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The Legend of Atlantis

Chapter Text

Clouds floated along the wind, dancing through the bright blue sky. Ripples flowed gently accompanied by the sound of waves transcending from the sea. The sun was high in the sky leaving a crystal-clear clarity to the world, a sense of peace and tranquillity.

But then it was shattered, as a blinding light lit up the horizon. The light was gone a heartbeat later as small shadows appeared on the horizon, gaining speed as they traveled towards their destination. The sea churned, the outlines of several fleets of ships appearing on the horizon were the figures were racing away from. Ten small shadows were trailed by a larger shadow as the enemy fleet sped closer. Humanoid figures rode the shadows that were quickly becoming recognisable as giant, winged beasts and lithe dragons flapping enormous wings trying to desperately gain speed. Wings pumped faster as several wyverns and griffons rushed to catch up. The remaining few phoenixes put on bursts of speed, drawing from their remaining magical reserves in hopes of out-racing the approaching fleet. The massive shadow trailing behind the smaller winged creatures, a feathered serpent dragon had an assortment of humanoids on its back, reducing wind speed and causing the dragon to not go as fast as it needed to escape the enemy fleet. Golden harnesses adorned the fleeing creatures that strangely did not impair their flying.

Humanoid beings gripped the harnesses attaching them to their beasts, hunching over to reduce wind speed in a feeble hope of outracing the approaching ships that grew closer to their home. The wind caught and scattered the muttered spells and ancient prayers asking the gods for help.

Suddenly, one of the riders of the wyverns turned to his left and pointed at the rider of a nearby griffon and shouted, “That fleet is massive! We must warn Atlantis!” Pointing behind him at the all-encompassing enemy fleet they paled as the ships caught up with their beasts.

“We are too late!” Another rider screamed as the enemy fleet overtook them and their beasts in a magical downpour of death. Five other beasts and riders were overtaken by the enemy fleet’s mages, sorcerers and wizards. They screamed out a terrified yell before the magical wave crashed over them, disintegrating their bodies. Several people cried out in terror as the feathered serpent dragon let out a rumbling cry as it was engulfed in a wave of deadly magic.

The only two left flying were the phoenixes, and their riders barely had a second to wipe away their tears, before urging their phoenixes to go even faster. Incredibly, the two sped ahead at an even faster pace, outdistancing the enemy fleet; enough for their riders to glimpse the outlines of the rolling hills and valleys that surrounded their beloved Atlantis. The two riders on their phoenixes were finally within range for their telepathy to send out distress calls to the capital of Atlantis. The messages for everyone within distance to head to the capital had just been transmitted when they were cut off abruptly as the phoenixes were finally overtaken by the enemy fleet.

The sprawling city could glimpse the massive enemy fleet bearing towards them as emergency alarms sounded, the echoes of the giant gongs a warning that resounded throughout the streets. People screamed and lost control of other creatures; some disappearing into portals as frantic people chanted ancient magical words to send their creatures back to the Astral Plane from where they originated, terrified that their astral-partners would also die horrible deaths.

People rushed and crowded, heading towards the capital, all trying to at least get passed the five statues the rimmed the inner city. One of the statues depicted an ugly black canine with massive horns and red marks around its body. Another canine statue was an elegant, white, fox-like creature with blue markings around its face. The largest of the statues was of a lithely coiled dragon of the purest white, a flowing silver mane running down its back. The brightest of the statues, made of pure gold, was of a feminine humanoid with the wings and feathers of a bird. The final statue was the most beautiful made of platinum and depicted a female with pointed ears and plumed butterfly wings. These were the five greatest gods known to the Atlanteans. They were called Mortem the Cursed One, Fraud the Trickster, Sapientiae the Wise, Ignis the Brave, and Lux the Protector. These were the five Atlantean gods the people turned to for protection and guidance. They symbolised faith and hope in times of darkness, of which this was a time of.

At the palace two small males were running, trying to keep up with their mothers the queens, Sun Wing and Wind Song. The twin females were the only children of the last king of Atlantis and were given the whole of Atlantis to rule together upon his death. They were beloved by the people for their kind spirits and gifts in magic. Each of the sisters had preformed the Spell of Life causing them to have their two sons even though neither took a mate. The queens, mirror images of each other with bronze skin and long black hair, hurried across the courtyard, trying to reach the safety of the palace walls. Wind Song pulled along her young son White Light, his hand clutched tightly in her own, while Sun Wing and her son Dark Shade kept pace with them. Stately robes billowed around them as they ran towards the awaiting awning, but White Light tripped causing Wind Song to stop to pick him back up. White Light, the younger of the two princes, could not understand why everyone was screaming and running around, but the urgency of his mother had caused him to try and keep up with her, but she moved too fast causing him to trip. Sun Wing and Dark Shade, who had ran ahead a few paces before noticing they had stopped, rushed back towards them, Sun Wing urging her twin to hurry. But Wind Song had always been a little too emotional and knelt down to comfort her crying son.

White Light nodded his blond head, blue eyes filling with tears, but his mother had already turned her head away, a state of wonder on her face as she gazed up at the sky. A blue white light enveloped the sky as the light touched her and her sister Sun Wing. Sun Wing had the same expression on her face, as though the gods and goddesses were calling to them. Their personal bond items, necklaces made from beaten gold, began to glow white blue as their eyes shone with the same blue white light.

Suddenly, the two queens rose into the air. White Light and Dark Shade stared at their mothers in confusion as they rose higher and higher into the sky. White Light cried out in surprise as Dark Shade tried to grab his own mother from the light, but wound up with a piece of shredded cloth as the bottom of Sun Wing’s dress gave way under the weight of her son. Dark Shade fell back to the ground, a piece of white cloth still clutched in his hand as he glimpsed up in mute terror.

White Light, glimpsed up at his mother as she was lifted higher into the sky, lifted his hands, reaching for her, and shouted out, “Mama! Mama!” His voice broke as tears streaked down his face and Dark Shade, the older the two princes, joined him in calling for their mothers, hands still clutching the ripped piece of cloth like a lifeline.

Blue white lights emerged from the five god statues as an energy shield spread over the city. Civilians crashed into the shield, unable to get through. The enemy fleet had docked their ships, thousands of warriors and magic users departing, destroying buildings and snatching up people as they went. Those left on the outside of the shield saw the army of enemy warriors and knew their own death was approaching. Friends and family gripped each other for temporary comfort as hopelessness and despair swept through them. They held each other as the wave of enemy warriors cut every last Atlantean down, sparing not a single survivor.

The blue white lights began to burn brighter as two figures sprinted across the pathway to reach the two princes. High Priest Blue Lightning, the twin queens’ cousin, and his mate, Draca, ran to the two young princes and swept them into their arms, shielding their eyes with their robes. “Glimpse away White Light, Dark Shade! Glimpse away!” Blue Lightning shouted to the two young males as he and Draca bowed their heads over the two cousins to keep them from going blind. The blue white light that had been the two queens grew brighter as the force-field closed to form a dome over the city.

The light grew brighter until the enemy forces crashed against the dome, unable to get in. The invading army threw everything they had at the energy shield but nothing, not weapon nor magic, could penetrate the protective dome. The island shook with an ear-splitting crack, the foundation of the city broke as cracks filled the earth under what was the capital city of Atlantis and the ground gave way under the dome. Earth, rock and debris hit the protective energy shield as water flooded in where land had once been, taking the lives of the invading army with it. The blue white shield grew dimmer until the city of Atlantis sank beneath the waves; never again to resurface.

Chapter Text

Blue eyes gazed out from the small cave situated near the top of a staggering cliff. The bronze skinned young male with the blue eyes glimpsed out over the stone path leading up the cliff waiting for his companions to join him. The cave was high up, his vantage point allowing him to glimpse far off into the distance. From here he could view the entire city, including the forbidden submerged areas, and the caverns’ stone walls. This underground cavern, while big enough to hold a city and give the illusion of an open sky, was surrounded by impenetrable walls on all sides. From their highest possible vantage point, sad blue eyes could glimpse through the deceptions of the minds’ eye to the horrible truth. They were trapped. They were always trapped.

The sky that many swore they viewed was truly a phosphorous moss that had grown at the top of the cavern, giving the illusion of a sun. An unending water supply flowed off of waterfalls on the raised city into the lava-filled ‘moat’, creating a steaming effect that enshrouded the city. The steam made the surrounding, uneven walls of the cavern appear to be far-off mountain ranges. Most of the city deceived themselves into believing that they were still above ground, still free.

But no one ever tried to escape from this underground sanctuary. They were content with their life underground, free from the threat of invaders from the surface. What had the surface world ever given them anyway? The constant threat of invasion and war. The death of their queens. The Atlanteans were joyous living in their hidden city, safe from the threats of the surface.

The bronze skinned young male shook his blond head vigorously as he reminded himself as to why he was here. It would not help anyone if he dwelt on things that could not be changed. The only thing he could do was bring hope to his people. But he needed his friends’ help. After all, he was one of the few who knew the secret passage ways, with all their twists and turns and blocked off dead-ends. In order for him to navigate them quickly, he needed his uncle, aunt or their sons, his cousins; luckily, both of the sons were coming along. Speaking of which, the bronze skinned young male could glimpse both of them coming up the winding path to the cave. Both of them were dark, marking them some of the few Dark Ones of their culture.

His icy older cousin was easily recognisable by his neatly bound dark hair and glowing amethyst eyes as he regally ascended the rock path. Stately white robes encase his body, accentuating his lithe build, as his blue cloak billowed out behind him. His face was emotionless except for a softening of his eyes as he regarded his enthusiastic younger brother.

The younger of the two brothers ran excitedly up the path trying to keep up with his tall, older brother’s longer strides. Unruly, long black hair flew behind him as he ran, and brown eyes danced joyously as a wide smile stretched across his young face. His short white robe was more appropriate for the upcoming adventure than his older brother’s formal robes, but the enthusiastic youth had always been less formal than his more traditionally minded brother.

The blue-eyed young male smiled at his cousins in welcome. The tall, amethyst-eyed male reached the cave entrance first. His stern gaze swept the inside of the cave, obviously glimpsing for the rest of their companions. If he was disappointed than no one but his blue-eyed cousin was there, he gave no sign of it. The younger brother bounded in a moment after his brother and smiled at his older cousin as he enthusiastically asked, “Are we the first of our company to arrive, White Light?”

White Light, the blue-eyed young male, nodded as he replied, “You and Lightning Flash have so far been the only members of our company to arrive, Quick Thunder.”

Before young Quick Thunder could say anything else, his older brother questioned his cousin in his usual emotionless tenor, “I understand the difficult Prince Dark Shade possesses to sneak away from the palace, but how is it possible for us to have arrived before that absentminded mage and Apprentice Healer Rustling Wind.” Lightning Flash’s sneered when he spoke of that ‘absentminded mage,' before settling back into grudging respect when he spoke of Rustling Wind. Quick Thunder rolled his eyes behind his brother’s back as his brother’s stuck-up personality. Quick Thunder feigned innocence when Lightning Flash glimpsed at him with cynical eyes before turned back to White Light, disbelieving his younger brother’s ploy but not caring enough to correct him on proper behaviour.

White Light smiled at the two brothers as he cheerfully replied, “Rustling Wind was glimpsing up something in the palace archives and he said he might possibly run late.” Lightning Flash nodded at this explanation; Rustling Wind was a good healer and his dedication to his studies was something Lightning Flash could not help but approve of. White Light hesitated as he reluctantly said, “I cannot fathom where Joyful Melody is though.”

At the name of the mage, Lightning Flash’s lip curled once more as he disrespectfully sneered, “Well, she had better arrive before Apprentice Healer Rustling Wind and Prince Dark Shade, or else she shall be left behind.”

Quick Thunder pouted as he whined, “But, elder brother Joyful Melody always makes everything more fun when she is around.” Lightning Flash snorted in disgust at his brother’s comment. He never quite understood his younger brother’s friendship with the perky mage and refused to comment on it. Quick Thunder, glimpsing that his brother would not listen to reason, decided to change tactics. Skillfully thinking up a plan on the fly, Quick Thunder lowered his gaze as he softly stated, “Joyful Melody also received the vision of the gods just as we did, elder brother. That means she must take part in this journey with us. As a priest I know you would never do anything to disobey the will of the gods.”

Lightning Flash almost wanted to applaud his brother’s performance. Almost. Quick Thunder knew that if he did not want to do something, then threatening his pride as a priest and his devotion to the gods would usually be enough to get him to follow along in whatever crazy plans his brother and cousins had come up with. After all, that was how they convinced him to take part in this foolish quest. But having already fallen for the trick once, Lightning Flash was not about to fall for it again. He merely folded his arms over his broad chest and stated unceremoniously, “It would be Mage Apprentice Joyful Melody’s own fault for being left behind. If she cared about deciphering the gods’ visions as much as she claimed when you all convinced me to join you in this foolish quest then she would not have been late.” Quick Thunder glimpsed up in irritation at his brother’s easy discernment of his ‘skillfully’ thought out plan. He wanted to stomp his foot in childish aggravation, but Quick Thunder felt he was too old for that; especially since he was nearly ready to start courting a mate.

The reminder brought the sparkle back to his eyes as he tried to imagine what his to-be times mate would be like. Would they be female or male? What would they act like? Would they share a Mystic-bond or an Empathetic-bond? His own parents were Empathetically-bonded, but his father’s paternal family came from a long line of Mystically-bonded mates; so, he had a good chance of having his bonding go either way. He could not help but wish for an Empathetic-bond like his parents, and he knew that Lightning Flash had secretly wished for the same.

Caught up in his musings, Quick Thunder had not noticed that his brother and White Light had continued on with their conversation. He decided what they were talking about had no relevance to him, so he continued with his musing about the rest of his companions. Quick Thunder watched White Light and wondered what his bonding would be. An Empathic-bond for his blue-eyed cousin, most likely. Their other companions would most likely share a Mystic-bond since they all had a bond item which indicated that they would most likely be destined to be strong magic users. That usually indicated one would have a Mystic-bond with their destined mate; although that was not always true. After all, his father, High Priest Blue Lightning, had bonded to a sacred bond item only to form an Empathetic-bond with his mother Draca.

Quick Thunder was startled from his thoughts by a cheerful laugh that resonated through the cave. Quick Thunder turned to the cave entrance to glimpse the cause of the musical laughter. Lightning Flash and White Light also turned towards the newcomer, the former with an annoyed sneer, and the latter with a friendly smile of greeting towards the tall female.

Brown eyes swept through the cave with barely restrained enthusiasm while an inviting smile stretched across Joyful Melody’s bronzed face. Bright warmth seemed to seep through her pores, giving her an aura of pure tranquility. Her gold bracelets, arm bands, and earrings were able to increase the appearance of her warmth; the warm gold giving the effect of a divine glow. She was nearly as tall as Lightning Flash, but she was more delicately built; although her build was still athletic and her arms and legs were corded with lean muscles. Tucked in her robe’s belt was a medium-sized rod, made entirely out of gold, with a glittering purple jewel mounted on top of the golden rod.

Lightning Flash ignored the new arrival in the icy manner he reserved for everyone outside his family. White Light and Quick Thunder however greeted the newcomer as an old friend. Joyful Melody practically jumped at White Light and Quick Thunder as she gave the two cousins a giant hug, nearly knocking them all to the ground. After she had finished hugging White Light and Quick Thunder, Joyful Melody tried to do the same with Lightning Flash. The young mage lunged at the older male, knocking him to the ground. Lightning Flash suppressed the urge to growl as he pushed the mage off of him and got back to his feet.

This was why Lightning Flash had absolutely nothing to do with Joyful Melody whenever he could help it. Her perky nature, while filled with a genuine warmth and kindness towards others, was too much for Lightning Flash to bare. Serious, reserved Lightning Flash always preferred to keep to himself, rarely interacting with anyone outside his family. Joyful Melody was the opposite. She was warm, open and emotional with everyone she met. The two of them were like oil and water; they had no common ground and would have been sworn enemies if Joyful Melody, was not so understanding of the aloof older male. Lightning Flash tried his best to ignore the perky mage while Joyful Melody did everything in her power to try and bring a smile to Lightning Flash’s face.

Thus, it was to no one’s surprise that he ignored Joyful Melody in favour of watching the rock path for anymore of their companions. Joyful Melody’s face twisted into a frown before her normal smile returned and she turned to White Light and Quick Thunder. “I am glad to glimpse you again, White Light and Quick Thunder.”

Joyful Melody was about to go in for another hug, but before she got the chance, Lightning Flash growled, “Finally.” White Light, Quick Thunder, and Joyful Melody turned to glimpse two shapes coming up the path. White Light’s eyes lit up at the shadows of his beloved older cousin and close friend.

Quick Thunder raised his arms above his head as he enthusiastically waved to their remaining companions as he happily shouted, “Dark Shade! Rustling Wind!” White Light joined Quick Thunder in waving as they excitedly waited for their friends. The two on the path seemed to be conversing about something as the ascended the stone path. The smaller and leaner of the two, Rustling Wind had an unwound scroll in his hand as he showed it to the taller and more muscular male beside him. The two took their own time to reach the top, more patient than Quick Thunder and White Light.

