Susanna slowly walked along the cliff top path, her raven black hair blowing in the breeze. She stopped suddenly, feeling someone was watching her. She whisked
round and gave the bushes behind her a hard stare. Nothing moved or made a sound. Still feeling uncomfortable, she started walking again. Someone was watching
her; she could feel it. She decided to get up onto the bare patch of land near where the cliff path descended down the cliff face.
When she reached it, she stopped and had another look round. But there was nothing there. She cautiously started walking down the path towards her house,
unaware that she was indeed being watched from the top of the path.
Once Susanna had gone inside, the tall stranger slowly walked back along the path.
Susanna was glad that whoever or whatever had been watching her had now gone. She walked into her bedroom and sat on her bed, looking out of the window
towards the coast. The silver circlet in her hair glinted in the sun, and she sighed. Feeling hungry, she walked across the floor towards the door, when something
stopped her. Whatever it was was watching her again. She turned and ran towards the window in time to see a black-cloaked stranger jump off the cliff and
disappear beneath the line of the trees.
Susanna gasped and quickly ran out of the house. But when she arrived at the place where the man had fallen, there was no one there. She stood there, puzzled.
Why was there no body? She had seen the stranger fall. Just then she felt a pain in her hand. She stared at it. She saw that her hand had been cut along the palm,
and dark blood was oozing out of it. She screamed, ran back home, to wash it.
In the morning she glanced at her hand. No dark blood or lacerated palm. She shivered. What caused it? She thought about it for a moment, and then made for the
big fireplace. She waved her hand over the fire, blew on it and the flames turned silvery hue, and burned with a coldness that seemed to make breezes blow
around the room. Susanna waved her hand again and chanted some words that sounded like a northerly wind blowing through a forest of green trees. The flames
roared and a picture slowly formed in the centre. It was of the dark stranger. Susanna smiled and whispered a word. The fire went out, and then reappeared as a
normal fire as if no magic had ever happened.
She walked out of her bedroom and went outside where she could feel the wind in her face. She didn't notice a tall, dark haired, black cloaked, shadowy stranger
slowly materialising behind her.
She jumped as a hand clamped onto her shoulder. She tried to run away from that vice-like grip, but when she found she couldn't, she turned round and glared at
the stranger. "Who are you?" she asked, anger and fright in her eyes.
"Greetings, Susanna, daughter of the wind. I have come to take you to my master. He wants to have you ruling by his side."
Susanna didn't ask what this strange comment meant, or who the master was. She was staring at the crack in the ground that was slowly opening behind her captor.
He turned her round and steered her towards it. "Come" he said.
"You will come. You must come. You have no choice."
"No! I won't!" she shouted, and whisked round to face the stranger again. She pointed at him, and then muttered a word. Too late the stranger realised what she
was doing. The wind became a funnel, sucking the stranger into its whirling depths. Susanna muttered another word, and the tornado collapsed, flinging the stranger
over the tree they were next to, over the coast and out to sea.
Susanna collapsed onto the grass under the rustling tree. Until she became practised in casting complicated spells, the spells hurt her. She leaned against the tree and
the pain slightly lessened. She sighed, and found her eyes were slowly closing. Smiling, she fell asleep.
The stranger flew through the air out to sea. But he was not scared. He was laughing. His cold heartless laugh suggested cruelty. He clicked his fingers, and vanished
Susanna gently woke from her restful sleep. The pain was gone. She opened her eyes and stared into a pair of fiery orange ones. Jerking fully awake, she jumped up
and readied herself against any attack, but the man with orange eyes smiled. Examining him, she saw that he was wearing golden chain mail over an orange shirt,
both under a red cloak. He had light brown hair and wore a small ruby pendant around his neck. The colours of his clothing didn?lash, surprisingly, and the man
reminded her of a roaring bonfire. Curious about this man, she asked him who he was.
"I am the son of fire, and you are the daughter of the wind. I was sent here by your parents and mine."
"To give you this."
He produced a large bundle from underneath his cloak, and gave it to Susanna. While she unwrapped it, she asked, "What is your name?"
