said quietly.
Chanting in the Ancient Mystic language, they spun a wild magical spell around the three of us. We were each already in their binding and sleeping spells, so why not add one more?
I felt dizzy just lying there, still unable to speak or move. My head hurt as my Wolfkin ears and Dragon horns were pulled inside my head. My back hurt, wings forcefully returning inside my body. My arms and legs hurt, as my body was changing to a strange Immortal human form. My wolf features diminished, fur retreating and hands instead of paws and nails instead of claws. I felt a multitude of winds wrap around me, one entering my body. That one caused me great pain, but I could not cry out. I felt my external body shrinking. Instead, my form was not my own, but of a young girl.
It was a powerful spell that would change my existence.
Breaking my thoughts was the whimpering sound of an infant.
“Shush, shush. There there.” Susan picked him up and held him. “I know what I must do next, Granpere.”
“Rename them and protect them.” O’Dell responded.
“What will you name them?” Drakkar could not stop staring at my twin. I still knew how hard it was to be parted – magical or otherwise – from your true mate.
Susan sat next to my sister. “You will be Aluna Star Woods.” She placed a hand on my cheek. It felt warm with love. “You will be Ariana Moon Woods, and you, my dearest baby, will be Antony Gregory Woods.”
“Great names, Susan.” Dracora complimented.
“Thank you, Countess.”
“The time will come when they are Called to this Realm once again.” O’Dell responded. “Until then, their true-names and lives must remain a secret.”
“Yes, Granpere,” Susan agreed.
That was the last I heard of the very interesting conversation. When the spell and ritual was done, I felt….different. My mind was the same as it was, but the memory of my life before that moment faded into near-nothingness. I only remember it now as a dream memory, with a little help from one of my closest Draconian friends: The Countess Dracora of Monarch’s Glenn.
Ten Years Later
My name is Ariana Moon. I am fifteen today, almost sweet-sixteen. I reside at the Shore Point Juvenile Detention Center, a ward of the State of California. I grew up in an orphanage not far from here. No one wanted to adopt me. It was probably because of the things I could do, or the way I spoke, or the color of my eyes. Any number of reasons was points against my being adopted into a loving home. Instead, I was “loaned” out to couples who needed a compliant servant.
My first “family” was the Sheridans, whom I met when I was in the hospital two years ago. They wanted me to be their daughter’s keeper; keeping an eye on her and obeying her every whim. Michelle Lambert-Sheridan was a Class A spoiled brat. She would throw fits if she did not get what she wanted, when she wanted it. Of course, her mother and father would comply, encouraging her behavior. I just kept my comments to myself; hoping that one day, Michelle would see the error of her ways and straighten up, before something bad happened to her. So far, there was no such luck.
The second “family” was the one I just ran from: the Dolls. Richard and Rhonda Doll were rich, even more so than the Sheridans. They had no other children to fill their home or help spend their money. Only me, and I was used as a servant even though they lavished me with everything under the sun. Of course, that was a ruse for Child Services. On a normal day, I overheard Mrs. Doll talking on the phone to an elder woman I once knew as Mrs. Gertrude. Turned out, Mrs. Doll was Mrs. Gertrude’s niece, and she was going to sell me back to my old orphanage master. Thinking of the abusive past I left behind, I packed my bag. Once the moon shone bright enough to see by, I ran as fast as I could away from the Doll mansion.
Only to be caught and brought back here: The Shore Point Juvenile Detention Center.
I have been here a week and suffered bruises and scrapes at the hands of bullies. On my first night, they thought it was funny to put ice in a sock and hit me with it. To their surprise and my delight, all bruises and scrapes were healed by morning.
That is one thing the other teenagers hated about me. Another would be the way I spoke. One girl told me I sounded funny, as if I did not know how to speak. I have always spoken like this, as those friendly adults I speak to would call “without using contractions,” such as “can’t,” “won’t,” or “I’m.” Another girl said my eyes looked weird. At a brilliant silver-blue, I would have said the same thing myself had I not been the owner.
There were a few more things I could do that alienated me from the other girls there. One of which was feeling their emotions with something I learned was called Empathy. I sensed one of the girls was in trouble with the warden. I confronted her about it, trying to cheer her up, but she denied it, calling me “freak” and pushing me away. The Center found I could read minds when I was in a group therapy session. The four of us were given a test where the counselor would ask the questions and we would answer them. Somehow, I took the questions out of her mind and answered them, even before she asked them aloud! Even the counselor eyed me as if I were a freak of nature.
Was I a freak of nature?
Nay; you are an Ancient Mystic. A female voice purred in my mind. It was the voice of my good friend Katherine Hawk.