Rustling Wind, the most timid and soft-spoken of the group, was one of a handful of Pale Ones in Atlantis. He was slender and skinny, giving him the impression of being taller than he actually was. His waist-length hair was the lightest brown that perfectly complimented his ivory skin. His face was just as earnest and soft as his personality, while his brown eyes revealed to all his truly gentle soul. His white robe had little decoration, save for symbols that marked him as a healer’s apprentice. The only jewelry he wore was a gold choker around his neck. An old leather bag was tossed over his slender shoulders.

Prince Dark Shade, next in line for the throne after he and White Light found their mates, was the opposite of gentle Rustling Wind. Power and authority clung to his form as sky-blue eyes assessed the scroll held in Rustling Wind’s pale hands. Fire red locks were neatly done in a braid that trailed down his back to his hips. And while Dark Shade’s bronzed face held a powerful charisma, his sky-blue eyes were filled with a carefully guarded softness that he only showed to those closest to him. His face was sculpted into that of a fierce warrior when compared to White Light’s own soft facial features. Despite all their differences, it was obvious the two were related. Dark Shade could have been White Light’s brother; unsurprising considering their mothers had been identical twins.

Dark Shade had been trained in the arts of weaponry and self defense, giving his body a toned physique that filled out his broad shoulders, chest, and limbs. He moved with perfect grace and control; so much so, that it was easy to forget his young age and mistake him for an adult. As he ascended the path, it was obvious he was a male used to being in charge and carried the weight of responsibility on his shoulders seriously. His white robe was made from the finest material with a blue sash tied around his waist. His blue cloak trailed behind him as he walked, the colour denoting to all his high rank. Golden arm bracers, leg bracers, arm bands, and earrings adorned his body; but it was the golden circlet upon his forehead that marked him as the next king.

None of that mattered to him however, as he listened to everything Rustling Wind had to say about his research on visions sent by the gods. Glimpsing at the illustrated hieroglyphics that the ‘ancient’ societies had adopted from them, the young to-be times king wished, for perhaps the millionth time that he had spent more time learning to read the holy script only known to members of the royal family and their court. He often wondered why the ancient priests and magic users had thought the need for a separate alphabet only the royal family and the court could read.

Dark Shade mentally sighed, running a hand through his hair. He considered himself lucky to be one of the six to have been blessed with a vision from the gods. Finally, after centuries of waiting, the gods had finally spoken to the people of Atlantis once again. According to the information gathered from the palace archives, the recipient of a vision had to leave the city and go on a quest to learn the meaning of their vision. This made Dark Shade a bit nervous. He had never once left the city. His cousins and friends had always been more adventurous than him, exploring the tunnels that ran throughout the cavern while Dark Shade had been content to stay in the royal palace.

He had run these concerns by Rustling Wind and both had decided that the only course of action was to be patient and proceed with caution. Caution came easy to Dark Shade, being the next in line to the throne beside White Light, but patience was not one of his strong points. Still, he and Rustling Wind had decided to warn Joyful Melody, White Light and Quick Thunder to do the same. They did not need to warn Lightning Flash because, one, Lightning Flash was always patient and cautious, two, Lightning Flash had probably already learned of this from his own research, and three, Lightning Flash was stubborn and liable to do the exact opposite if he was in one of his moods. His younger cousins and the mage apprentice were much more likely to rush ahead without thinking of the possible repercussions if it turned out to be a trap.

Speaking of his companions, he and Rustling Wind could glimpse the other four waiting at the cave mouth. Dark Shade could not help but smile at his optimistic younger cousins waving at him and Rustling Wind while Lightning Flash leaned against the wall; arms cross as his cold eyes swept over them with his characteristic unemotional gaze. Dark Shade could glimpse Joyful Melody behind them, a massive smile on the young mage’s face.

They retained their progressive walk, neither rushing nor slowing down as the cave grew ever closer. Instead, White Light and Quick Thunder ran down the path towards them, shouting in excitement all the way. Rustling Wind tried to shroud his blush as he was hugged by White Light before returning the friendly embrace. Dark Shade gave a small smile as he affectionately ruffled his youngest cousin’s hair. Quick Thunder frowned as he escaped Dark Shade’s bronzed hand and White Light released Rustling Wind to maul his older cousin in a tight embrace. Dark Shade smile only grew wider as he embraced his beloved younger cousin. To White Light, it did not matter that Dark Shade was one of the to-be time kings and that most of the city refused to glimpse him in the eye in fear of offending him. White Light genuinely cared for Dark Shade, regardless of rank, and treated him in the same manner as his other friends. But that was why Dark Shade loved his younger cousin so dearly. So few had given him the precious gift of genuine friendship without worrying about his rank or lineage. It was tiring to endure all the formality and proper procedure that came with being royalty. Dark Shade would have preferred to live the life of a normal citizen; but the gods had decreed he and his cousin, White Light, were to be the next kings of Atlantis, and they had no choice but to accept their destiny.

Joyful Melody, having finally gained the courage, slowly approached Dark Shade. Dark Shade glimpsed at the young mage cautiously approached him. Releasing his cousin from his embrace, Dark Shade strode up to Joyful Melody, grabbed her by the shoulders and placed their foreheads together. Joyful Melody squeaked at the unexpected gesture but soon found herself returning it. The two slowly parted; unaware of the surprised stares everyone was giving them.

White Light could not believe what he just saw. Did his cousin just touched foreheads with Joyful Melody? “When did this happen?”

Dark Shade suddenly realised what he had done. The to-be times king stuttered, unable to form a single sentence. Under different circumstances it would have been funny to glimpse the normally controlled and confident Dark Shade so flustered and embarrassed, but White Light only grew more concerned for his older cousin. Dark Shade nearly jumped out of his skin when he felt someone touch his shoulder. The prince glimpsed and saw it was Joyful Melody. The mage squeezed her beloved’s hand and smiled gently at him. Dark Shade smiled in turn, finding the confidence he needed to tell his friends everything about him and Joyful Melody.

“Do you remember several months ago at the feast when I was poisoned?” Dark Shade asked. Everyone nodded. That had only been the most recent in a long line of assassination attempts on the young prince. “When I was recovering from the poisoning Joyful Melody was the one who always stayed at my side. We have always been close friends but it was when I was recovering from the poisoning that I realised how much she truly meant to me. I felt the beginnings of a mating bond begin to form during my recovery and the two of us have been courting ever since.”

Dark Shade expected his companions to be enraged or at least shocked that he had been courting someone without telling them. Instead, Dark Shade and Joyful Melody only received congratulations and full support in their courtship from their friends. The two were shocked but genuinely grateful for so much open support from their friends.

Lightning Flash frowned as he approached his eldest cousin. “Have you informed the Council of your courtship, Prince Dark Shade?” Lightning Flash asked bitterly.

Dark Shade shook his head. “No one on the Council knows that Joyful Melody and I are courting. We both thought it would be best to keep it a secret.”

“We only wanted what was best for us,” Joyful Melody informed.

Lightning Flash’s frown deepened. He could not believe how reckless Dark Shade and Joyful Melody had been. They should have informed the Council, or at the very least his father, the moment they realised they were the other’s destined mate. “I never knew you to be so reckless, Dark Shade. And you, Joyful Melody, are these actions of one who claims to want what is best for Dark Shade? If you are truly Dark Shade’s destined mate than that makes you one of the royal consorts. Is this any way for either of you to act?”

Dark Shade and Joyful Melody both felt ashamed of themselves. Hiding their courtship had been selfish, but what was so wrong with that. Dark Shade was used to giving everything of himself to his people. He partook in ever meeting, over saw every sacred ceremony, and spent weeks without glimpsing his friends just to glimpse to his duties. He even took on some of White Light’s work to give his cousin more free time. Once, just once, Dark Shade wanted something for himself that did not involve his people.

“Is it so wrong that I wanted something for myself, Lightning Flash? I give everything of myself to my people. Just once I wanted something that was solely mine. And who are you to criticise me. You do not even have a mate!” Dark Shade yelled angrily.

Everyone was shocked by Dark Shade’s uncharacteristic outburst all that is but Lightning Flash. The amethyst-eyed male just glimpsed at his cousin; his face an expressionless mask. “Actually, cousin, I do have a mate.”

Dark Shade felt himself freeze. How could he have forgotten? Lightning Flash did have a mate, once upon a time. “I am sorry, Lightning Flash. I do not know what came over me.”

“Do not speak of it. Harmony has been dead for centuries.” Lightning Flash turned his back to his cousin and the rest of their companions. “Now if you are all done wasting time, I suggest we get this vision quest over with.”

They walked along the path until the passageway opened into an enormous cavern. The cavern was not as big as the one housing the city of Atlantis, but it was still an impressive sight to behold. White Light knew if they went through the cavern it would lead them to a series of tunnels that would lead them to the rest of the underground network of tunnels. He had traveled them all in his youth in a vain attempt to try and reach the surface, but no matter how hard he tried White Light had never been able to find a way to escape, much to his despair.

Dark Shade glanced around to make sure everyone was there and nodded to Quick Thunder, to which the younger male cheered and Lightning Flash sighed. Both took it as their cue, and in an instant the two brothers were stripping themselves of all their coverings and jewellery. Lightning Flash hesitated for a moment before he removed the twelve silver clasps and three golden pins holding his hair in place. The flowing black tresses tumbled down Lightning Flash’s back until they reached his knees. It took all of Lightning Flash’s strength to keep himself from turning away from his cousins and their friends. It was embarrassing for him, the next high priest of Atlantis, to be glimpsed in such a state with his hair unbound. If his father was here Lightning Flash knew he would be lucky to get off with a lecture, but he had no time to worry about that know. They had a vision quest to complete.

Lightning Flash and Quick Thunder dropped to all fours and began to chant. The two brothers called upon their magic, drawing their power from the Void, the place separating the physical world from the Astral Plane. A few moments later, in the place of the two brothers stood two dragons. The first was larger and had scales so dark it would have disappeared in a moonless night, its amethyst-eyes emotionlessly glaring at the four Atlanteans. It was at least thirty feet long and had a wingspan no doubt double that size. The second dragon was smaller and brighter in colour when compared to the larger, its scales a deep blue gray colour. It was only about eighteen feet long and had a wingspan not even half that of the larger dragon.

The silent audience was unsurprised by the incredible transformation of the two brothers, but all four gasped when they saw the two dragons’ eyes flash red. None of them had glimpsed Lightning Flash or Quick Thunder’s dragon eyes flash red before. Even when the red eyes turned back to normal, none of the gathered company dared to move from where they were.

Quick Thunder was the first to break the uneasy silence that had settled about the group. He turned to his older brother and spoke in the telepathic language all magical beings could understand. By Lux’s wings. What was that big brother? The smaller dragon had turned his head to stare up at the larger dragon in wide-eyed uncertainty. Everyone heard the question in their mind and turned to the older dragon for answers.

Icy, amethyst-eyes narrowed in thought as the great black dragon shook his head in puzzlement. As much as I despise to admit this Quick, I have no idea what just happened to us. Everyone gasped in astonishment at the admission of the all-knowing Lightning Flash not having an answer, earning them all an enraged roar from the large black dragon.

Joyful Melody, sensing the anguish and confusion from the two dragon brothers, tried to comfort them the best way she could. “Do not worry about this, Lightning Flash. I am sure you will be able to find out what happened after we finish the vision quest.”

Dark Shade, not wanting anyone to get distracted from their mission, stepped forward and addressed Lightning Flash, “What was it that you know did happen? Not the cause, but the sensation?” The giant black dragon turned his head in thought as he remembered the sensation that overwhelmed him only moments before.

It felt as though there was a fire in my chest but it was not unpleasant. It was like the feeling when I first realised Harmony was my mate, but different.

Dark Shade regarded his transformed cousin before glancing at his other dragon cousin to glimpse the smaller reptilian head nodding in confirmation. He then turned back to the larger dragon and questioned, “Did it feel threatening?”

Lightning Flash closed his eyes as he tried to remember the feeling that overcame him and his brother. The large black dragon slowly opened his amethyst-coloured eyes as he shook his head. No. If anything it felt surprised. Whatever it was did not expect me anymore than I expected it. Again Quick Thunder nodded in agreement.

Dark Shade narrowed his eyes as he asked, “Did you have a vision or was it only an impression?” White Light’s head unconsciously perked up as he turned to listen in on the conversation. Only Rustling Wind noticed the sudden interest in the young prince, but stayed silent; he had learned long ago that being patient gained answers better than asking endless and pointless questions.

Lightning Flash stayed silent, unsure of how to answer. Quick Thunder spoke when his elder brother remained silence. I did not glimpse anything, but I did feel something brush my consciousness. It was not like with our telepathy, but I could tell it was letting me know it was there. In truth, I found the feeling to actually be very comforting. Lightning Flash turned away to stare at the tunnel. Dark Shade was not fooled for an instant. His stubborn, emotionally-reserved cousin did not want to admit something actually made him feel good. Ever since Harmony’s death Lightning Flash denied himself any form of joy, keeping everyone, even his family, at arm’s length.

Dark Shade folded his arms over his chest as he regarded the two dragons. “Were either of you aware that your eyes flashed red?”

Lightning Flash’s head whipped around and Quick Thunder stared wide eyed at his cousin. Dark Shade assumed from their expressions that neither noticed their eyes had changed colour. The prince’s suspicions were confirmed when Lightning Flash growled, That is impossible. Astral-beast eyes only change colour when they are consumed by the Void. Neither Quick nor I have ever extracted that much power from the plane between worlds. If we had, we would have gone rogue. Quick Thunder shuttered at the mere thought that either he or his brother could turn rogue.

Lightning Flash then shook his head and turned back to Dark Shade with his normal stoicism and replied emotionlessly, As much as this situation is unsettling, we should be starting on our vision quest before the Council realises we are missing. They will especially be in an uproar when they learn you and White Light are gone.

Dark Shade nodded in agreement with his cousin. With a sigh, Dark Shade allowed the conversation to be dropped. The young prince turned to his companions as he declared the start of the vision quest.

Chapter Text

Lightning Flash flew through the massive cavern, Dark Shade and Joyful Melody on his back. Quick Thunder followed after his older brother, White Light and Rustling Wind mounted comfortably on the younger dragon’s back. The dragons kept their pace slow and steady. Only the occasional flapping of powerful wings was needed to keep their giant bodies aloft. Lightning Flash occasionally glanced at his brother to check his progress as they followed the directions given to them by the visions of the gods.

They traveled for hours and Quick Thunder was thoroughly bored. Normally he would be doing daring loops and death defying stunts as he flew, but he was carrying passengers so he could not attempt any of his usual acrobatics. Conversations had sprung up of course, but nothing that he found interest in. The topics for most conversations had been based around politics and spells, two subjects Quick Thunder had little interest in. As shape-shifters, he and his brother could not perform most spells, so conversations about magic were never that interesting to him. And he wanted to do as little as possible with politics, seeing as how much stress it put on his father, brother and cousins.

Can we talk about something else, please?! Quick Thunder finally blurt out, his patience having reached its breaking point.

Lightning Flash was honestly surprised that his brother had lasted this long and was joyous to reward his patients. What do you want to talk about, Quick? Everyone turned to listen for his answer.

Quick Thunder thought for a moment before he asked, What does it feel like to find your mate?

Lightning Flash shrouded his pain behind his normal stoicism as he silently wished his brother had chosen a different topic of conversation. Why, out of all the possible questions he could have asked, did Quick Thunder have to ask about what if felt like to find one’s mate? Dark Shade and Joyful Melody blinked in surprise as they gazed at each other, blushing madly.

Dark Shade tried to remember how he felt when the mating bond first formed between him and Joyful Melody. “The mating bond did not form instantaneously. I believe it took form between Joyful Melody and I long before either of us realised it. But when I realised what had formed between the two of us, I thanked the gods for blessing me with such a gift.”

Joyful Melody’s face flushed as her arms tightened around Dark Shade’s waist. “Shade, please do not say such things so lightly. You are embarrassing me.”

A joyful laugh escaped Dark Shade’s throat. “Why so bashful, my beautiful Joy? I only speak the truth. I am grateful you are the one the gods destined me to be with. You are my world, Joyful Melody, and I love you more than anything.”

Glimpsing Dark Shade and Joyful Melody had gotten lost with each other, and knowing his brother would not answer his question, Quick Thunder turned to the two on his back. White Light and Rustling Wind stared at the young dragon. After a few moments of silence Quick Thunder asked, Neither of you are mated yet, so what do you want in your mate?

White Light tilted his head as he thought of an answer. “I do not really know. Why do you not tell us what you want in your own mate, Quick Thunder, since you asked the question?”

Quick Thunder contemplated his answer before saying, I do not really care if they are male or female. All I want is someone who can love me for who I am. I want my mate to be kind, patient and get along with my family. I am also hoping we could be Mystically-bonded. That is all I really considered important in the long term.