"Aran Firestorm." he answered. He smiled. "What is in it?" he said, returning to the subject of the bundle, which he had delivered. "I delivered it, so am I allowed to
"Of course" she replied, smiling at him. Then Susanna returned to her bundle. She unwrapped it and her eyes gleamed. It contained two things: a moonstone pendant
and a silver sword. The pendant contained swirling blue and silver mists. The sword was made with blue steel and its hilt was silver inlaid with gold. Where
the ebony handle met the guard before the blade there was a sparkling diamond. When she looked into the diamond she could see the colours of the different winds
trapped within its depths. "They're beautiful!" she gasped. Aran grinned. She glanced up at Aran to see his reaction and was startled to find that he was staring at
her. "Thank you," she whispered, as she started to put on the pendant.
"Let me," he replied, and placed the delicate silver chain around her neck.
For a while Aran and Susanna stood there in silence. Susanna was trying out the sword, while Aran watched. She was finding it a bit cumbersome, but she dearly
wished to be able to fight well with it. After a while Aran asked her if she would mind him showing her how to hold her new sword.
Aran moved so that he was standing a bit behind Susanna, and put his right hand round her right fist. He corrected her grip, and then showed her some of the basic
Aran looked at his watch. He had been told to leave before two o'clock and return to his tutor of magic and magery, but he didn?ant to leave this girl. She was
so kind and friendly. She was nicer than his other friends. He sighed. It was almost two o'clock now. He willed time to stop for a while, but it didn't. With another
sigh he announced, "I have to go now. I'm sorry." But then he had an idea. "Do you want me to come and teach you how to use this sword?"
Susanna grinned. "Yes please. I need it badly."
Aran smiled. "Okay"
Susanna was sad that Aran had to go. She liked him; he was her friend. And the fact was she didn?ave many friends, as her house was in the middle of nowhere.
Putting her sadness out of the way, she raised her head and smiled at him. Aran eyes met Susanna's and he gripped her hand slightly tighter. He smiled, said
goodbye again, and walked away. Susanna turned to wave him goodbye as he rode off on his chestnut horse, and then looked at the sword. A new look of
determination on her face, she tried to remember the moves.
The stranger stared at Susanna, glad that the man had ridden off at last. He gave a thin-lipped smile, and then gave a long, low-pitched whistle. Ten grey shapes slid
out of the forest behind him. He pointed to Susanna and the said "Bring her to me. You will know where I am, my demons." With that he pulled his cloak around him
and vanished from sight.
Susanna felt uneasy. She had felt as if someone was watching her, but the feeling had gone now. She walked out from under the tree and gazed around. She froze as
she saw the great, grey, low shapes running towards her, their unnatural fiery red eyes burning with excitement. She glanced at her front door, and seeing it
was too far away to run to before being dragged down by the wolves, she prepared herself to stand and fight. She pointed at the leader of the demonic pack,
whispered a word, and a glowing silver arrow shot towards the wolf. It hit it squarely between the eyes. The wolf burst into thousands of bits of dust. Feeling
uncomfortably hot around her neck, she grabbed her pendant and suddenly silver fire lit up her eyes. This was better. She suddenly felt much stronger. Closing her
eyes, she imagined strands of blue and silver thread, and wove them together to form a shield around her. She opened her eyes and smiled. Her blazing shield would
stop and wolves from reaching her, but if she stepped outside it she would be a meal for the wolves. She never noticed the stranger reappear on the cliff.
He slowly spoke a few words of power. They floated into the air with a burning red light. When he had finished, he clapped his hands. The red words formed
themselves into an energy-sapping blanket, and rushed through the blazing shield of Susanna's It wrapped itself around Susanna, forming a suffocating blanket
"Try fighting that, missy." He said, and vanished from sight, laughing.