Katherine was a Companion from the Mystic’s Realm of Dreams. According to her, I was a powerful Ancient Mystic that could do anything I wanted in the Realm of Dreams. Guardian O’Dell, Lord of the Mystic Realms, named me his successor when I was seven. He gave me a special necklace that represented my Mystic status and helped me learn to control my abilities.
I know, my friend. I told her sadly. I just want to get out of here and find my family.
Before she could respond, a knock on the door brought me out of my reverie.
“You got a visitor, Moon.” It was Greg, one of the nicer guards.
I stood. “Thank you, Mr. Greg.”
I quietly followed behind him.
My Companion friend peeped up with I have a good feeling about this one, Ariana. You will be fine.
I hope you are right. I teased her. I would be lost without your feline instincts.
No you would not. Katherine purred a giggle. Do you sense the visitor’s compassion as well?
Aye. I answered, agreeing. I have also felt the Goddess’s Hand on me.
He stopped at one of the counseling rooms, turning the knob and opening the door.
I stood facing an attractive teenage girl wearing a stylish blouse with a tweed skirt. She was about five inches taller than my sixty, wore sunglasses on her head and snapped her chewing gum when she saw me. Her legs were crossed as she sat at the table; designer high-heel boots half-way up her calves. I sensed she was no more than six years older than I, yet looked as if she were older. I could tell it was meant to be very deceptive and smart. Her hair was pulled up into a thick ponytail with dark-brown strands hanging down.
Mr. Greg stayed by the door, listening in.
The teenager stood, holding her hand out for me to shake. “Hello, Ariana Moon. My name is Bridget Guy. I’ve come to take you home.”
I politely smiled, hesitating before taking her hand. I was not convinced and stared at her eyes before reading her. “Really.”
“Yes, really.” Bridget supplied, pulling her hand back and shoving it in her pocket. “Read me. Am I legit?”
I used my empathy, sensing nothing but kindness and sincerity. There was no deception in her dark brown eyes. That was a relief. “Yes, and it is nice to meet you, Miss Guy.” I told her simply. “What can I do for you?”
She quickly glanced at Mr. Greg before responding. “Will you please excuse us, sir?”
Mr. Greg shook his head. “Sorry Miss Guy,” he told her. “She is my charge and must be watched over.”
Now I looked at him. “Have I ever caused any undue stress or trouble around here, Mr. Greg?”
He had to think for a moment. “No, Ariana.”
“Then you can trust I will be okay in her capable hands.” I continued my argument. It took him only a moment to nod. “If it makes you feel any better, you may stay at your post outside the door. That way, there is no way I can escape without your knowledge. Agreed?”
His glance went to a smiling Bridget to me before he finally said. “Make it quick.”
I nodded, smiling. “Thank you.”
Almost as soon as the metal door closed behind him, I heard Bridget shriek into her hands. “That was awesome! How did you learn how to do that? I can’t even talk my way out of a paper bag, but you! You basically controlled that guard.”
“Not control.” I told her. “For some reason, I always know what to say.”
“That’s so cool.”
“Thank you.” I said. “Now then, why are you here? You said you were going to take me home?”
“Ah, yes, right.” Bridget cleared her throat. “I’m from a teen detecting agency called the System.”
I knew it! Katherine cried inside my mind.
Katherine! I playfully scolded her, staring at Bridget, who was patiently waiting as I carried on the conversation in my mind. Am I allowed to handle it?
I cleared my throat and sat down. “How do I know you speak the truth?”
Bridget leaned in and looked into my eyes. “What does your empathy tell you about me?”
She knew that about me? But, how? I blinked, studying her. Sure enough, she was telling the truth. “You are sincere and honest, although a bit flighty at times.”
Bridget laughed. “Thought so. Come on, kid. Let’s get out of here.” She paused as her hand hit the knob. Not looking at me, she supplied seriously, “By the way, call me Big Guy. That’s my codename.”
“Codename?” I was puzzled.
Big Guy sighed. “You’ll see soon enough. Trust me.”
“If you insist,” I shrugged. “Anything to stop the circle of hate.”
It was her turn to be confused. “Huh?”
I smiled, echoing. “Trust me.”
Big Guy rolled her eyes and led us out the door. Sure enough, Mr. Greg was still waiting at his post.
“Hurry and get your things.” Big Guy instructed me. “I’ll take care of the legalities.”
I nodded. “Sure thing.”
Going back to the room I stayed was going to be hard. If anyone was there waiting, they were certain to bully me, just like always. If not, and I somehow got away with my belongings without anyone seeing me, I would be grateful.
Turned out, the Goddess was smiling on me today. No one was in the room, so I was able to grab my backpack and hurry back to Big Guy’s side.
I came upon the end of a conversation, with Big Guy saying. “I am an adult, and I have signed the proper papers for her immediate release from this institution and into the care of Shannon Ryan at Shore Point Academy.”