Lightning Flash, who had been listening in on his brother’s conversation, was surprised at how vague an answer his brother gave to such an important question. Your answer was rather vague, Quick. Do you truly have no preferences about your mate’s appearance or personality? Or their intellectual and magical ability?

Quick Thunder was a bit annoyed that his brother had been eavesdropping, but he ignored it as he replied, I really do not care about any of that. Mother and father always said that the gods chose a person’s mate judging by what they needed, not what they wanted. As long as my mate is kind and gets along with my family, nothing else matters. After all, I am half dragon but that does not define all of me. Why should I wish for something that could be the exact opposite of what they are? The gods chose my mate for me so I know I will love them when I meet them. That is why I decided to focus on what matters and leave the rest up to fate. Everyone, especially Lightning Flash, was thoroughly impressed by Quick Thunder’s maturity regarding the topic and found themselves rather proud of the young dragon.

Rustling Wind cleared his voice as he quietly said, “I would prefer it if my mate was a male. I would want him to be brave and strong, but also kind and gentle. I want my mate to be someone I know could protect me and would always be by my side.” The shy Rustling Wind quickly retreated within himself, embarrassing that he had revealed so much about what he wanted his destined mate to be like.

After hearing what Quick Thunder and Rustling Wind wanted in their mates, White Light thought he had a few ideas of what he wanted his ideal mate to be like? “I want my mate to be someone I know, like Dark Shade and Joyful Melody. I do not want to be paired with a complete stranger. I do not care about their gender, appearance or personality, just as long as they glimpse me as me and not one of the to-be times kings of Atlantis. I also hope they will not condemn me for my astral-partner.”

All eyes turned to the young prince. It was rare for White Light to talk about his astral-partner. It was a surprise to all of Atlantis when the kind, gentle prince’s astral-partner was one usually reserved for the darkest of magic users.

A snort sounded from Quick Thunder as he rolled his eyes, Relax White Light. Neither Lightning Flash nor I have astral-partners and no one says we will never find mates.

Ocean-blue eyes stared at the blue gray dragon as he replied, “You know it is not the same, Quick Thunder. Shape-shifters do not have astral-partners because they become their astral-partner. That is different than having a dark aligned astral-partner when you are a light aligned magic user.” Quick Thunder grimaced as his attempted reassurance plan backfired.

The two dragons finally burst through the tunnel into an enormous cavern with dozens of holes in the walls. When Quick Thunder noticed the smooth, cobble-stone path below them that signaled the end of the flight, he nearly roared in delight when he saw his brother land. The two dragons descended towards the cobble-stone path, gracefully landing and letting their passengers dismount. When their passengers had dismounted, Lightning Flash and Quick Thunder changed back into their human forms.

The brothers stood before their cousins and friends clad only in their long black hair. Dark Shade and White Light handed the coverings and jewelry they had been carrying back to their cousins. The brothers quickly dressed, Lightning Flash taking longer due to his more formal coverings and extra jewelry. Once he was fully dressed, Lightning Flash turned his attention to his hair. There was not enough time for him to get all the clasps and pins in place, so Lighting Flash resigned himself to having his hair in a simple braid.

Quick Thunder had to fight the urge to role his eyes as he watched his brother finish braiding his hair. “Do you always have to wear your hair back, brother? We would have gotten here sooner if you had not taken so long to do your hair.”

Lightning Flash’s eyes narrowed as he stared at his brother. “You know all adults have to tie back their hair, Quick Thunder. It is unsightly for an adult, especially one of the clergy, to be glimpsed with their hair down.” The priest glared at his cousins and the rest of their companions, his frown deepening. “It is bad enough our cousins only wore braids and the others only wore their hair in ponytails. If Father was here he would have all of us punished for breaking such a sacred law.”

Quick Thunder frowned. “Father is not here right now so do not worry about what he would think. Just hurry so we can continue with our journey.”

Lightning Flash sighed, ignoring his brother’s impatience. “Before we go any further I believe it would be best if you all summon your astral-partners. The tunnels ahead can be dangerous and Quick Thunder and I will be unable to change form in such close confinements. Our magic will do us no good if we run into an exile without backup.”

Lightning Flash made a valid point. Extending their hands, Dark Shade, White Light, Joyful Melody and Rustling Wind called upon their magic to summon their partners from the Astral Plane.

“Come forth Sandstorm, guardian sphinx of the desert.” Dark Shade extended his hand and a green portal formed. Out of the portal emerged a golden lioness with a human head and massive wings. The astral-beast Dark Sade summoned was a female sphinx, Sandstorm, his astral-partner. Sandstorm approached the crowned prince, nuzzling her head against his thigh. Dark Shade smiled as he scratched behind Sandstorm’s ear.

Joyful Melody extended her golden rod as she called forth her own astral-partner. “Come forth Screech, harpy of chaos.” This time a blue portal opened. Like before an astral-beast came out of the portal. The astral-beast had a female’s head and bare torso but the wings and feet of a bird. Sickly black feathers covered the harpy’s body, her eyes an intimidating yellow.

Most would have been terrified by the sight of the harpy’s hideous, wrinkled face but Joyful Melody was just joyous to glimpse her astral-partner. The young mage kissed the ugly wrinkled face of the harpy, Screech, receiving a quick nuzzle from her in turn.

Rustling Wind was the next to summon his astral-partner. “Come forth Faith, fairy of healing.” The portal Rustling Wind opened was orange and much smaller than the first two. From the small portal emerged a tiny humanoid figure no bigger than a male’s hand. The figure was female with bronzed skin, long silver hair that fell to her knees and transparent butterfly wings. She wore no coverings, her long hair being the only thing to cover her feminine form.

Faith, the little fairy Rustling Wind summoned from the Astral Plane, flew about her partner’s head making high pitched chattering sounds. Rustling Wind ducked to avoid the dive bombing fairy. “Please calm down, Faith. I am sorry I summoned you outside the Halls of Healing but this is an emergency. We are on a vision quest and Lightning Flash said everyone had to summon their astral-partner before we could continue,” Rustling Wind explained. This explanation seemed to be enough to pacify the fairy as she made herself comfortable on Rustling Wind’s head.

White Light was the only one yet to summon his astral-partner. Rustling Wind saw the anxiety written all over his friend’s face. Concerned about his friend, the healer approached the young prince.

“Are you alright, White Light?” Rustling Wind asked concernedly.

White Light put on a fake smile. “I am fine, Rustling Wind. I merely believe it would be a horrid idea for me to summon my astral-partner.”

“Why do you not want to summon Nightrunner?”

“Nightrunner is a powerful astral-beast and I a weak magic user. Our magical alignments are not even compatible. Why would he have chosen me as his partner when there are more powerful magic users who actually use dark aligned magic?”

Rustling Wind felt the anxiety from White Light building in his chest, so he placed a comforting hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Nightrunner chose you because he glimpsed something special in you, White Light. He knows the kind of person you are and that is why he chose to be your astral-partner, despite the difference in your magical alignments. You have to trust in yourself White Light. I know that I do.”

With Rustling Wind’s words giving him strength, White Light called upon his own astral-partner. “Come forth Nightrunner, legendary manticore of destruction.” White Light used every ounce of his magic to summon an enormous black portal. From the black portal emerged a creature with a lion’s body, scorpion like tail, bat-like wings and a human face. This astral-beast was none other than Nightrunner the manticore, White Light’s astral-partner.

The massive black coloured manticore glanced around before his bright yellow eyes locked onto his partner. White Light froze. The young prince always got shivers whenever his astral-partner glimpsed directly at him. It was hard not to be intimidated by the manticore when comparing his massive size to White Light’s slight frame. Still, White Light knew he would have to be brave and work with Nightrunner if he wanted to contribute to the vision quest.

With the astral-partners summoned, the six Atlanteans walked along the cobble-stone path. They walked in silence for what felt like hours. A few times a small astral-beast would appear but a quick growl from one of the astral-partners was enough to send the astral-beast running. The six Atlanteans and four astral-beasts soon came upon the ruins of an old outpost. The outpost was one of the oldest from when Atlantis first sunk beneath the sea. With the death of the queens the high priest, Blue Lightning, Lightning Flash and Quick Thunder’s father, had taken temporary control of what remained of Atlantis. Blue Lightning had ordered exploration teams to go out and search the dozens of former lava tunnels and chambers than now surrounded Atlantis. A number of small outposts were built along the way to mark out Atlantean territory. But after the first millennia most of the outposts were abandoned and fell in to ruin.

“We shall rest here,” Lightning Flash declared. With a sign of relief, everyone sat down, well almost everyone. Lightning Flash was still up and alert, scanning the area with his heightened senses for the slightest sign of a possible attacker.

Quick Thunder rolled his eyes as he stared at his brother. “Sit down and relax, brother. No one is going to attack us if you take a bit of time to rest.”

Suddenly, an arrow came flying at Quick Thunder. Summoning forth his limited magic, Lightning Flash deflected the arrow away from his brother. Quick Thunder stared wide eyed at the arrow that almost hit him. Lightning Flash frowned. “No one is going to attack us.” Quick Thunder laughed and rubbed the back of his neck nervously before he took up a fighting stance.

Dark Shade quickly took command of the situation, Sandstorm falling in behind her partner. “Everyone take up defensive positions! We are being attacked!” Dark Shade shouted. Everyone did as the crowned prince said and took up defensive positions. The six Atlanteans and four astral-beasts formed a circle, prepared to defend themselves from any oncoming attack.

From the shadows emerged over a dozen people and a variety of astral-beasts. The people appeared Atlantean but they were not. They had the same bronzed skin tone and strong physical characteristics of most Atlanteans but these people had a sinister air about them, nothing like the warm and comforting aura that surrounded all Atlanteans. There was even something off about the people’s astral-partners. They behaved more like savage beasts barely kept under control rather than sentient, fully conscious beings. Their eyes also glowed a sickly blood red, the sign of a rogue astral-beast.

One of the attackers, the only one without an astral-partner, broke away from the others and approached the crowned princes, their cousins and their friends. The one who stood before the Atlanteans and their astral-partners was a strong, fit male with cropped brown hair. Dozens of scar’s covered the male’s bronzed skin; one scar ran from his left temple all the way down to his right earlobe. The male was dressed in a tattered robe and worn sandals like the other attackers, but he was the only one to wear any form a jewelry, a gold bracelet upon his left wrist.

Faint traces of magical energy clung to the exile, catching all the Atlanteans off guard at how similar the faint magic traces was to Lightning Flash and Quick Thunder. It was impossible for any exile to possess any form of magic after their personal bond item was destroyed and their hair shorn, unless that exile was a shape-shifters. As the child of an astral-beast, shape-shifters would always possess the magic that gave them the ability to change form. And from the faint traces of magic everyone could sense, the Atlanteans knew the one who approached them was a dragon shape-shifter, though a different type of dragon from Lightning Flash and Quick Thunder.

Lightning Flash growled when he recognised the exile who approached them. “Rain River, what are you doing here?”

Rain River smiled maliciously at the half dragon priest. “What is the matter Flash? Not joyous to glimpse me again? You were quite lively the last time we saw each other.” He pointed to the scar on his face, causing Lightning Flash to growl at the other half dragon.

“I wanted nothing to do with you since the day you betrayed Atlantis and were exiled from the city. I will make you suffer for what you have done, Rain River. This I swear in Lux’s name,” Lightning Flash swore.

“Unfortunately you Atlanteans cannot kill. The blood oath keeps you from killing while we exiles are free from such restraints. Allow me to demonstrate.” Rain River lunged forward, hitting Lightning Flash square in the jaw. Lightning Flash had enough time to throw up a protective shield with his magic before Rain River could strike him again.

Glimpsing their leader make the first strike, the other exiles attacked the Atlanteans. The exiles’ attack was savage and vicious, coming at their opponents with swords and spears. The Atlanteans were lucky the exiles were unable to use magic because they being unable to kill, they most likely would have died being unable to defend themselves.

As the exiles grew closer, Rustling Wind pulled out a string of blue and white beads from his bag. Raising the beads above his head, Rustling Wind cast a spell. “Barrier form and protect.” Suddenly, a translucent blue barrier formed around the six Atlanteans and their astral-partners. The exiles crashed against the barrier, pounding at it with fists and swords, trying to get through.

White Light smiled as he turned to the healer. “Amazing work, Rustling Wind. I did not even know you could use barrier magic.”

Cracks began to form in the barrier. Rustling Wind tried to maintain the barrier but the strain was taking a toll on him. “I cannot hold up the barrier much longer. Whatever you have planned, do it quickly. My strength grows thin,” Rustling Wind exclaimed.

Dark Shade and Joyful Melody locked eyes, instantly knowing the other had the same idea of how to escape the exiles. Holding hands, Dark Shade and Joyful Melody combined their magic through the use of the Mystic-bond binding the beloveds together to form a portal. The massive portal was complete just as the barrier surrounding the Atlanteans broke. The exiles charged forward, trying to prevent the Atlanteans from entering the portal, but they were already too late. By the time they were in range the portal had already vanished along with the Atlanteans and their astral-beasts.

Rain River smiled to himself. “You might believe you escaped me, Atlanteans, but you have merely fallen into my trap. The next time we meet I shall reclaim all you have taken from me.” He turned to the rest of the exiles. “Everyone get back to camp. It is time we prepare for the next stage of the plan.” Without another word the exiles followed their leader back to their camp, eager to begin the next stage of the plan Rain River had spent centuries carefully crafting. The Atlanteans would soon indeed find the reason they left the safety of the city, and Rain River would be one step closer to regaining everything the Council had taken from him.

Chapter Text

The portal Dark Shade and Joyful Melody opened was supposed to have brought the six Atlanteans and their astral-partners back to the royal palace, but that was not the case. Instead the portal opened in some chamber almost a half day’s journey from the city of Atlantis. To make matters worse, the Atlanteans were not the only ones in the chamber.

At first no one noticed them, but when the familiar warm feeling spread through their chests, the Atlanteans knew they were not alone. On the other side of the chamber were four people, two males and two females. The four strangers lay on the ground unconscious. None of the Atlanteans knew what to do. They sensed no magic coming from the strangers but their aura was not like that of the exiles. Whoever these strangers were, the Atlanteans could not tell if they were friend or foe.

Quick Thunder felt the warm feeling rise in his chest again. Slowly, the young half dragon approached the younger of the two females. Quick Thunder glimpsed at the young female and instantly found himself mesmerised. The strange female appeared to be about Quick Thunder’s age and was incredibly beautiful. She was a Dark One with a slender build, long curly hair that fell to her waist, and Quick Thunder suspected her eyes would be as dark and as beautiful as polished onyx. The coverings that concealed the young female’s slight form were unlike any Quick Thunder had ever gazed upon before, but he was too entranced by her beautiful face to focus on the female’s strange coverings.

Quick Thunder felt as though he knew the female even though he knew he could never have glimpsed her before in his entire life. That is when Quick Thunder remembered the vision the gods had sent him. “Elder brother, I have glimpsed this female before. She is the one I told you about. The one I saw in my vision,” Quick Thunder exclaimed.

Everyone was shocked. How could Quick Thunder have glimpsed this female in his vision? More importantly, why would the female have been in Quick Thunder’s vision? That is when they all began to think about their own visions. Joyful Melody and Dark Shade, along with Rustling Wind and White Light, had each assumed they received a vision about the to-be times kings of Atlantis. But now that Quick Thunder confirmed the female lying before him was the one he saw in his vision, perhaps their own visions were not as they originally interpreted?

Dark Shade and Joyful Melody approached one of the unconscious males while White Light and Rustling Wind knelt beside the other. The four where shocked when they gazed upon each male’s face. The two strange males exactly resembled Dark Shade and White Light respectively, with only a few physical differences. Dark Shade’s double was less fit that the crowned prince but still strong, he had slightly lighter bronze skin, and his red hair was waist length. White Light’s double on the other hand was completely scrawny, had copper skin and his blond hair was neatly cut to expose his ears.

Dark Shade and White Light glimpsed at each other, knowing exactly what the other was thinking about their doubles. “This is my mirror-self!” the two crowned princes realised. Joyful Melody and Rustling Wind gasped at the unexpected turn the vision quest had taken. Everyone in Atlantis knew about the legends of the mirror-self. Two individuals, one Atlantean and one not, born identical accept for a few minor aesthetic differences. They all knew that Dark Shade and White Light were each born with their own mirror-self somewhere in the world, given that they respectfully had red and blond hair. The legend of the mirror-self said that mirror-selves born with red hair would always find their way to Atlantis and make it their home while those born with blond hair would travel throughout the world and settle wherever they found their mirror-self.

Lightning Flash was surprised that his cousins had found their mirror-selves and that his brother saw this strange female in a vision. He thought about the vision the gods had sent him. If it was true and his vision had been like the others then Lightning Flash was afraid of what would happen if he approached the remaining female. Despite his worries and inner protests, Lightning Flash felt himself being drawn to the remaining female’s side.