Susanna threw another arrow at the next wolf. She was glad of her pendant. She winced. As well as the ache from doing magic, she had another feeling. She felt she
was being squeezed. Her concentration gave way to tiredness. The shield he had made collapsed in a flash of white light. She tried to get her sword to fight the
advancing grey bodies, but her limbs felt like lead. She fell to her knees, trying to keep herself awake. Vaguely she saw a giant grey shape run for her. Her eyes
opened wider in terror, but she saw no better. Her eyelids were trying to shut. "No!" she shouted, forbidding herself to give up. She wrestled with the urge to fall
asleep, and tried to raise her arms to defend herself. The wolf leapt. Suddenly something gleaming in the sun swept down from the blurred mist. The next moment the
grey shape was no more. It had exploded into dust like the first. She fought the exhaustion, trying to stay awake. She swayed. Dust kept blowing in her face from
the gleaming thing in front of her. She managed to turn her head and saw another wolf coming at her. A breath of air flew past her ear, and an arrow embedded itself
in the animal?kull. With an unnatural scream, the dust flew into her face, making her eyes sting. The already blurred scene swam. She swayed again. She fought it,
but it was no use. She collapsed onto the grass.
While sleeping, a scene swam into view. There were two people round a body. "Oh no!" She thought. Then saw something red slowly peel itself away
from a body that was lying underneath the tree. She opened her eyes to get a better view. The light of the summer's day flooded into her eyes, making her wince. A
huge shadow loomed over her. She peered at it. It was a person. No, there were two, she was sure. Blinking, she sat up and leaned against the tree.
"Who are you?"
The figures grinned. One, with long ginger hair and green eyes, said, "Here, drink this." While Susanna drank the water, the ginger figure told her who she was. "I?
Dania. This is my brother Sebastian."
The second figure came into view again. He looked nothing like his sister. His hair was light brown and he had bright blue eyes. She saw he was wearing silver chain
mail over a black shirt. He carried a great sword at his side, and had a shield on his arm. "Hi," he said. I hope you feel a bit better. From where we were you looked
as though you needed some help with those wolves."
"Thanks. I did" Susanna smiled, and stiffly stood up. She took them into her house and they all sat in the living room and talked. Soon the sun was setting. Sebastian
and Dania had to return to their mother in the village. Susanna, wondering about her battles that day and pleased she had made some new friends, went to sleep.
A man was standing on top of the cliff. He was staring at nothing. Susanna, wondering who he was, willed the wind to carry her further towards him. As she floated
closer, she saw him slowly look at her. He smiled evilly, and closed his eyes. Susanna peered at him. Suddenly his eyes snapped open, showing red flaming balls
inside his eye sockets, not proper eyes. She reeled back in shock. He clenched his fist and made as if to throw something over her. All at once a scarlet net
appeared, and wrapped itself tightly round Susanna. A dot of blood red fire appeared next to her, and quickly enlarged. Screaming for help, she was dragged to it,
the Stranger following her. Susanna, suddenly thinking of a spell, muttered a phrase in an ancient language. The cliff disappeared as she was knocked off the edge of
the cliff by the wind she had summoned to blow away the scarlet net. The net shattered into a thousand shards, flying towards the Stranger. He glared at her, and
then jumped into the portal. It closed behind him with a razor-sharp screech. Susanna felt dizzy, as she was falling further than she had thought she would.
Mysteriously she was turned around, and watched the ground come to greet her in its own violent life-ending manner. She screamed, and screamed.
She sat up in bed, still screaming and shaking like a leaf in a gale. She looked around, realising where she was. Still very scared of that large fall she had dreamed,
she made herself some breakfast. She managed to calm herself down, and went to get dressed. Then, thinking, she tried to see what the dream might have meant.
Something about the stranger, she was sure. But what?
As she was pondering her dream, there was a knock on the door. She went to open it. Standing there was Aran.
"Hi." He said. "How are you?"
"Fine. Come in."
They walked into the living room and sat on the sofa. Chatting away, they didn?otice the Stranger peering in the window. He grinned, and disappeared.
Something was troubling Susanna. She didn?now what it was. Realising Aran was saying something, she said "Pardon?"
Aran sighed. "Would you like to come for a walk along the cliff for a while? I don't like being stuck inside for too long."
"Okay." Susanna replied.
Aran smiled. They got up and put on cloaks. Slowly they walked outside, and walked up the cliff path. A refreshing breeze blew in Susanna's face, waking her up
properly. Aran had been much more talkative ever since they had walked into the sunlight of the spring morning. She liked the idea of the walk that he come up
with, but she was sure that something was not right.
At the top of the cliff, they turned round and looked down at the small white shape that was her house. Aran looked down at the ground directly underneath the
edge of the cliff, and stepped back from the edge hurriedly.