She pulled a manila folder out of her shoulder bag, handing it to him. Mr. Greg glanced through the pages with wide eyes. After closing the folder, he looked back at her. “Miss Guy, I apologize. Had I known –”
Bridget winked at him. “You didn’t know, and it’s okay.”
“I thought the Academy closed down years ago because the owner died during renovations?”
“Oh, it was, for a while.” Bridget shrugged, “The owner’s niece opened it back up on her eighteenth birthday and we’ve been prosperous since.”
They spoke as if I were not there. Usually that is a good thing; I could learn more that way, but this was idle chatter. I cleared my throat and crossed my arms.
They turned to my scowl. “As interesting as it is to hear all about this Academy I will be attending; would it be too impatient of me to suggest we leave?”
“Oh! Oh, right,” Bridget laughed nervously. “I almost forgot.” She turned back to Mr. Greg. “Now that the papers are in order, we’ll be on our way.” She wrapped her arm through one of mine and smiled at him one last time before shoving past him.
Once we were in the hallway, she broke into a run toward the door that led outside.
“Wait!” I cried, yanking away and rubbing my arm so it no longer hurt. “What is the rush? Why are we in such a hurry?
“I’ll explain later,” Big Guy harried. “We need to go, like now.”
I took a deep breath and ran behind her. I did my best to keep up with her, but she was fast. She stopped at a long black limo and opened the door for us.
Once we were both in and the limo was racing away, I had to know. “What is going on? Why were we running?”
“It’s hard to explain,” Bridget said, nearly out of breath.
“Please try, because I am terribly confused.” I told her. “Is there someone after you?”
“Not me.” She shook her head. “You.”
I blinked. “Me? Who would want to chase me?”
“Does the name Helen Gertrude ring a bell?” Bridget asked.
She would have to say that name.
“I should have known,” I groaned. “She used me as a compliant slave to any family that would pay handsomely for my services.”
“Right,” Bridget agreed. “Unfortunately, Mrs. Gertrude isn’t done with your so-called “services.” Now that they somehow found out where you were, we had to butt in. Fortunately for you, we got here first.”
“For which, I am grateful.” I supplied. “I am to understand they are right behind us?”
“Not yet, but they will be if we don’t high-tail it out of here.” Bridget turned and knocked on the tinted window that separated the cab from the driver. “Book it, Landry.”
I felt the limousine lurch forward and speed on the freeway. Appalled by his driving skills – he would be cited for more than three violations should he get pulled over – I closed my eyes and hung on tight.
“Crud! They’re gaining on us!” I heard Bridget yelp. “Take the secret route. It’s the only way.”
I heard Landry chuckle from the driver’s seat. What was he laughing about? We were being chased and he was laughing!
“I would appreciate arriving safely at our destination.” I forced out, opening my eyes. I was being tossed from one side of the seat to another. “Preferably with my lunch intact and body in one piece, sir.”
“Relax, Ariana Moon.” Landry said. “Trust me.”
“He knows what he’s doing; just let him do it, okay?” Bridget asked.
I huffed, keeping my mouth shut. The winding roads buzzed by me, making me dizzy.
“We’re almost there anyway, so you can relax.” Bridget tried.
“Please stop telling me to relax when it is my life on the line.” I ordered.
Soon, the limousine slowed to the speed limit and I looked out the window. There was nothing to look at but farms with cattle, horses, sheep and pigs. I opened the window to close my eyes and take a whiff. It smelled of peace, harmony and very earthy. For some reason, it smelled right; like home, but better. It was like I owned the land, and I was home. Was this Academy in the country?
More importantly, was there a country gal hiding in me somewhere?
I let the sights fly by, soon falling into a daydream.
I pictured myself and a young man overlooking the ocean, holding hands and walking along the shore. My heart skipped just thinking about him.
He snaked his arm around my waist so we stopped in our tracks and I was able to look into his eyes.
Mahogany-brown eyes, black-rimmed frames covering them and the feelings of infatuation for me growing with each moment we were together. He was taller by a couple of inches; perfect in every way. I had searched for him – or someone like him – all my life, and found him in a dream. The more time we spent together in the Dream Realm, the more I was pulled to him as the Young Guardian to heal his inner demons. At the same time, he was somehow pulled to me to do the same.
Unlike most of the people in my life so far, his intentions were sincere.
I smiled at the image.
“What are you smiling about?” Big Guy teased, watching me.
I shrugged out of my daydream, blushing as I opened my eyes. “A little fantasy.”
Big Guy was interested, if not confused. “What’s that, if you don’t mind my asking?”
“I call him my Imaginary Romeo.” I supplied. “I see him only in my dreams, but the thoughts of him keep me warm at night.”
My gaze went back to the window and I fell asleep as soon as my eyes closed. My mind and magic was exhausted.