Lightning Flash glimpsed at the female’s face and it was just as he had feared. True the strange female was a Dark One, her body was not nearly as athletic, and her red hair only reached her shoulders, but there was no denying it. The female lying before Lightning Flash was indeed the mirror-self of his late mate, Harmony. Suddenly, Harmony’s mirror-self awoke. She saw Lightning Flash standing over her and began shouting in some strange language. Lightning Flash tried to decipher what his mate’s mirror-self was saying but he could not understand the language. It was not Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Norse, Sanskrit, Nahuatl, K’iche’, Quechuan, or one of the various dialects Lightning Flash was familiar with. Realising a translation spell would be the only option, Lightning Flash held down his mate’s mirror-self as he pressed his lips against hers as he telepathically cast a basic translation spell. Dark Shade, White Light and Quick Thunder repeated the process with their respective mirror-selves and the female once they regained consciousness.

The four Atlanteans were forcibly pushed away by the four strangers. Joyful Melody and Rustling Wind rushed to the side of their friends. Meanwhile, the four astral-partners took up defensive positions around the six Atlanteans. Sandstorm and Nightrunner protectively stood in front of their own respective partner, growling and hissing at the four strangers. A blood curdling scream left Screech’s throat as the harpy flew about her partner, Joyful Melody’s head. Faith, despite the fairy’s small size, flew between the three much larger astral-beasts, her high pitched chattering sounding off commands to her fellow astral-partners.

The strangers stared at Sandstorm, Nightrunner, Screech and Faith, unsure of what to make of the four astral-partners. For a long time the four strangers just stared at the astral-partners, then one of them, the red haired male, daringly took a step forward. The astral-partners bristled at the unexpected movement, causing the oldest female to grab the red haired male and try and pull him back. But it did not work. The red haired male escaped the oldest female’s grasp and headed straight for Sandstorm.

The sphinx hissed at the red haired male, flaring her wings as she bore her fangs at him. The red haired male showed no fear as he slowly reached out his hand to the sphinx. Sandstorm dropped her aggressive behaviour as she cautiously sniffed the extended hand. She caught Dark Shade’s scent on the stranger, which only confused her. Dark Shade was behind her but her nose told her that this stranger was also her partner. Dark Shade felt Sandstorm’s confusion radiate through the bond that they shared. Slowly, Dark Shade approached his astral-partner and his mirror-self.

The red haired stranger nearly gasped when he saw Dark Shade approach him. “You look like me!” The red haired stranger’s hands flew to his mouth. He had just spoken in a language he did not understand and there was a male with his face standing right in front of him. This had to be a dream. It was the only logical explanation.

Dark Shade slowly raised his hands, trying not to appear threatening to his mirror-self. “My name is Dark Shade of the Dark Light Clan. Can you tell me your name?”

Regaining some of his composure, the red haired stranger answered Dark Shade. “My name’s Jaden, Jaden Johnson.”

“It is a pleasure to meet you Jaden. As I have already stated, I am Dark Shade of the Dark Light Clan. The sphinx you have met is my astral-partner, Sandstorm.” Sandstorm perked up at the mention of her name. Dark Shade laughed as he affectionately scratched the sphinx behind her ear.

Glimpsing that Dark Shade felt no fear towards the stranger that shared his face, Joyful Melody approached her beloved and his mirror-self with a cheerful spring in her step, Screech following close at her side. Jaden jumped back in fear at glimpsing the hideously wrinkled face of the harpy. Sensing Jaden’s fear, Screech let out a blood curdling scream. None of the Atlanteans reacted to the harpy’s screams, having grown used to them eons ago, but the four strangers froze as the blood chilling cries reached their ears.

Joyful Melody felt Screech’s amusement along their bond. The young mage frowned, shooting her astral-partner a rare annoyed glare. “Stop that Screech. You know I do not like it when you scare people.” Screech ruffled her black feathers as Joyful Melody lectured her. She just did not understand why Joyful Melody got like this. It was not her fault that she scared others so easily. She was a harpy. It was in her nature to terrify people. Besides, Screech found it fun to watch people tremble at the sound of her screams and run away as though she was some terrifying beast.

Ignoring her astral-partner’s clear amusement, Joyful Melody turned her attention back to Dark Shade and his mirror-self. Dark Shade was currently knelling by his mirror-self, Jaden. Apparently the young red haired male had tripped over a rock in his attempt to run away from Screech. Dark Shade was currently helping Jaden back to his feet, the crowned prince’s mirror-self still too overcome with fear to pick himself off the stone floor of the chamber.

Joyful Melody bowed as she apologised to Jaden for Screech’s behaviour. “I apologise for how Screech acted. She loves to scare people. I know as a harpy it is part of Screech’s nature to be drawn to strong negative emotions, but she is usually in more control of herself. I suspect our encounter with the exiles and the trip through the portal has all of us, even our astral-partners, a bit shaken.”

“That’s alright…” Jaden paused. He realised he actually had not gotten this female’s name yet. “By the way, what is your name?” Jaden asked sheepishly.

Joyful Melody flushed, embarrassed that she had forgotten to introduce herself. “Forgive me. It was rude of me not to introduce myself. I am Joyful Melody of the Singing Flute Clan, mage apprentice to Master Blue Sky of the Celestial Sky Clan. I am also Dark Shade’s beloved. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

“The pleasure’s all mine,” Jaden said. Jaden extended his hand towards Joyful Melody. The young mage just stared at the outstretched hand, unsure of what Jaden wanted her to do with it. Glimpsing that Joyful Melody was not going to shake his hand, Jaden let his arm fall back to his side as his mind tried to make sense of what just happened.

Suddenly, there was a loud scream. Everyone turned to glimpse Nightrunner, White Light’s astral-partner, standing overtop the second crowned prince’s mirror-self. White Light was standing off to the side, eyes wide with terror. The blond prince did not know what to do. One moment Nightrunner had been fine and the next he was attacking White Light’s own mirror-self. All White Light could do was watch helplessly as the black manticore held down his mirror-self, scorpion-like tail ready to inject a deadly venom into the poor unsuspecting youth. Or at least that is how it would have gone, had the strange red haired female not intervened.

It was definitely a sight to behold, and none like any the six Atlanteans had ever glimpsed before. Here was this slightly built female standing up to a colossal manticore with just her bare hands. Even Nightrunner seemed surprised by the female’s unforeseen attack. He turned his attentions from the blond male he had pinned to the ground to the female who had attacked him. Nightrunner was about to retaliate and attack the female when he caught her scent. Nightrunner immediately recognised the scent, quickly running in the opposite direction.

The female just stared at the black manticore, unsure of why it had suddenly run away from her. A beast that strong should have been able to tear her apart easily. Instead it ran off like she could somehow hurt it. While the female did not understand why Nightrunner ran from her, the answer was all too clear to Lightning Flash. Nightrunner had run from the female because her mirror-self, Harmony, Lightning Flash’s late mate, had put the poor creature in his place more times than the manticore cared to remember.

Without taking her eyes off the strange lion like creature, the red haired female knelt beside White Light’s mirror-self. “Keith, are you alright?” she asked concernedly.

Keith, White Light’s mirror-self, slowly nodded. “I’m fine Martha,” Keith reassured the red haired female. The female that Keith had identified as Martha did not seem completely convinced. Still, she said nothing and kept her mouth shut.

White Light, finally recovered from the shock Nightrunner’s unexpected attack put him in, slowly approached his mirror-self and the red haired female that stood watch over him. Sensing the young prince’s anxiety, Rustling Wind took his friend’s hand and squeezed it reassuringly. White Light was thankful that Rustling Wind was by his side. If he was not, White Light was sure he would not be able to face his mirror-self after what his astral-partner did to him.

Martha glared at the two strangers who approached her and Keith. She was about to get up and attack the two just as she had done to that lion creature, when she stopped dead in her tracks. One of the strangers appeared exactly like Keith, only with longer hair, darker skin and better developed muscles. It was this fact saved White Light and Rustling Wind the unstoppable wrath that was Martha.

“Who are you? And why do you look like Keith?” Martha pointed an accusing finger at White Light, causing the young prince to flinch.

“My name is White Light of the Dark Light Clan. His is my friend, Rustling Wind of the Gentle Breeze Clan. I merely want to apologise for Nightrunner's uncalled for attack,” White Light briefly explained.

“Who’s Nightrunner?” Martha asked.

“Nightrunner is my astral-partner. He is the manticore that attacked your friend, the male who glimpses like me.” White Light bowed his head as he continued to speak. “I am sorry for what Nightrunner did. Normally I have better control over him. But with everything that happened I was too distracted to notice that Nightrunner was getting ready to attack. I should have paid closer attention to my astral-partner. Please, feel fit to take out any punishment you glimpse fit to give Nightrunner upon me.”

White Light began to slowly undo his braid, fully prepared to accept whatever punishment this female was going to inflict, when Rustling Wind grabbed him by the wrist in an uncharacteristically bold move. The young healer pulled the blond prince back before he had the chance to undo his braid. Rustling Wind grabbed White Light by the shoulders, shaking him as he tried to make sense of the prince’s actions. “White Light, what are you doing?! You cannot allow yourself to be punished by this stranger. She could be an exile for all we know and Nightrunner could be fully justified in his attack.”

“You know as well as I that these people are not exiles, Rustling Wind. You can sense their energy just as well as I. Though they have no magic like the exiles, I sense no danger or ill intent from them. Besides, Nightrunner is my astral-partner. It is my duty to take responsibility for his actions. That is the law, Rustling Wind, and I will stand by it,” White Light stated.

Martha had no idea what White Light and Rustling Wind were talking about, and in truth she really did not care. All she wanted to know was where she was and how she got there. The last thing Martha could remember was hiking with her cousins and sister. She had been arguing with Jaden and Keith over the three day camping trip she had planned for the four of them. Jaden, being his usual short tempered self, had been yelling and complaining about his parents forcing him to come on the camping trip while Keith had been muttering about not having any signal and kept asking when they were going back to the city. Martha recalled lecturing the two that they all needed spend more time together and that was why they had gone on that camping trip, when the ground suddenly gave way beneath them and they began to fall. Everything after that was a complete blank.

Bringing herself back to reality, Martha glared at the two strangers in front of her. “Look, I do not care who you are and I do not care about any of your laws. All I want to know is where me, my cousins and my sister…” Martha trailed off. Where was her sister? Jaden and Keith were right in front of her but her sister was missing.

“Carly! Carly, answer me! Where are you?” Martha desperately called out to her sister.

“I am over here Martha,” called out a sweet, childish voice.

Martha turned around to glimpse her sister, Carly, hugging one of the strangers with another staring on with an icy gaze in his eye. Frowning, Martha stormed up to the pair intent on getting her sister away from the male who embraced her. Lightning Flash, who had until that moment been patiently observing his brother and the female embrace, prevented his mate’s mirror-self from approaching them.

Martha felt her frown deepen as she confronted the stranger standing in front of her. She observed the strange male standing before her, trying to find the best way to get passed him in order to reach her sister. Lightning Flash saw what his mate’s mirror-self intended to do and stopped her. Every time she tried to get passed him, Lightning Flash would stop her. Finally, Martha had enough of the strange male keeping her from her sister, she decided to take matters into her own hands.

Putting all her strength behind it, Martha swung her fist at the strange male. Lightning Flash easily caught the female’s fist with one hand. Martha struggled against Lightning Flash’s grasp, but she was quickly subdued by the half dragon priest. Centuries of self defence training gave Lightning Flash an advantage over the female, but he grudgingly had to admit that even he found her determination something to be admired.

Martha glared at the male who restrained her, his eyes refusing to make contact with hers. “Let go of me. I won’t let you keep me from my sister. Those beasts of yours already tried to attack my cousins. I won’t let you attack my sister as well,” she snarled at Lightning Flash.

Lightning Flash was disgusted at the implication that this female thought he would hurt a child. “Settle yourself, you insufferable female. No harm has befallen the female. Children are considered sacred to my people. That is the only reason I allowed the female to approach my brother. Otherwise I would have prevented her from reaching him as I am with you,” Lightning Flash explained in a cold, controlled voice.

Glimpsing the commotion caused by their older siblings, Quick Thunder and Carly ended their embrace and went to try and settle the dispute between their siblings. As soon as Quick Thunder and Carly walked up to their bickering siblings hand in hand, Lightning Flash and Martha forgot all about each other and instead focused on their respective sibling.

Martha threw her arms around her sister, quickly checking to glimpse if she had any injuries. “Carly, are you alright? They did not hurt you, did they?”

Carly shook her head. “Quick Thunder did not hurt me, Martha. He was just telling me about the dreams he had about me.” Carly could not shroud the blush growing across her face as she remembered what Quick Thunder told her. “Quick Thunder said that he has been seeing me in his dreams for months. That is why everyone went on a quest to try and find the meaning of those dreams. But then they ran into this group called the exiles and they had to escape through a portal. Apparently something went wrong with the portal because it brought them to this chamber and us here with them. Quick Thunder doesn’t know how it happened, but he said someone called Dark Shade could explain everything to us. All we have to do is ask.”

Glimpsing no better option, Martha decided to do as her sister suggested and ask this Dark Shade what exactly was going on. “Whoever this Dark Shade is, can you please explain to us what in the world’s going on?”

Dark Shade stepped forward, Sandstorm at his side. “I am Dark Shade. What is it you wish to know?”

The red haired prince knew he would have to use all his diplomatic skills if he wanted to calm Martha’s raging spirits. Already the young prince had glimpsed this female punch Nightrunner in the nose and stand up to Lightning Flash in an argument. Most Atlanteans in their right mind would not even dare to do one of those things, let alone both in such a short time. If he was not careful, Dark Shade was sure he would be the next person to face Martha’s wrath. Martha stared at the stranger who appeared so much like her cousin Jaden. She was wary of the one who wore her cousin’s face, and even more wary of the strange lion like beast at his side. Pushing aside her nervousness, Martha told the red haired stranger what she wanted to know.

“First I want to know where we are. Second, why we are speaking this language when I know I’ve never heard of it before. And last I want to know who you are and what those beasts you control are.”

“Your first two questions are quite simple to answer. You are in the city of Atlantis, or at least a chamber not too far from the city. As for how you can speak our language, the answer is quite simple. My friends and I cast a translation spell so you would be able to speak and understand my people’s language. The spell will only allow you to speak our language so long as the caster keeps the spell in effect. However, a few of your language’s structures will continue to influence how you speak. Words that we also do not possess in our language will be spoken in your own, but otherwise you shall only be able to speak the Atlantean tongue until you leave.” Dark Shade paused briefly. He noticed the stunned glimpses on Martha’s, Jaden’s, Keith’s and Carly’s faces. The red haired prince thought he should give the four a moment to let what he said sink in before he went on to reveal who he and his companions were.

Martha could not believe what she just heard. This kid who wore her cousin’s face wanted her to believe that she was outside the legendary city of Atlantis and that he and his companions had used some sort of magic spell to make herself, her sister and her cousins speak their language. On second thought, maybe that was not so crazy. After apparently falling through a portal, ending up in this strange chamber, facing people and beasts she only thought to exist in mythology, and speaking a language she had never even heard of, Martha was just about willing to believe anything this Dark Shade told her.

Glimpsing that the four had begun to accept what he told them, Dark Shade felt confident in revealing his identity and those of his companions to the newcomers. “I believe proper introductions are in order. As previously stated, I am Dark Shade of the Dark Light Clan. This sphinx is my astral-partner, Sandstorm.” Dark Shade gestured to Sandstorm as he introduced the sphinx to the newcomers. Sandstorm sniffed at the strangers but did not do anything overly threatening. Glimpsing this as a good sign, Dark Shade continued with his introductions.

“This is my cousin White Light of the Dark Light Clan and his best friend Rustling Wind of the Gentle Breeze Clan. White Light’s astral-partner is Nightrunner, the manticore standing at his side. Rustling Wind’s astral-partner is Faith, the small fairy sitting on his head.” White Light sheepishly grinned and Rustling Wind gave a shy wave as Dark Shade introduced them. Nightrunner glared at the strangers but stayed close to White Light, not wanting another repeat of his early encounter with Martha. Faith just sat on her partner’s head, content to ignore everything else around her.

“Those two are also White Light’s and mine other cousins, Lightning Flash and Quick Thunder of the Raging Storm Clan. Neither of them have an astral-partner because they are shape-shifters,” Dark Shade explained. Quick Thunder gave a cheerful smile to the group as he waved to Carly. Lightning Flash remained standing still, his stone cold features perfectly arranged into an expressionless mask.

Sighing at the sight of his older cousin refusing to let down his guard, Dark Shade finished up the last of the introductions. The red haired prince approached his beloved, gently taking her hand as he proudly introduced her. “This is Joyful Melody of the Singing Flute Clan, my beloved. She is bound to the harpy Screech who is her astral-partner.” Joyful Melody blushed at Dark Shade pressed his forehead against hers. The young prince was too caught up in the moment of finally being able to declare Joyful Melody as his beloved that he did not care who was watching. Screech just glimpsed on passed her partner, all of the harpy’s focus maintained on the four strangers she still did not trust.