"I hadn't thought that it was quite that far down." Aran said, looking slightly dizzy. When Susanna went to look, Aran held her back.
"Just be careful, okay?"
Susanna peered over the cliff, and stepped backwards, banging into Aran. Aran fell backwards onto the grass, and then sat up and laughed. Susanna helped him up.
Suddenly Aran stopped looking at something a few metres behind her. Susanna turned and saw the Stranger staring at nothing in particular. Susanna stepped
forwards, leaving Aran behind her. The Stranger turned and stared over Susanna?houlder at Aran. Aran was immediately paralysed. He could move at all.
Susanna walked towards the Stranger. "Let him go!!" she shouted, but the Stranger smiled evilly at her, at then closed his eyes. Suddenly his eyes snapped open,
showing red flaming balls inside his eye sockets, not proper eyes. He clenched his fist and made as if to throw something over her. All at once a scarlet net
appeared, and wrapped itself tightly round Susanna. A dot of blood red fire appeared next to her, and quickly enlarged. Screaming for help, she was dragged to it,
the Stranger following her. Susanna, suddenly thinking of a spell, muttered a phrase in an ancient language. Laughing, the Stranger jumped into a red portal next to
his elbow, and Susanna saw the cliff disappear as she was knocked off the edge of the cliff by the wind she had summoned to blow away the scarlet net. As the
Stranger disappeared, the net shattered into a thousand shards.
Aran felt the spell melt as the Stranger disappear into the portal. He was suddenly blown onto his chest by a gust of wind, his eyes over the edge. His stomach gave
a jolt as he saw Susanna's feet slip from the edge. Quickly he grabbed hold of her arm as she fell, and felt her other hand grab his. He tried to pull her up, but he
couldn't. If he did, he would fall over the edge of the cliff too.
Susanna realised with shock her hand was slipping. She screamed, and tried to get her hand to stay put. It wouldn't. Her arm that was being held by Aran felt like it
was pulling out of her shoulder. She closed her eyes, and tried to ignore the pain, the slipping of her hand, and the height of the drop beneath her feet. A spell formed
in her mind. But to do it she would have to let go with her hand. She plucked up the courage, and told Aran her plan. Aran told her that the spell that she had in mind
would be too much for her magic only. Susanna saw what he meant. That spell could only be done with a larger gift than either hers or Aran?
Aran found his blazing orange magical Gift inside him. Slowly he eased a wire out of it, and made the wire travel into Susanna?rm. Susanna felt this addition to her
magic, and thanked Aran. Slowly she fashioned a net from Aran's magic, and then he summoned a wind to blow a cloud down from the sky. The gale quickly
brought a small cloud to her. She placed the net inside the cloud and made sure it would stay there. The she called out to Aran "Alright, you can let me go now!"
Aran let go of her arm, and then stood up and jumped onto the cloud as well. Exhausted, they lay back on the cloud supported by Susanna's mind, and were slowly
lowered to the ground. As soon as they had both got off the cloud onto the ground, the net of Aran?agic disappeared, and the cloud floated back up to its
They trudged back to Susanna's house and collapse onto the sofa in the living room. They were started to talk about the Stranger, but Aran was so exhausted that
he fell asleep.
No answer. She stared into his face, and smiled. Curling up on the other end of the sofa, Susanna fell asleep as well.
Susanna was woken by the front door being opened. Feeling refreshed by her rest, she went to see who it was. When she saw, she said "Hi Sebastian. Hi Dania.
How did you get in? I always lock the door, and you haven?ot a key."
"You left it open." replied Dania. Susanna remembered back to the time when they had come in, tired by the adventure on the cliff. She hadn't locked the door, had
she? "Oh well" she said. "Come into the kitchen; Aran?sleep in the living room. "Who is Aran?" Susanna told them about her meeting with Aran and about the experience on the cliff. They listened, and when Susanna had finished, Sebastian said "Well. I am glad you two are alive. We didn't bescue you to get killed by falling over a cliff!" He grinned at her. Susanna thought about her fall off the cliff, and thought about her
dream that morning. They were very similar??lt;br>"Who was the stranger?" asked Sebastian "Do you know?"