I awoke from my nap nearly an hour later when I was tapped on the shoulder. Blinking back to life, I found the limo stopped. “Where are we?”
“We’re here!” Big Guy announced as I followed her out of the limo.
I shivered when the wind tickled my hair and the smell of warm magic welcomed me from inside. “Where is here?”
My question would be answered as we drove up an elongated driveway that led to a huge mansion-like building. Sure enough, as we reached the building, I could see echoes of letters spelling out “Shore Point Academy.”
Echoes of letters on a building usually meant it was no longer what it said. This, of course, meant Bridget lied to me.
I watched as my escort turned to the driver. “Thanks again, Landry. That’ll be all.”
The driver lit a cigarette, his eyes wide as he asked. “See you later Big Guy?”
“You bet.” Big Guy nodded with a playful wink. “I’ll win my twenty bucks back tonight.”
I stood by her when we watched him drive away. After a moment, I spoke up, crossing my arms. “You lied to me.”
Bridget sighed. “Only about the Academy part and I’m sorry.”
“There’s someone else here who will be able to explain it to you better.” Bridget walked, tapping a number into a security keypad and sliding a card through the slot. “Her name is Shannon Ryan, and she’s the owner slash boss of this place. Follow me; I’ll take you to her office.”
Tugging the backpack tighter on my back, I could do nothing but obey. There was something special about this place.
Perhaps this Shannon Ryan woman will be able to tell me why.
The Imaginary Romeo
Bridget was quiet as she walked me down the many confusing halls of this academy-like building. It was set up like an old college dorm, so she told me the truth about that. We stopped at a set of double-doors.
“Go through those doors and past the rows of computers to another door with her name on it.” Bridget instructed me, pointing.
“You are not going in with me?” I queried.
“Sorry Ariana,” She shook her head. “I have work to do, but I’ll see you later. Okay?”
I nodded. “Aye.”
Slowly, I opened the double-doors and could sense the amount of power in the room ahead of me. There was a spell here – a protection spell; I could smell it. Someone wanted to remain secretive. I closed my eyes and opened my empathy.
Somehow, I already know this Shannon Ryan. I thought both to myself and Katherine, if she was still around. I touched the door, immediately feeling the same tingle of magic behind it as I had when I sensed a man with the same surname two years ago. He had silver-blue eyes and dark-as-night hair and called himself a Mystic Wizard. Could they be related?
Before I could say or think anything, I heard a woman say, “Come right in, Ariana. My name is Shannon Ryan and I’m the Chief here at the System.”
I opened my eyes to meet the silver-blue – no wait – brown – no, they were definitely silver-blue eyes of a college-aged woman with long, wavy black hair and a bright smile.
I had to ask, since it was on my mind. “Are you related to Stephen Ryan?”
She smiled, nodding. “Yep. He’s my cousin. I heard he helped you in the hospital.”
I smiled. “He was very nice to me, but he disappeared before I could thank him.”
“You’ll get your chance.” Shannon explained, gesturing to a chair. “Take a seat. Your partner will be here any minute.”
“Wait – partner?” I asked, confused. The questions were going a mile a minute; such as, “What is this place, anyway?”
“Thought you’d never ask.” Shannon sat at a large oak desk and explained what the System was all about.
Originally, it was an Academy, owned by the county, but it closed down due to the Great Depression. Her uncle Theodore Ryan, aunt Dixilynne and uncle’s best friend Mikhail McNathaniels thought of the perfect idea: renovate the worn-down place and disguise it as an Academy and Home for the children no one wanted. (This made me wonder why I was not sent there) Anyway, Theodore Ryan died during renovations and Dixilynne was left to mourn, with Mikhail to comfort her. After a while, mourning was over and it was time to restart fresh. By that time, Mikhail – Mick, as he was known – and Dixilynne had totally different ideas for the buildings, so they went their separate ways. Along the way, her younger sister Sarabeth dying shortly after giving birth to Shannon, and a new arrival in Susan’s daughter had Dixilynne pretty busy. More children came along as she made calls and set everything up for her vision: still disguised as an Academy, yet funded by the county and private money (mostly Theodore’s). She turned the Academy into a place called The System Agency – a teen detecting agency, where teenagers and older children would be trained detectives first, and in specialties second.
“That all sounds good, but what am I doing here?” I asked her. “How did Big Guy know I could Read her?”
Shannon shrugged. “I told her so, as I sent her on the assignment myself.”
“How did you know about me?”
She smiled, blinking. “Come on, Ariana Moon.” She teased. “You can figure that out for yourself.”
The eyes. She could change her eye color. That could only mean one thing.
“You are an Ancient Mystic as well.” I surmised. “Does anyone else here know that about me?”
Shannon shook her head. “Not if you don’t want them to.”