Having overcome her own shock over everything that had happened, Martha introduced herself, her sister and her cousins to the Atlanteans. “Well my name is Martha Kingston. This is my little sister Carly. Those two are my cousins. The hot headed red head is Jaden while the quiet blond is his younger brother, Keith,” Martha introduced.

Jaden was infuriated that Martha called him hot headed, but before he had the chance to confront his cousin, Lightning Flash spoke up. “Enough with these introductions. We must return to Atlantis. We have been gone far longer than originally planned. No doubt the Council has already sent out people in search of us.”

Without sparing another word, Lightning Flash turned and left the chamber. Everyone else quickly followed after the half dragon priest. No one wanted to be left behind when there were unknown dangers lurking in the intricate tunnel system that surrounded the sunken city of Atlantis.

Chapter Text

Six Atlanteans, four astral-beasts and four surface dwellers made their way through the vast tunnel system as they made their way to the city of Atlantis. Dark Shade and Joyful Melody led the way alongside their astral-partners. Next came White Light, Rustling Wind, their astral-partners and the four strangers. Finally, Lightning Flash and Quick Thunder brought up the rear.

The group walked for hours in complete silence. The Atlanteans and their astral-partners were always on guard for any sign of the exiles. After their encounter with Rain River, they were all on guard. The four surface dwellers did not seem to notice the increased tension in the Atlanteans and tried multiple times to bring up conversations. At first all attempts of conversation were brushed off by the Atlanteans, but as the journey went on and they grew closer to Atlantis, brief conversations began to form; finally giving the confused surface dwellers the answers they had been searching for.

“Dark Shade,” Jaden asked awkwardly, “can you tell me why we look alike?” The young red haired, dark skinned male just could not get over the fact that the red haired prince appeared so much like him. If he did not know any better, Jaden himself would have thought they were twins. Glimpsing his face worn by a stranger was terrifying but also exciting to the young male. Normally Jaden would be too anxious to talk to anyone but he sensed a similar social insecurity from Dark Shade gave Jaden the confidence to ask the question that had been troubling him since he met the Atlantean.

Dark Shade smiled at his mirror-self, all too joyous to answer his question. “The reason we appear alike, Jaden, is because we are each other’s mirror-self,” Dark Shade answered simply. By the expression of confusion on Jaden’s face, Dark Shade could tell he had not explained the reason why the two glimpsed identical any clearer to Jaden. Dark Shade sighed. Being Atlantean he had grown up with the stories of the mirror-self, accepting it all as basic fact. He had never had to deal with outsiders, having been too young at the time of Atlantis’ sinking to remember life on the surface. Perhaps if he explained what a mirror-self was and their purpose then it might make Jaden understand? Whether or not it did, Dark Shade thought it was at least worth a try.

“According to legend the mirror-self was introduced to us Atlanteans by Fraud the Trickster. Fraud is the god of change and transformation, chance, exploration, curiosity, humour, game, and pranks. It is believed that Fraud gave the Atlanteans a mirror-self so they would be able to connect to the outside world. It was learned that Atlanteans born with red hair would have a mirror-self somewhere in the world that would journey to Atlantis and make it their home. On the other hand, those born with blond hair would leave Atlantis behind and travel the world until they found their mirror-self and settle in that location. The system worked for a time and was successful. However, once Atlantis sank beneath the waves all contact was lost with the outside world. Until now that is.”

Jaden’s ocean-blue eyes grew as wide as saucers as he finished listening to the story Dark Shade told him. If what Dark Shade said was true, then that might explain why Jaden felt so at ease around the Atlanteans. While his older cousin and younger brother had acted in fear when they first saw the Atlanteans, Jaden had instantly felt himself be overtake by a soul deep comfort unlike anything he had ever experience before. That was why he so boldly approached Sandstorm. Being Dark Shade’s astral-partner, Jaden had felt no fear towards the sphinx because he knew Dark Shade trusted her, therefore he could trust her.

Jaden grabbed a lock of his hair, examining the bright red colour in the dim light of the tunnel provided by bioluminescent moss that grew along the walls and ceiling of the tunnel. “So all this time this red hair meant I was supposed to be in Atlantis. Who would have thought?”Jaden thought about all the times he had been picked on in school or got detention for starting a fight. He had always felt like he did not belong at school or even among his own family. But now everything finally made sense. Jaden was never supposed to be on the surface. He was supposed to be in Atlantis. When his father found out about his, Jaden knew it would blow his dad’s mind. Thinking of his family, Jaden suddenly remembered what Dark Shade mentioned about blond mirror-selves and the resemblance between his brother and the Atlantean known as White Light.

“Dark Shade, you mentioned some of these mirror-selves being born with blond hair. Does that mean my brother and your cousin are each other’s mirror-self?”

Dark Shade nodded. “That is correct. Just as you and I are mirror-selves, so too are my cousin and your brother.”

“But why did that manticore, Nightrunner, attack Keith? When I approached Sandstorm she did not attack me. Why was there such a difference between Nightrunner and Sandstorm when they first met Keith and me if we are both yours and White Light’s mirror-selves?” Jaden questioned curiously.

Dark Shade sighed; face growing solemn as he recalled the attack his cousin’s astral-partner initiated on his own mirror-self not too long ago. Joyful Melody sensed her beloved’s anxiety. She gently smiled at him, squeezing his hand reassuringly. The small bit of comfort Joyful Melody gave him was enough for Dark Shade to find the courage to answer Jaden’s question. “In truth, Jaden, I have no idea why Nightrunner attacked your brother. The only logical reason I can fathom to why Nightrunner attacked Keith while Sandstorm accepted you would be the type of mirror-selves that we are. As I previously mentioned, only those with red hair born in the outside world were supposed to find their way to Atlantis and make it their home. Blonds on the opposite hand were supposed to leave Atlantis and settle wherever they found their mirror-self.” He ran a hand through his hair as he delved deeper in to his thoughts. “This is the first time I have heard of a blond mirror-self making their way to Atlantis. Perhaps the unusual circumstances of how they first met, combined with the fear White Light and Keith both felt, was enough to unsettle Nightrunner enough to cause the attack? Whether or not such a theory is true does not matter at the moment. We should remain focused on reaching Atlantis before the entire city comes roaming through the tunnels searching for us.”

Jaden nodded in agreement. The conversation was quickly dropped; the focus turning to reaching Atlantis before the entire city came searching for them.

Behind the red haired prince, his beloved and mirror-self walked the aforementioned two who were the previous topic of conversation. White Light walked with his gaze turn towards the ground. To the second crowned prince’s right was his astral-partner Nightrunner while to his left was his best friend Rustling Wind, the young healer’s own astral-partner, Faith, perched comfortably on his head. Just ahead of the blond prince walked his own mirror-self. White Light flinched every time he saw his mirror-self, Keith glimpse around the tunnel with such fear in his otherwise cheerful glimpsing blue eyes. It hurt the young prince to glimpse his mirror-self, his literal other half, be in such a state because of him and his astral-partner. For so long White Light had wanted to meet his mirror-self, but now because of what Nightrunner had done the blond prince was too terrified to even say a single word to his other half.

Rustling Wind could not stand the feeling of fear and guilt he felt coming from White Light. For as long as the pale healer had known the blond prince, White Light had always had a smile on his face. The young healer found it was unsettling to glimpse such an expression on his best friend’s face. Suddenly, Rustling Wind got an idea. The young healer hand quickly went to his head, waking his astral-partner from the nap she was having on his head. Faith, annoyed at having been woken up, fluttered her translucent butterfly wings until she was face to face with Rustling Wind. The little fairy huffed and yelled at her partner in high pitched chirping sounds. Rustling Wind raised his hands in apology, trying to calm the enraged fairy down.

“I apologise for disturbing you, Faith, but I require your help.” Rustling Wind pointed towards Keith. Faith understood what her partner wanted her to do. The small fairy flew up to the blond youth, stopping when she was close to his face. Keith nearly jumped out of his skin when he saw a small, winged human-like creature appear in front of his face.

“Do not be alarmed,” Rustling Wind spoke. “Faith will not harm you. She is a light fairy. It is not within her nature to harm others.”

Keith just stared at the fairy, Faith, unsure of what to do. After being attacked by a manticore, Keith did not trust the strange creatures that hung around these even stranger people. Still, this male did not seem that threatening and this fairy was a lot less terrifying than the manticore that attacked him. Sensing a release in tension, Faith landed on Keith’s head and made herself comfortable. Keith just smiled as he felt the small fairy move around on his head, not trying to shoo the creature away.

“You are quite lucky. Faith does not normally take to strangers so quickly. It must have to do with you being White Light’s mirror-self,” Rustling Wind spoke casually. Keith and White Light both froze. The two strangers that shared the same face eyed the healer, unsure of what he was planning. In an uncharacteristically bold move, Rustling Wind grabbed Keith and White Light by the arm, forcing the two shoulder to shoulder.

“You two need to talk. Neither of you can remain silent about what happened.” Before either could protest, Rustling Wind had already ran ahead, Faith close behind him. For a few moments neither White Light nor Keith spoke. The two just kept eyeing each other, unsure of what to say. Nightrunner sensed his partner’s confusion and was about to give out a warning growl when White Light stopped him.

“Nightrunner, halt!” White Light ordered his astral-partner in a calm, commanding voice. Nightrunner instantly stopped his growl, impressed at the command in his partner’s voice. The manticore shuffled off to the side of the tunnel, giving the two blond mirror-selves a wide berth for the time being. Glimpsing that Nightrunner was giving them some distance, White Light took the opportunity to talk to his mirror-self.

“I want to apologise for what my astral-partner, Nightrunner, did to you. I normally have better control over him but I allowed my concentration to slip and he attacked you. For that, I am truly sorry.” White Light bowed his head as he apologised to his mirror-self. Keith just stared at the one who shared his face. Now that he was not so overcome by fear, Keith realised that White Light had not intentionally sent Nightrunner to attack him. It was an accident, one that White Light obviously felt guilty about.

“Don’t worry about it,” Keith said. “I’m at fault to. I probably shouldn’t have let my fear control me. From what I have heard you were in a fight before you met us. Anyone would be on edge after that. So there is no need to apologise.”

White Light could hear the doubt in his mirror-self’s words. Despite what he said, Keith was obviously still afraid of the Atlanteans. After what he had been through, White Light could not blame him. He just hoped that Keith would eventually get over his fear of him and they would be able to have the bond like the mirror-selves White Light had read about in ancient legends.

Rustling Wind could see White Light and Keith had stopped talking. That was when Rustling Wind noticed Keith pull a small rectangular object out of a pouch in his leg coverings. The object was unlike anything he had ever seen before and the young healer instantly had an idea.

“What is that object you are holding, Keith?” Rustling Wind asked.

If there was one thing Rustling Wind knew, it was that White Light was obsessed with the surface. The blond prince had read through every scroll and book in the library and archives trying to learn everything he could about the surface. And now that there was an actual surface dweller with them, Rustling Wind knew White Light would do everything he could to learn about the surface. All he had to do was get the conversation started and the rest would fall in to place.

“It’s just my cell phone.” In truth Keith had pulled it out hoping to take a few pictures of the tunnel, but the battery was dead. This was worse then when he could not get a signal in the forest before he, his brother and cousins fell in to this mess. For the Atlanteans though, Keith’s answer was only met by a blank stare from White Light and Rustling Wind. The blond scratched his head, trying to think of a way to describe what a cell phone was and what it did.

“This thing” Keith gestured to his cell phone “allows me to talk with anyone even they are not next to me.”

“Would it not be easier to use telepathy?” In truth, White Light saw little use for the object that his mirror-self possessed. Everyone in Atlantis could use telepathy and all astral-beast, no matter their species, only ever spoke telepathically when visiting the physical plane. Therefore, there was no practical reason for the object Keith called a ‘cell phone’ to exist.

Keith’s blue eyes grew wide at the mention of telepathy. “I don’t know how you Atlanteans do it, but those of us of the surface don’t have telepathy. If we want to talk to someone who isn’t standing in front of us we have to use a phone. That’s the only way we can communicate over long distances, unless we send an email or text message.”

Email? Text Message? More and more of these strange surface words. And to think that surface dwellers could not use telepathy. White Light could barely contain his excitement. He was finally learning something about the surface, and from an actual surface dweller.

Rustling Wind smiled to himself as he continued to watch White Light absorb every single word Keith said about the surface. The young healer was glad his friend was starting to act like himself again. He decided to merely observe the conversation between the blond mirror-selves for the moment, but swore to step in once again if it appeared White Light needed his help.

Out of all the Atlanteans and surface dwellers, Quick Thunder and Carly seemed to get along the best out of all those gathered. The two had been holding hands the entire way to Atlantis, talking as if they were old friends.

“I cannot wait until we reach Atlantis. First I am going to show you the palace. And then the holy temple. And I cannot forget the Halls of Healing, or the training grounds. But before all that, I have to introduce you to my parents,” Quick Thunder exclaimed.

A dusting of red coloured Carly’s cheeks as she thought about meeting Quick Thunder’s parents. “Do you really think my parents will like me?” Carly asked nervously.

Carly was fascinated by everything Quick Thunder told her about Atlantis. She could not believe that the legendary sunken city actually existed, or that she would soon be in it. After all the Quick Thunder had told her, she was looking forward to seeing the legendary city and meeting the young shape-shifter’s family. Quick Thunder gently squeezed Carly’s hand, a warm smile crossing his face.

“My parents will love you. My father, Blue Lightning, is the high priest. He leads the Council and acts as our direct link to the gods. My mother, Draca, serves as an ambassador to Atlantis from the Astral Plane. She is kind but you do not want to make her rage, trust me. You shall live longer if you do.”

Carly noticed something different about Quick Thunder’s mother’s name that was not like the rest of the Atlantean names she had heard thus far. “Quick Thunder, why is your mother’s name so different from yours and the other Atlantean names I have heard?”

“My mother does not have an Atlantean name because she is not Atlantean. She is a dragon.”

“What!” That was Martha. She had been keeping a close eye on the stranger that had taken a liking to her sister, and had been listening in on their conversation. Everything had been fine until now, but Martha just had to speak up.

“There is no way that your mother is a dragon!” Martha exclaimed. “I can accept that my cousins, sister and I fell through a portal when we were hiking through the forest. I can accept the apparent existence of magical creatures. I can accept that I am currently being guided to the sunken city of Atlantis. But I will not accept that somehow a fire breathing lizard had kids with a human.”

Lightning Flash was on Martha before she had the chance to scream. “I can tolerate you watching my brother like a criminal because you fear for your sister’s safety, but I will not accept you insulting my mother. In all that you have glimpsed since you came here, is learning that my mother is a dragon the most outlandish fact you have been told? There have been numerous cases of elves, dryads, nymphs, silkies, fauns, satyrs, giants, and dwarves mating and having young with Atlanteans. In lesser cases centaurs, naga, mermaids, and dragons have taken an Atlantean as a mate. Such unions rarely produce a child, but that does not mean it is impossible. Myself and my brother are the result of such a union between Atlantean and dragon. It would be best if you do not forget that, surface dweller.”

With that, Lightning Flash released Martha. The priest turned from the female who wore his dead mate’s face and marched to the front of the group. “I will be leading the way from now on. Anyone who cannot keep up shall be left behind. Am I understood,” Lightning Flash proclaimed in a cold, monotone voice. None dared to object to the half dragon priest’s command, fearing the wrath they might face once they returned to Atlantis.

The group returned to Atlantis just as the bioluminescent moss was beginning to close. This was not good. The Atlanteans had left on their vision quest just before the bioluminescent moss opened. For them to return when it was just beginning to close meant they had been gone for a day at least. But there was no time to worry about that. Now that they reached Atlantis, they had to reach the palace before any of the guard or Council found them.

Before they descended to the palace, Dark Shade, White Light, Joyful Melody and Rustling Wind released the spell holding their astral-partners to the physical plane. Sandstorm, Nightrunner, Screech and Faith were all grateful to be sent back to the Astral Plane, their strength having waned after being away from the Astral Plane for almost a full day. With the four astral-beasts returned to the Astral Plane, the Atlanteans were about to guide the four surface dwellers to the palace when three figures ascended the cobblestone path leading to the cliff-side cave.

The one in the lead was a tall, lean built male. The male was a Dark One, his skin tone noticeably darker than the two bronzed Atlanteans that followed behind him. Stately white robes hugged the male’s lithe, muscled body, a dark blue cloak trailing behind him. Dozens of gold and silver pins and clasps held the male’s long black hair in an intricate knot at the back of his head. A golden staff as tall as the male, inset with ancient runes and precious jewels, was clasped in his hand. Perched upon the male’s shoulder was a creature that appeared like a golden owl with the face of a human, no doubt the male’s astral-partner.

The Atlanteans froze in fear. There was only one male they knew of whose bond item was a tall golden staff inset with multiple jewels and runes, and had a human faced golden owl as his astral-partner. The male was Blue Lightning, the high priest and current reigning regent of Atlantis, leader of the Council, and Lightning Flash and Quick Thunder’s father.