"No, I don?although I wish I did!" replied Susanna. "He is causing loads of trouble suddenly. I wish I knew why!" Her eyes suddenly fell on Sebastian's shield. It
was black with a silver dragon. Where had she seen that dragon before?
"I seem to have seen the dragon on your shield before. Would you know where?"
Sebastian bit his lip, and glanced at Dania. She nodded. "Well, my father was the king?hampion. He lived in the capital of Tyra in the court of the king. He was
killed by some Stormwings about four years ago."
It dawned on Susanna where she had she the shield before. She remembered that shield from a man at the head of a contingent of soldiers that had marched along
the coastal road about four years ago. She remembered the leader?ace as he rode along the road on his black warhorse. She compared it with Sebastian?it was
very similar, although not quite the same. Sebastian noticed her staring at him.
"What is it?"
"Just remembering where I saw the shield." She told them about the soldiers marching past, Sebastian's father at their head. Sebastian smiled.
"That must have been when he was marching to Carut to fight the Stormwings. I am glad you saw him." He sighed, and stared at the floor.
"We mustn?alk about such depressing things," said Dania.
Susanna grinned. "You're right."
At that moment Aran walked in, looking much better for his long sleep. Susanna got up and introduced them all. Then she sat at the kitchen table. Aran followed
suit. They quickly started chatting.
Susanna waved goodbye to her friends. Aran had left about an hour ago. Dania and Sebastian were leaving now. They had to go back to their mother's house in the village. As they rode off towards the village, Susanna felt lonely. She was stuck here all on her own. She sighed and walked into the house. She turned to close the front door, and saw a red portal spinning in the doorway. She backed away, and picked up her sword. The Stranger slowly stepped out of the portal, leaving it
spinning. She glanced behind him, up at the cliff. In the distance she saw Dania and Sebastian stop, point and then turn their horses and ride straight back to her
house. She looked back at the Stranger, in time to see him preparing a spell. She said the words of a magic shield spell, but she never finished it. A huge force
cannoned into her, sending her flying through the open door into the kitchen. She regained her balance and sent a magic arrow flying towards the Stranger. He blocked it. She glanced out of the window and saw Dania and Sebastian arrive outside the house. The Stranger looked where she was looking, and showing his steel teeth in a cold, murderous grin, hid behind the door. Susanna walked to the other side of the kitchen and prepared to send another arrow at him. But then she saw Dania sprinting down the hallway, Sebastian close behind. The Stranger picked up a chair, and raised it above his head. "Dania, stop! He is behind the door!" Susanna shouted, but it was too late. Dania rushed into the kitchen, and the Stranger brought his chair down on top of her. Dania stopped, and crumpled to the floor. Sebastian jumped over Dania and the broken chair, and faced the Stranger, sword drawn. The Stranger?ace became a
mask of hatred, and he ran towards Susanna, drawing his sword. She pointed her sword at the Stranger, but he flicked his hand, said a harsh word, and the sword
flew out of her hand and embedded itself in the wall. Before she knew it the Stranger had grabbed her arms, and put his sword at her throat. Sebastian froze. "Let me pass, unless you want your friend dead." Sebastian kicked the chair off Dania, and then moved away from the door. . The Stranger grinned again, his steel teeth flashing in the sunlight coming through the window. Susanna could feel his unnaturally cold breath on the back of her neck, and the bite of the cold steel on her throat. Her eyes were wide with fear. She gulped.
The Stranger guided Susanna towards the kitchen door. He stepped over Dania. A foot appeared from nowhere and kicked the Stranger?eet from under him. Susanna was pulled to the ground by two hands on her ankle. She glanced around. The foot belonged to Sebastian; the hands belonged to a now awake Dania. Dania grinned, and then drew her dagger, and pointed it at the Stranger. The Stranger looked around frantically, but there was no way out. "Oh, I will get you yet" the Stranger said in a harsh voice that sent shivers up Susanna?pine. "Just you wait. Hades will get you yet." Before Dania could stop him, he clicked his fingers and disappeared. Susanna looked out at the red portal. It had somehow disappeared totally. She glanced round at Sebastian and Dania. She grinned.
Avalon Publication July 2000