Blue Lightning’s dark gaze fell over the six young Atlanteans and the four surface dwellers. A frown crossed the high priest’s handsome face as his brown eyes locked onto the four surface dwellers. Martha, Jaden, Keith and Carly all shrunk under the high priest’s intense gaze. Without turning his gaze, Blue Lightning addressed the two that had accompanied him. The two Atlanteans were dressed in the white kilts and golden chest armour of the royal Atlantean guard.

“Return to the palace and inform the Council that Prince Dark Shade and Prince White Light have been found along alongside their friends. Also inform them that there will be four others accompanying us to the palace,” Blue Lightning commanded the guards. With a quick bow, the two guards ran back to the palace to inform the Council of the princes and their companions’ safe return. When the two guards were out of hearing range, Blue Lightning came onto the six young Atlanteans with one of his famous intimidating, guilt inducing lectures.

“In Lux’s name, what were you six thinking?! You had the entire city worried. Joyful Melody, Rustling Wind, you both had Blue Sky and Silent Stealth worried when they came to me in a panic asking if I had glimpsed their apprentices. Dark Shade, White Light, you two are the next kings of Atlantis! Whatever you had planned could not have been important enough to not inform the Council of your departure of the palace. And as for you, Lightning Flash, Quick Thunder, my beloved and precious sons, do you realise how scared your mother was when she awoke to not glimpse you both sleeping beside us? I have not glimpsed Draca this panicked since Atlantis sunk. Can any of you tell me what was so important that you made everyone on the Council, your mentors and your mother worry about you so much?”

No one dared to speak out against Blue Lightning’s words. Even Lightning Flash, who had been preparing himself for this moment since the group decided to search for the meaning of their visions, could not meet his father’s gaze. Quick Thunder stared at his brother, surprised and shocked to glimpse his proud older brother so unceremoniously humbled by their father. If Lightning Flash was not even able to explain what happened to Blue Lightning, then who was there left to face his father.

A tightening on his right hand brought Quick Thunder back to reality. The half dragon glimpsed and saw Carly shaking with fear. Something clicked and Quick Thunder realised Carly was scared of his father. Gently squeezing her hand, Quick Thunder stepped forward and introduced Carly to his father.

“Father, this is Carly. I saw her in a dream so I went to find her. Carly, this is my father, Blue Lightning. He is the high priest of Atlantis and leader of the Council.” Quick Thunder introduced Carly to his father as if she was an old friend. Blue Lightning was shocked when he learned his youngest son had glimpsed this strange female in a dream. The only dreams that were like that were in visions sent by the gods. If his youngest had glimpsed this female in his dreams, then perhaps the others had received such visions as well?

“Did the rest of you also receive visions about these strangers?” Blue Lightning asked. They all nodded in reply. Glimpsing at the three remaining strangers, Blue Lightning saw that two were the mirror-self to Dark Shade and White Light respectfully. The oldest female was most likely glimpsed in a vision by Lightning Flash. Blue Lightning could not help but feel sorry for his eldest son, given the circumstances he faced unlike any of the others. That only left Joyful Melody and Rustling Wind. For the life of him Blue Lightning could not think about what their visions could have been if neither one of them had a mirror-self or were mated to one. That is when it hit Blue Lightning.

“Dark Shade, White Light, is there something else you would like to tell me?” Dark Shade winced under Blue Lightning’s gaze, telling the high priest that his suspicions were right. “Dark Shade, I take it that you and Joyful Melody have been courting without mine or the Council’s knowledge.” The red prince and the mage nodded their heads. Blue Lightning fought the urge to rub his forehead as he turned to the second crowned prince and the apprentice healer. “White Light, Rustling Wind, please tell me you were not doing the same as Dark Shade and Joyful Melody and concealing your courtship these last few months.”

The two males were dumbstruck at Blue Lightning’s implications that the two of them had been courting. White Light’s face grew red while Rustling Wind became a stuttering mess. Blue Lightning held back the urge to laugh. Judging by their reactions the two had not yet realised the mating bond that had begun to form between them. But if they were already sharing dreams, then Blue Lightning was sure it would not be too long before both crowned princes had a mate. Finally, Atlantis would have the kings its people had been waiting so long for.

“We have wasted enough time on this talk. Come we must return to the palace. The Council awaits our return.” Without any further delay, Blue Lightning led the six young Atlanteans and four surface dwellers back to the royal palace where the Council waited to give them their punishment.

Chapter Text

The Atlantean royal palace was truly a sight to behold. The massive building appeared like a cross between ancient Egyptian and Greek architecture, just like all the building that made up the crumbling city. The palace was round with a high domed roof. A ring of columns encircled the outside of royal palace, painted white with gold trip. Murals and stone carvings telling the story of Atlantis’ beginning decorated the outside of the palace walls.

The group, led by Blue Lightning, entered the palace. They walked through a number of halls and antechambers before they stopped in front of the Council chambers. Three people waited outside the doors to the Council chambers. Moving silently, the three approached the group.

The first person who approached the group was a female. The female was extremely tall, perhaps a head taller than Blue Lightning, who himself was already quite tall. She appeared to be a Dark One, but the female’s knee length hair was white and her eyes were coloured like amethysts. The unique colouration added to the female’s extraordinary beauty. Pure white robes loosely hugged the female’s slender form, a dark blue sash tied about her slim waist.

Blue Lightning touched foreheads with the white haired female as he greeted her. “I have returned with our sons and nephews, my beloved Draca. They are safe from harm,” Blue Lightning reassured his mate.

Draca glimpsed passed her mate at her aforementioned sons and nephews. The shape shifting dragon approached the four males, her amethyst gaze locked onto them. You four better have a good explanation for leaving the city without telling anyone. And I do not want any excuses.

Draca’s gaze momentarily turned from her sons and nephews to the four strangers standing behind them. From the hair colour and facial features alone, Draca could tell two of the stranger’s were the mirror-self to Dark Shade and White Light and the oldest female was the mirror-self of her eldest son’s deceased mate, Harmony. The last stranger, judging by how she clung to Quick Thunder, Draca rightfully assumed was destined to have a different bond with her youngest son than the bond her eldest son and nephews would forge with the three mirror-selves.

I glimpse you four have found some new friends. Would you care to introduce me to them, Draca requested calmly. Dark Shade and White Light introduced Jaden and Keith to their aunt. Quick Thunder was more than a little overenthusiastic when he introduced Carly to his mother. Lightning Flash remained silent for a time, but a glare from Draca was all it took for the young priest to reluctantly introduced Martha to his mother. With the newcomers introduced, Draca introduced herself.

It is a pleasure to meet you all. My name is Draca of the Rising Storm Clan, formerly of the Red Blood Clan of night dragons. I hope you all enjoy your stay here in Atlantis.

The four surface dwellers were unsettled by hearing Draca’s voice in their heads. None of them had before witnessed telepathy or would have known that a creature from the Astral Plane could only speak in such a way on the physical plane, even in human form.

While the crowned princes and their cousins were facing Draca, Joyful Melody and Rustling Wind were left to deal with their mentors. The apprentice mage and young healer lowered their heads as they faced their respective mentors, Blue Sky and Silent Stealth.

Joyful Melody observed her usually cheerful mentor glimpse at her with disappointment in his normally smiling brown eyes. Blue Sky ran a hand through his braided brown hair, careful not to disturb any of the pins holding it in place. The athletically built male picked up the hem of the long, formal white robe he wore as he stormed towards his apprentice. Joyful Melody assumed by the fact that Blue Sky wore the mage’s sacred bond item, a heavy golden amulet with a massive purple jewel, while his own personal bond item, a medium-sized gold rod with a purple jewel at one end, was tucked into his belt, that the Council had been called to order some time before they arrived.

Joyful Melody braced herself as Blue Sky threw his arms around his apprentice. Blue Sky pulled Joyful Melody to his chest, tears freely falling from his eyes as he embraced his beloved apprentice. “Joy, where have you been? I was so worried about you. You were not hurt, were you? Do you have a fever? Catch a virus? Break any bones? I can have Silent Stealth take a glimpse at you after the Council meeting has adjourned.” When Joyful Melody gave no reply, Blue Sky thought she was in too much pain to speak.

“No, that would not do at all. I will take you to the Halls of Healing right now.” Blue Sky turned to Silent Stealth as he grabbed hold of his apprentice, planning to escort her to the Halls of Healing. “Silent Stealth, please tell the rest of the Council that I will not be able to attend the meeting. I am taking Joy to the Halls of Healing and having a healer examine her,” Blue Sky explained calmly.

Before Blue Sky even had the chance to take a single step, Silent Stealth had whacked the mage upside the head. Blue Sky winced at the unexpected contact. For a few moments Silent Stealth was paralyzed, but quickly regained her equilibrium. When the temporary paralysis had worn off, Silent Stealth confronted Blue Sky.

“You cannot leave at this moment, Blue Sky. As the High Mage of Atlantis, I would expect you to be more concerned with your duties to the Council and spend less time fussing over your apprentice. If Joyful Melody was truly in any pain do you not think that she would have told you? And what is more, even if she had been injured do you not think my apprentice would be skilled enough to heal her? I have been training Rustling Wind since I became the master healer after Atlantis sunk. If you doubt the skills of my apprentice, then you doubt my own skill in teaching mine. Is that truly what you think, Blue Sky?”

Blue Sky froze, his face frozen in complete terror. Out of all those who sat on the Council, Silent Stealth was by far the most intimidating. Her delicate bronzed facial features were always hardened into a deep frown, with her brown eyes always giving off an icy gaze. Despite the delicate robes that covered Silent Stealth’s athletic, slender form her stance was more like a warrior than that of a healer. In fact, if it were not for the sacred bond item she was bonded to, a golden gauntlet that spiraled up her right forearm and contained an amber jewel in the center of the palm, or her own personal bond item, a gold choker about her neck, most would have thought Silent Stealth held the position of Champion on the Council instead of that of Master Healer.

“We have wasted enough time as it is. The others are already waiting for us in the Council chamber.” She turned to her apprentice, causing Rustling Wind to shutter under her icy gaze. “I will talk with you later, Rustling Wind. Right now I have to attend a Council meeting. Go to the Halls of Healing and wait for me. We will have our discussion then,” Silent Stealth spoke firmly.

“Actually Silent Stealth,” Blue Lightning interrupted, “I would like Rustling Wind to sit in on this Council meeting. He, as well as Joyful Melody, both have somethings to explain alongside my sons and the crowned princes. They also received the visions from the gods, similar in that to my eldest.”

Blue Sky and Silent Stealth quickly caught on to what Blue Lightning was hinting at. The High Mage and Master Healer could not believe that their respective apprentice was destined to mate with one of the crowned princes. The two fully agreed to let their apprentices sit in on the Council meeting, silently agreeing to question their apprentices about their unique bond with each of the crowned princes once the Council meeting had adjourned.

The Council chamber was surprisingly simple in its construction. The chamber was a circular room lit by torches and a large hearth in the center. Eight wooden, ground level chairs were arranged in a semi-circle around the hearth. All but three of the chairs were occupied, the three empty seats being where Blue Lightning, Blue Sky and Silent Stealth sat during Council meetings. At the head of the chamber were two beautiful golden thrones that were the sacred bond items meant for the rulers of Atlantis.

Upon entering the chamber, all eyes turned to the crowned princes, their companions and the four surface dwellers. It was not just the Council members but their astral-partners also stared down the ten youths, sending shivers down their spines. The Atlanteans who served on the Council always summoned their astral-partners before starting a meeting. It was a tradition going back to the time of the first monarchs, and came in handy when it appeared like ten nervous youths were about to flee. The glares from the Council members and their astral-partners kept anyone from even thinking about trying to escape.

Blue Sky and Silent Stealth went to their seats, summoning their astral-partners before they sat down. Blue Sky summoned a small pixie that dressed in leaves with a foxglove hat covering her hair. The mage picked up his tiny astral-partner, careful not to hurt the pixie as he allowed her to make herself comfortable on his shoulder. Silent Stealth summoned her astral-partner, a black serpent with red wings, allowing the creature to coil himself around her neck.

Blue Lightning approached his seat once Blue Sky and Silent Stealth had respectfully taken up their own. The high priest set his staff aside as he placed his sacred bond item, a golden headdress engraved with ancient runes, upon his head. The golden owl resting on Blue Lightning’s shoulder gave a sharp hoot at the unexpected movement, its human-like face contorted in annoyance. Blue Lightning gently stroked his astral-partner, trying to calm the golden owl before he called the meeting to order.

With everyone on the Council seated, Blue Lightning called the meeting to order. “There are several matters we have to discuss during this meeting, starting with the reason the crowned princes, my sons, and two of the Council member’s apprentices snuck away from the city in the middle of the night.”

All eyes turned to Dark Shade and White Light. The two crowned princes sat upright in their thrones, trying to suppress the fear coiling in their stomachs. Dark Shade was the first to speak as always, his voice calm and smooth without any trace of the nervousness he was feeling. “My companions and I departed from the city in secret because we were answering the call of the gods. Each of us had received a vision while we slept telling us that we had to go and find a specific person. And these four are here. Allow me to introduce Jaden Johnson, my mirror-self, his brother Keith Johnson, White Light’s mirror-self, and their cousins, the sisters Martha and Carly Kingston.”

Everyone on the Council was speechless. It had been centuries since anyone received a vision from the gods, and even longer since an outsider stepped foot in Atlantis. The Council eyed the four strangers from the surface, unsure of how to respond. Ever since the flood the Atlanteans had been wary of the surface and its dangers. But at the same time the gods themselves had sent visions of these four to their to-be times kings and their closest companions, meaning the gods wanted these four to be in Atlantis. In order to determine the fate of the strangers, an open debate was called.

Two of the first to speak were two tanned males. One was a tall, muscled male that wore a white kilt with a blue sash tied about his waist. His black hair was done in a series of looping braids and knots, a slim band of gold, his personal bond item, upon his head. He wore golden armbands on his powerful biceps, matching ones on his wrists and ankles. His face was handsome with a strong jaw and sharply angled facial features, complementing his amber eyes. Secured about his waist by a red cord was a golden talisman shaped like a sundial, his sacred bond item, revealing himself as the master alchemist. His astral-partner, a massive sphinx, lay comfortably at his side.

The second male was as tall as the first but he wore a long, white, sleeveless robe and tan cloak. He wore a pair of golden armbands on his lean biceps, a matching pair on his wrists, and gold earrings. A golden amulet inlaid with precious jewels, his bond item, was about his neck. He also wore sandals on his feet, and a white cloth was tied over his eyes. His brown hair was done up in a simple braid, ending at his ankles. Clasped in his right hand was a golden ankh, revealing himself to be the master seer. His astral-partner, a beautiful phoenix, rested comfortably on his shoulder.

The two males sat side by side, holding hands. Dark Shade saw the two males wished to speak, and called on the master seer to speak first. “No Eyes, as the master seer and the last survivor of the Dream Reader Clan, you are the best informed on visions sent by the gods. What is the opinion on the visions my cousins and our companions received?”

No Eyes, the master seer, turned to glimpse in the crowned prince’s general direction. “Your Highness, in all my life I have never before glimpsed a situation such as this. None have received a vision from the gods since Atlantis sunk. Whatever the reason the gods have for contacting us after such a long time, they must want these four to be within Atlantis.”

No Eyes turned to the male whose hand he held. “What is your opinion on the surface dwellers, Lion Aster? As an alchemist and the chief of the Metal Astral Clan you are more experienced with the ancient portal system implemented by the gods. Surely you should know how these surface dwellers managed to find their way to Atlantis.”

Lion Aster, the master alchemist, shook his head. “I might be the master alchemist, my beloved No Eyes, but even I do not know everything about the portal system Sapientiae the Wise created. Ever since Atlantis sunk, the ties this plane has with the Astral Plane have shrunk. Only the ley lines that run beneath the ground still hold enough magic to sustain life. In truth I no longer believed life could even survive on the surface any longer. For there to be not one but four surface dwellers in Atlantis must mean the gods have decided we must re-establish contact with the surface.”

The sound of a crashing chair caught everyone’s attention. All eyes turned to the bronzed female who had stood up so abruptly. The female was tall and lean, but everyone could glimpse the corded muscle concealed under her coverings. She was powerfully built, finely tones muscles prepared for battle. She wore a short white kilt and gold chest armour, leather sandals upon her feet. The female’s brown hair was tied back in a hip length ponytail. Her onyx eyes narrowed as her hand fell to the golden sword and dagger, her respective sacred and personal bond item, at her hip. The female’s astral-partner, a massive nine tailed fox, was growling and hissing in a tone similar to her Atlantean partner.

Dark Shade addressed the female in a commanding voice. “Quick Strike of the Strong Battle Clan, you better have a good explanation for your behaviour? I would have expected more from Atlantis’ champion.”

Quick Strike bowed to the crowned prince before speaking. “I beg your forgiveness, my prince, but I must disagree with what Lion Aster has spoken. Our people have received nothing but pain and suffering every time we deal with outsiders. I would expect you and Prince White Light to understand better than anyone. After all, it was because of the surface dwellers that Queen Sun Wing and Queen Wind Song are dead!”

An eerie silent fell over the room. Dark Shade gripped the armrests of his throne, eyes glaring daggers at Quick Strike. Sensing the distress from his older cousin, White Light put a hand on Dark Shade’s shoulder. The unexpected contact caused Dark Shade to jump, but the elder prince instantly relaxed when he saw it was only his cousin trying to comfort him. A silent agreement was made between the two cousins as White Light, not Dark Shade, rose from his throne to confront Quick Strike.

Everyone was surprised when White Light was the one to rise from his throne. Normally when such outbursts occurred it would have Dark Shade who settled them. It was almost unthinkable as to why the soft-spoken White Light would be handling the situation and not the stern Dark Shade.

“Quick Strike,” he began, “you have spoken out of turn. As Atlantis’ champion it is part of your duty to assess any possible dangers that could threaten our people, but it is not in your right to question the will of the gods. The gods sent us those visions and led us to these surface dwellers. If the gods did not wish for them to be here, do you believe they would even allow them to step foot in Atlantis. Or are you doubting the gods’ will, Champion Quick Strike?”

“I would never doubt the gods’ will, Your Majesty. No Atlantean in their right mind would.”

“Then return to your seat and let us resume the meeting.” White Light flashed the female a deadly glare before returning to his throne. Quick Strike actually found herself recoiling from the young prince’s gaze. Even her astral-partner, normally as quick tempered and ornery as Quick Striker herself, cowered before the usually docile prince. The champion and her nine tailed fox slinked back to their seat, keeping their heads down as to keep from enraging the sleeping fire within Prince White Light.

Another female spoke up as soon as Quick Strike was seated. The female was a Pale One, her ivory skin contrasting against her dark hair and eyes. Her lean, athletic build was covered by a heavy ceremonial robe and gold jewelry. Tucked into the belt at her waist was a medium-sized gold rod with a blue jewel at one end. Around the female’s neck was a heavy golden necklace with a blue jewel embedded in the center. This necklace was the female’s sacred bond item, marking her as the High Wizard of Atlantis.

The female’s astral-partner, a twin tailed cat, jumped from her shoulder as she stood to speak. White Light saw the female stand and addressed her in his normally calm tone. “High Wizard Peaceful Wind of the Gentle Breeze Clan, is there something you wish to tell the Council?”

“Indeed I do, Your Highness,” Peaceful Wind began. “Several days ago while I was meditating, I felt a sudden flair in magical energy. It only lasted for a moment and my astral-partner had not reacted to the shift in magical energy. I know it could have been nothing, but I still decided to investigate. I found nothing in the archives so I decided to consult with Black Flame of the Black Aura Clan. He said he would glimpse in to what could have caused a sudden flair of magical energy and tell me if he found anything. After the arrival of these strangers and the visions you and your companions received, Your Majesties, I believe them to somehow be connected to the flair I sensed.”

Murmurs were exchanged by the Council. If Peaceful Wind’s theory was true, then there had to be much more to the four strangers’ arrival than it just being the will of the gods. All eyes turned to Black Flame, the High Sorcerer of Atlantis, in hopes that he could either confirm or deny Peaceful Wind’s story.

Of all those who sat on the Council, Black Flame was the oldest. Black Flame had served on the Council long before any of them had even been born. The old male’s body was battered and beaten from a long, hard life. His bronzed skin was wrinkled and scared, once dark hair had gone completely gray, and Black Flame had been rendered blind in his right eye long before Atlantis sunk. The only thing put together about the old male was the formal, white robe he wore and the heavy golden necklace enlaced with a green jewel, the sacred bond item of the high sorcerer, which hung about his neck.

Black Flame shakily got to his feet. The old male stooped over, leaning against his astral-partner to keep from falling over. One of Black Flame’s hands rested upon the neck his astral-partner, a griffin that was as old and worn as the Atlantean, while the other tightly gripped his bond item, a golden rod decorated with a green jewel tucked into the belt at his waist. The griffin came to a stop when Black Flame gently tugged the griffin’s mane, telling the astral-beast to stop so his partner could speak.

“The words the High Wizard speaks are true. She consulted me about a possible magical flair. I investigated and meditated on my findings. I asked the gods to explain what the High Wizard might have sensed. The gods answered, and I was bestowed with a horrifying prophecy. The gods warn of a traitor from within. The world as we know it will be destroyed. It is the end of Atlantis,” Black Flame exclaimed.

The entire room fell silent. Normally the Council would not have taken Black Flame’s words so seriously. While he was respected from his wisdom and experience, Black Flame was still old. His mind was not like it had once been. The only reason Black Flame still served on the Council directly and not as an adviser was because none so far had been found to replace him. The High Sorcerer’s sacred bond item had not reacted to anyone since Black Flame himself bonded with the magical object all those millennia ago.

With Black Flame’s warning and their own fear rising, chaos broke out amongst the Council. Half the Council was arguing the surface dwellers had to leave while the other half argued that they had to stay. The gods had sent visions of these strangers to their crowned princes and their companions, meaning it was the gods will for them to be there. But the other side pointed out that the prophecy Black Flame had received was a complete contradiction to the visions. Both could not be right. Therefore, the Council was in a deadlock and unable to decide what to do with the strangers.

Finally, Draca had had enough. The dragon in human form rose from where she had sat beside her mate and sent out her telepathy so strongly it seemed like she yelling in everyone’s mind. Silence! Enough of this arguing. Can you not glimpse that our princes and their companions are exhausted? They have walked for more than a day and have yet to rest. We can handle this matter tomorrow after everyone has eaten and gotten some sleep. And for the surface dwellers, let the princes and their companions guard them. After all, it was they who received the visions that led them to these four. Therefore, it is only reasonable for the surface dwellers to be watched over by those who received the visions.

None could deny the logic behind Draca’s words. The meeting had run longer than expected and it was getting close to the evening meal. Everyone was tired and exhausted. They could regroup tomorrow after some much needed food and rest and let calmer heads prevail.

Chapter Text

Once the Council meeting had been adjourned, everyone made their way through a series of halls and antechambers until they reached a wide hall with nine doors. There were four doors to the right of the hall, four doors to the left and one at the end of the hall. Black Flame, Peaceful Wind and Blue Sky entered the three closest doors on the right while Quick Strike, Silent Stealth, Lion Aster and No Eyes entered the three closest doors on the left. Joyful Melody and Rustling Wind followed their respective mentors and entered through the same door as their mentor.

Blue Lightning and Draca led their sons, nephews and the four surface dwellers to the end of the hall. The high priest pointed to the door at the end of the hall as he glimpsed at Jaden and Keith. “Behind that door lays the chamber of the rulers of Atlantis. You two will accompany Prince Dark Shade and Prince White Light inside while I stand guard outside.” He then turned to Martha and Carly. “My sons will be in charge of guarding you two. My mate, Draca shall accompany you into the chamber right of the monarchs’. Am I understood,” Blue Lightning said solemnly.

With a nod of confirmation, everyone went into the chambers that Blue Lightning instructed them to enter. The high priest stood guard outside the monarchs’ chamber, his dark gaze turned to the chamber belonging to the high priest where his own mate and sons watched over the female surface dwellers. If either the door behind him or too his side moved, he would know about it. He just hoped that they survived this and that his family would not be too much trouble for the surface dwellers.

As soon as the door had closed behind them, Jaden stormed up to Dark Shade.The young male was livid after being interrogated by the Council and he wanted to get some answers. “What in the frickin' world just happened back there?! Who were those flipping people? Why did they give me a bloody death glare? And why did they call you a prince?!”

Dark Shade flinched at the venom and tone in Jaden’s voice. Until that moment the red prince had suspected his mirror-self to be more calm and composed, similar to himself, but it seems there were further differences between the two males who shared the same face than Dark Shade initially expected. Sighing, Dark Shade tried to calm down his mirror-self before his screaming caused Blue Lighting to call the guards. “Jaden, please calm yourself. My uncle is outside and he might possibly misinterpret your screams as threats to my cousin and myself. Calm yourself and I will answer all your questions.”

Jaden took a deep breath, forcing himself to calm down. When Jaden felt he was calm enough, he asked Dark Shade everything he wanted to know. “I want to know who those people are, why they are scared of us and why they called you a prince,” Jaden spoke again, this time more calmly.

“Those people you met with are the Council who help the monarchs govern Atlantis. As for why they were scared of you and your relatives, ever since Atlantis sunk all Atlanteans have been wary of surface dwellers. We were invaded by outsiders before Atlantis sunk, resulting in the death of thousands of Atlanteans, mine own mother and White Light’s among them. My mother, Sun Wing, and her twin sister, White Light’s mother, Wind Song, were the queens of Atlantis before it sunk. Therefore, as their sons, White Light and I are princes and the will be crowned kings of Atlantis once we have mated.”

“Great,” Jaden said sarcastically. “Then what are we supposed to flipping do? Just sit around and wait until your crazy Council decides whether or not to have us killed.”

“I can assure you, Jaden, that neither you, your brother nor your cousins shall be killed.”

“And how can you possible make such a promise? Even as prince, I'm pretty sure you won't have complete say over my family's fate, unless your government is a dictatorship?” Jaden wondered, tone dark and challenging. 

“As it has previously been established, you and Keith are the respective mirror-selves to myself and White Light. No harm shall befall you nor your relatives because of this. Even if you and Keith were not the mirror-selves to myself and White Light, the Council would still not have you killed because we Atlanteans are incapable of killing,” Dark Shade stated.

Jaden’s mouth hit the floor. “How can an entire civilization be incapable of killing? I have read plenty of history books and almost every culture and religion has some stories of war and violence. It is just part of human nature. So how can you Atlanteans not kill?”

“Allow me to explain. Atlanteans cannot kill because we are bound by a powerful magic known as the blood oath. At birth this powerful spell is cast upon the infant, at the same time they are bound to their bond item. The bond item is an artifact that allows the user to cast magic, but it contains a price. To perform a binding ceremony on an adult would only cause them to lose their sense of identity, becoming mindless beasts. A developed mind cannot comprehend handling that much raw magical power. That is why one must be bound to a bond item soon after birth, or else the individual will never be able to use magic. But even then there is still a chance that the child will be consumed by their magic as they grew older. That was why the blood oath is preformed at the same time as one is bound to a bond item. In order to keep an individual from harming another with their power, their body has to harm themselves,” Dark Shade explained.

“How does the blood oath make an Atlantean harm themselves if they harm another?”

Dark Shade sighed, eyes downcast. “That is one of the darker aspects of how our civilization maintained its peace. The blood oath forced whoever had inflicted intentional harm upon another a greater amount of harm than had initially been inflected. Over the centuries the spell has grown in strength to the point where something as simple as a punch would be enough to send an individual in to cardiac arrest. That is why we Atlanteans are so careful with each other, so as not to bring harm upon ourselves.”

At the revelation of just how far the Atlanteans were willing to go to maintain their peaceful society, Jaden was slightly off put. The blood oath sounded like some sick form of a dictatorship imposing its will upon its citizens. The thought made Jaden sick to his stomach, especially as he had begun to think of Atlantis as a perfect, if somewhat broken, utopia. Still, the blood oath would explain why the Atlanteans were so wary of outsiders. 

“But how did you protect yourself from any non-Atlanteans. Unless I never realised it, the rest of the world never bound themselves by this blood oath like you Atlanteans did.”

“That is why we have astral-partners. In exchange for their protecting, the astral-beasts are given an anchor in the physical world. This keeps them from drawing too much energy from the Void and eliminated the threat of them going rogue. A rogue astral-beast is stuck in the physical plane and cannot return to the Astral Plane. Therefore, by forming a contract with an Atlantean the astral-beast can remain sane while spending long periods of time in the physical plane and the Atlantean gains a protector from outsiders not bound by the blood oath.”

Jaden wanted to ask Dark Shade more questions to try and console the image of Atlantis he had constructed in his head with this new found aspect of reality, but the red haired prince had already gone to the trunk where he kept all his coverings. Dark Shade quickly changed out of his old coverings and put on a new kilt. The prince removed all of his jewelry besides his earrings, a few bracelets and the circlet upon his head, which was his bond item. He grabbed another kilt and some of his discarded jewelry and gave it to Jaden to wear. For some reason Jaden refused to get changed in front of Dark Shade, only putting on the kilt and jewelry after the red haired prince turned his back to his mirror-self. Once Jaden was fully dressed, Dark Shade did his mirror-self’s hair in to a simple braid. With his hair done, Jaden appeared indistinguishable from any Atlantean.

Keith nearly gasped when he saw his brother dressed in Atlantean attire. With Jaden standing beside Dark Shade, the two glimpsed like identical twins. For a moment Keith could not even tell them apart. He wondered if he and that White Light would glimpse as identical to Jaden and Dark Shade once he was dressed in Atlantean coverings.

At the thought of the blond prince, Keith turned to glimpse at him. White Light had not said a word since the Council meeting was adjourned and refused to glimpse his mirror-self in the eye. Keith knew he had to do something if he wanted to get White Light to talk to him. He was still shaken up by from when White Light’s astral-partner, Nighrunner attacked him. Still, White Light had called the manticore off and apologised for what Nightrunner had done. Keith could glimpse White Light was trying to make it up to him. It was only fair if he offered the blond prince his friendship in exchange.

Slowly, Keith walked up to the blond prince. White Light was currently kneeling by what Keith guessed had to be some sort of altar. The simple, stone altar was engraved with many runes and covered with various precious jewels, totems and small statues. Most of the objects on the altar were always present, small offerings and totems to the various household gods that protected the royal palace. The only new additions were two identical female statues and some dried herbs that White Light had laid out before he began praying. Keith waited until White Light had finished his prayer before he spoke to his mirror-self.

“Where you praying to the gods?” It was a weak conversation starter, but Keith was not really a people person and he really did not know what to say to a prince of a mythological empire that just so happened to glimpse exactly like him.

White Light, glimpsing that Keith was finally trying to connect with him, gave his mirror-self a nervous smile and said, “In a way. In truth, I was praying for my mother and aunt to watch over you, your brother and your cousins. I know you all must be troubled by what you have faced ever since you met us. I hoped my mother and aunt would be able to ease some of your fears and watch over you, just as they do for Dark Shade and myself.”

Keith was actually quite touched that White Light would ask the spirits of his mother and aunt to watch over him and his relatives. “Thanks White Light. You really didn't have to do that.”

“I wished to do it, Keith. After all, you are my mirror-self.”

Keith gazed at the two female statues on the altar. “Do those statues represent your mother and aunt?”

White Light nodded. “The one on the left represents my mother, Queen Wind Song, and the one on the right is Dark Shade’s mother, Queen Sun Wing. They sacrificed themselves in order to save Atlantis from invaders.”

“I am sorry to hear that…” That is when Keith realised what White Light had said. If White Light and Dark Shade’s mothers had sacrificed themselves when Atlantis sunk, just how old were the princes?

“White Light, how old are you?”

White Light smiled as he replied, “I cannot tell you the exact amount of years I have lived, but I can tell you that I, as well as Dark Shade, have entered my twenty-fifth century.”

Keith’s jaw hit the floor. He must have heard something wrong. There was no way White Light could have lived for twenty-five centuries. It was impossible.

Glimpsing the expression on his mirror-self’s face, White Light correctly assumed that Keith had not expected him to be twenty-five centuries old. White Light had heard people outside of Atlantis tended to live shorter lives, but surely there could be not that much of a difference. Could there?

“Keith,” White Light said, “might I know how old you and your brother are?”

Keith finally picked his jaw up off the floor and answered the young prince. “I just turned sixteen. Jaden will be seventeen in a few months.”

“You mean you and your brother have not even been alive for two decades!” White Light gasped. It never occurred to the blond prince that surface dwellers would have such short lives. He had assumed Keith and Jaden to be around his and Dark Shade’s age, and Martha and Carly to be in close proximity to Lightning Flash and Quick Thunder respectfully. But to learn that surface dwellers had such short lives was incomprehensible. How could they survive with such short life spans? How did their civilizations grow if they had such little time to develop? Just trying to comprehend how such a world could possibly exist astounded the young prince to no avail.

“Keith,” White Light said after a long pause, “I want you to tell me everything about the surface world. I only know of the surface from what I have read in books. None of the adults will speak of the surface but I have always wanted to know everything about it. Please, Keith, tell me everything there is to know about the world you come from.”

“I’ll tell you everything you want to know about the surface, but I want to know a few more things about Atlantis first. Mostly about how you all can live for so long. Tell me about that and I’ll tell you anything you want to know about the surface,” said Keith.

White Light was all too joyous to tell Keith about the Atlantean life span if it meant he got to hear about the surface. The blond prince gave a very thorough and in-depth explanation about how his people received their life spans from Lux, the most powerful god worshipped by the Atlanteans, after she chose the first monarchs to rule Atlantis. Keith filtered most of the metaphysical and supernatural elements out of White Light’s explanation for the Atlantean life span, but he was able to piece together a rather accurate rate at which Atlanteans aged compared to the people on the surface.

From what White Light had told him, Keith deducted that Atlanteans aged at a rate of one year for every century that passed for the first millennia of their lives. Once an Atlantean was roughly one thousand years old, they would begin to age even slower than they previously had been. Following their first millennia, an Atlantean would age one year for roughly every two and a half centuries they lived. From this information, Keith was able to estimate that White Light (and, by extensions, Dark Shade) were the equivalent of sixteen years old, the same age as him and Jaden. Realising just how young the blond prince was, Keith began to wonder how old White Light had been when Atlantis sank.

“White Light, how old were you when Atlantis sunk?”

As soon as he saw the smile fall from White Light’s face, Keith realised he had asked. How stupid could he be? White Light had told him that his mother and aunt had died when Atlantis sunk. Keith tried to apologise for his insensitivity, but he was cut off by White Light. The blond prince raised a hand to silence his mirror-self, face solemn as he glimpsed Keith in the eye.

“I was but two centuries when Atlantis sunk. For the last twenty-three centuries those who survived the sinking have managed to live in what little remains of our once glorious homeland. My mother and aunt sacrificed themselves in order to protect their people, but so few of us survived. There were once over two hundred thousand Atlanteans. Now barely five thousand of us survive.”

White Light’s clenched his hands so hard his knuckles turned white. Keith noticed the blond prince’s sky blue eyes darken as he recalled how few Atlanteans survived the sinking of their homeland. The glimpse in White Light’s eyes reminded Keith of a raging storm, merciless and dark. He stared blankly at the prince for a few moments before White Light seemed to notice. The instant White Light saw Keith was glimpsing at him, the darkness in the blond prince’s eyes melted away and returned to their previous innocent gaze. For a moment Keith wondered if he had imagined the dark glimpse in White Light’s eyes. There was no way one person’s eyes could be filled with such dark, malicious contentment one moment and be full of innocent tranquility the next.

“We better find you some proper coverings,” White Light said with a smile, completely dropping the previous topic. “You shall also have to cover your hair. The only ones in Atlantis who possess short hair are exiles. I can assure you, Keith, that it would be best for everyone if you are not mistaken for an exile. Being the mirror-self to one of the crowned princes will not help you if you are believed to be an exile. For none in Atlantis will tolerate the presence of an exile within the borders of the city.”

White Light was able to find a kilt for Keith to wear and a head scarf so he could cover his short blond locks. With a few pieces of jewelry, Keith glimpsed indistinguishable from the blond prince, who dressed in identical coverings.

Now that Jaden and Keith were disguised as Atlanteans they would be able to go about unnoticed by the rest of the citizens. And it was a good thing because they would be needing their anonymity very soon.

Chapter Text

Martha glanced around the high priest’s chamber. The stone walls and high domed ceiling were covered in some of the most beautiful mosaics and paintings Martha had ever glimpsed. There were images of beautiful cities abundant with life, and vast wilderness alongside paintings of mystical creatures and imposing figures of all shapes and sizes. One painting over the door caught Martha’s attention in particular.

The painting was done in two parts. The first was of a beautifully rendered map of the world. The map appeared exactly like those Martha was familiar with from the surface, only there were three aditional landmasses. One landmass was in the Atlantic Ocean, one in the Indian Ocean and the last in the Pacific Ocean. By her calculations, Martha estimated the landmass in the Atlantic to be similar in size of Australia, if only a bit smaller. The landmass in the Pacific was shaped somewhat like New Guinea and seemed to be around a similar size to the strange Atlantic landmass. The landmass in the Indian Ocean, however, was a completely different story. It connected Madagascar, Australia and India together in a crude triangular shape that was unlike anything Martha had ever glimpsed before.

Bellow the map was a painting of four people and two dragons. The people were situated under two of the strange landmasses, one male and one female. The people under the Atlantic landmass had bronze skin and dressed in flowing white robes and gold jewelry with long, braided black hair. Those under the Indian landmass had dark skin, dressed in brightly coloured robes, the female and male covered their hair with a headscarf and a turban respectively, and the male had a beard. A few ape like creatures were under the Pacific landmass, but Martha paid them little mind. Her eyes were more focused on the dragons within the edges of the magnificent painting.

Martha was most intrigued by the dragons at the edges of the painting. One dragon stood over the people under the Atlantic landmass, jet black with a massive build and bat-like wings. The second dragon, beside the Indian Ocean landmass, was pure white and coiled like a snake, a flowing mane running down its back.

I glimpse you have been captivated by that painting.

Martha turned around to glimpse Draca standing behind her. The young female had yet to get comfortable with the dragon-female’s words echoing in her head. Draca only gave Martha a soft smile as she glimpsed up at the painting.

That painting shows the first monarchs, King Dark Song and Queen Sun Light, meeting with the king and queen of Lemuria. The twin monarchs were the first to extend the hand of friendship and form an alliance with the Lemurians. The Atlantean-Lemurian alliance lasted for centuries, only ending after Atlantis sunk beneath the sea.

Suddenly, Lightning Flash came storming up to the two females. Lighting Flash frowned at Martha before handing her some coverings. Martha glimpsed at the brightly coloured blue and green wrap Lightning Flash had given her alongside a matching headscarf.

“Are these Atlantean?” Martha asked, curiously fingering the garment.

Lightning Flash let out an annoyed sigh. “The coverings you hold are from Lemuria, not Atlantis. The Lemurians were opposite to us Atlanteans in almost every way. We live by a strict code of allegiance to our gods, bind ourselves with the blood oath, practice various types of magic and alchemy, and have astral-partners. The Lemurians worshipped their ancestors instead of the gods, never swore the blood oath, had limited magical capability, and possessed no astral-partners. They were completely different than us. There were times I even wonder why the first monarchs bothered forming an alliance with them in the first place.”

Draca was taken aback by her son’s words. She knew Lightning Flash had been fearful of outsiders even before Atlantis sunk, but she never thought her son would question the alliance the first monarchs forged with the Lemurians. It made no sense to Draca for her son to be xenophobic. After all, Lightning Flash had the blood of other countries flowing in his veins. His status as a Dark One was enough proof that the young priest was not entirely of Atlantean descent.

Draca mentally reached out to her son, gently letting her mind touch his. Lightning Flash, my precious son, why do you question the decision the first monarchs’ made to forge an alliance with Lemuria? Surely in cannot be because you are xenophobic. You yourself are not of full Atlantean blood. You, your young brother and your father are all Dark Ones. Your grandfather, who you were named for, freed a slave female from another country and took her as his mate. Must I also remind you that as a dragon, my homeland hails from the Astral Plane? As well, Harmony was not fully Atlantean, being half Lemurian, a descendent of those who you believe the first monarchs’ are mistaken in making an alliance with.

Martha noticed Lightning Flash flinch at the mention of this Harmony. It was the first time since she met the priest that glimpsed any form of emotion cross his face. Whoever this Harmony was they must have been important to Lightning Flash to allow his stoic mask to slip.

“Who is Harmony?” Martha asked innocently.

Draca turned to her son, a loom of confusion on her face. You have yet to inform her about Harmony?

Lightning Flash huffed, avoiding his mother’s scrupulous gaze. “The matter did not seem to be that important,” he said. “And you should learn to not eavesdrop on another person’s conversation.”

Martha frowned, glaring at the young priest. “Sorry but I never learned how to block out a telepathic conversation. Until today I thought all stories about Atlantis and magic were nothing but that, stories. So cut me a bit of slack.”

The red haired female’s strange word choice confused Lightning Flash, but he was still able to understand what she said. With a heavy sigh, Lightning Flash explained who Harmony was to the surface dwelling female, after a stern but gentle warning from his mother.

“Harmony is my mate. She was a red mirror-self like yourself. In truth, Harmony is your mirror-self; just as your cousins are the mirror-selves to Dark Shade and White Light.”

“If this Harmony is my mirror-self, then where is she? I didn't see her when I first met everyone and I haven’t seen her since I got here.”

Lightning Flash closed his eyes as the horrid memory flashed through his mind. He had planned to meet Harmony and Rain River at the holy temple after he finished his morning prayers with his father. The three had planned to map out more of the tunnels surrounding Atlantis to locate a suitable site for a new outpost on the Council’s request. However, a servant had come to inform Blue Lightning of an emergency Council meeting forcing them to cut their morning prayers short. Lightning Flash had decided to go to the holy temple early to surprise Harmony and Rain River.

The moment Lightning Flash had crossed the threshold into the holy temple, he had sensed something had not been right. He had followed the Empathic-bond to the center of the holy temple where he found Harmony and Rain River. The scene had been too horrible to describe. Blood was splattered everywhere. The scent of blood and burned sage made Lightning Flash’s eyes water. There he saw Rain River, knife in hand, standing over Harmony’s lifeless body. Harmony’s chest had been cut open and her heart removed. Rain River still had part of harmony's uneaten heart in his hand when Lightning Flash walked in on the gruesome scene.

A gentle brush of his consciousness from his mother brought Lightning Flash back to reality. Lightning Flash expression was heartbroken when he glimpsed at Martha. “Harmony is dead. She was killed by an exile four centuries ago.”

Martha’s jaw dropped. She had not been expecting that. If she and Harmony were really each other’s mirror-self like Lightning Flash claimed, then the two of them would appear identical. And if Harmony was dead, no wonder Lighting Flash had been so hostile. She appeared exactly like his dead mate. No one liked to face their personal before times, but Martha’s presence was a constant reminder to Lightning Flash that he had failed to protect his beloved Harmony.

Straightening his back, Lightning Flash headed towards a doorway that lead into a small antechamber adjacent to the main room.

“I shall glimpse what is taking Quick Thunder and the young female so long. If my service is needed you shall known where to find me.”

Lightning Flash walked into the antechamber, not once glimpsing back. As soon as her son had left, Draca let out a silent sigh. She turned to Martha, a sad smile on her face.

I wish my son would find some peace in his life. Even before Atlantis sunk Lightning Flash was always different from those around him. Being the son of the high priest and a dragon isolated him from others his age. Lightning Flash only ever let two people outside his family be close to him, one of those being Harmony. Then once Atlantis sunk and the Five Curses took effect, my son only grew more aloof and distant from everyone. She gave Martha a desperate glimpse. Please, Martha, try to connect with my son. Lightning Flash needs someone to trust and I feel you might be his last hope.

Martha rubbed the back of her neck, unsure of what to say. “I’ll try to do what I can for Lightning Flash, Draca, but I don't really think he likes me. I'm not that fond of him either but I’ll try to get along with him. Other than that I can make you no promises.”

Draca nodded. She did not expect Martha to go out of her way and become her son’s friend. But already agreeing to try and get along with him was much more than any other had done for her son in centuries. Perhaps if Lightning Flash could glimpse that there was no reason for him to fear opening himself up to people, then perhaps, Draca hoped, her son would be able to heal and finally move on from Harmony’s death.

Lightning Flash emerged from the antechamber with Quick Thunder hanging off his arm and Carly running ahead of him. Carly ran up to her sister, showing off the Atlantean robe and gold jewelry Quick Thunder had given her to wear.

“Martha, how do I look? Quick Thunder lent me some of his clothes and jewelry. He said I looked like a real Atlantean. He let me try on anything I wanted. The only thing he would not let me touch was the gold anklet he was wearing.”

Quick Thunder sighed. “I explained to you, Carly, the anklet you wished to try on is my bond item. While it only allows me to use the most basic of magic, I still am bound to my bond item. None but the owner are allowed to touch a bond item, is that not correct big brother.”

“That is partially true, Quick Thunder,” Lightning Flash said, “but not entirely. Among mated groups there have been cases were one individual has been able not only to touch but also use the other’s bond item to no ill effect. Of course, these cases were few and most have been proven to be false. I would not suggest attempting such a feat until you are mated.”

“But I am already of mating age, brother. What if there is someone who I wish to court. Would I be allowed to let them touch my bond item?”

Lightning Flash’s only reply was to shake his head. Quick Thunder huffed, knowing he would not get another word from his brother on the subject. Anytime anyone brought up something about mates or courtship, Lightning Flash would close himself off and disengage from those around him.

Carly however was intrigued at the thought that Atlanteans were allowed to date so young. Quick Thunder had already explained to her about the Atlantean life span when he had been trying to find something for her to wear. She knew Quick Thunder was in his second millennia, making him the equivalent of fourteen, exactly one year older than her. Carly had always dreamed of finding her true love, just like in a fairy tale.

Martha saw the dreamy eyed gaze on her little sister’s face. For as long as she could remember, Martha knew her sister was obsessed with fantasy stories. She practically read every piece of fantasy literature that existed and actually believed in crazy things like magic and mythical creatures being real. However, given recent events Martha was starting to wonder if some of those stories her sister read might actually be true. If Atlantis actually existed, who was to say what other fantastic and out there concept from mythology could be true. Somehow, Martha knew she was going to see more improbable things before she and her family returned home, and she was not looking forward to it.

Chapter Text

Everyone made their way to the dining hall for the evening meal. All the Council, the royal family and their guests sat around several circular wooden tables to enjoy a simple meal of various cooked meats, fruits and vegetables. After giving proper thanks to the astral-beasts for bringing the meats, fruits and vegetables for their meal from the Astral Plane, everyone gave a quick prayer to the gods before eating.

Meals were always a big deal in Atlantis. Before the continent sunk, there had been great feasts and festivals held everywhere in Atlantis almost every day. While such feasts were now only part of the before times, many of the traditions held during the feasts and festivals were still preformed.

The festive evening meal began with a traditional ballad sung by Peaceful Wind. Her beautiful voice resonated throughout the dining chamber, uplifting everyone’s spirits with the dark aligned magic Peaceful Melody enlaced her voice in. Peaceful Wind’s ballad ended on a high note, making way for Blue Sky to perform his juggling routine. Everyone laughed at the mage’s lack of coordination when he ended up dropping the clay pots he had been juggling. Blue Sky apologised as he clean up the mess he made. Once the broken pots were cleared away, Lion Aster and No Eyes did a traditional dance only known to the seer’s clan. With the mated pair’s dance concluded, Silent Stealth and Quick Strike preformed a mock spar for their dining audience to enjoy. The two females made wild kicks and jerking punches, careful to always pull their attack before it made contact. As the only surviving members of the Strong Battle Clan, Silent Stealth and Quick Strike were the only ones even willing to partake in anything that resembled battle, making their performance draw the most attention out of all those in attendance. Black Flame was about to go on about to go on another rant about the dangers of the surface when Blue Lightning quickly convinced the elderly male to help him lead the traditional pray given at the end of all the performances.

“We give thanks to Mortem the Cursed One, god of life and death, birth, funerals, blessings, curses, night, and day, who gifted Atlantis with the Spell of Life. We give thanks to Fraud the Trickster, god of change and transformation, chance, exploration, curiosity, humor, game, and pranks, who gifted Atlantis with the red and blond mirror-selves. We give thanks to Sapientiae the Wise, god of wisdom and knowledge, portals, literature, poetry, song, visions, and alchemy, who gifted Atlantis with a bridge to the Astral Plane and our astral-partners. We give thanks to Ignis the Brave, goddess of bravery and courage, inner strength, serenity, heroes, adventure, balance, and duel energies, who gifted Atlantis with the duel-spirited. We give thanks to Lux the Protector, goddess of protection and refuge, magic items, spells, hospitality, mating, nobility, and love, who gifted Atlantis with bond items, the mating bond and the monarchy. These five gods gifted Atlantis with all its bounty and shall always protect our land, no matter the cost.”

Once Blue Lightning and Black Flame completed the prayer, everyone dug in to the feast. The surface dwellers were slightly off put by the strange food they were served, but once they sorted through the raw deer tongue, ox liver mixed with monkey brains and boiled fruit stuffed with insects, they managed to find something palatable.

Martha set down her chopsticks, the Atlantean utensil of choice, as she turned to Lightning Flash. The half dragon priest stopped eating for a moment as his amethyst eyes locked with Martha’s earthen orbs.

“Why do you glimpse at me with such eyes?” Lightning Flash asked.

“I wanted to know what the prayer your father and that old man—Black Flame?—said was about. I understand you were thanking your gods for blessing Atlantis, but some of what they were praying for made no sense to me. I was hoping you could explain what they were.”

“You already know about the mirror-selves, astral-partners and the blessings bestowed upon us by Lux. It is forbidden to discuss the Spell of Life, in fear of enraging Mortem the Cursed One. As for the duel-spirited, it is a general term used to describe those who possess multiple energies. The most prominent examples would be a sorcerer, who possesses the ability to use dark and light aligned magic, or an individual that has both male and female energy within them.”

“What do you mean by someone having male and female energy within them?” Martha asked, raising an eyebrow in confusion.

Lightning Flash sighed. Were surface dwellers truly so dense?

“It is as I stated. One who possessed the energy of both genders physically is one gender but mentally and spiritually another. Both I and Mage Apprentice Joyful Melody are two such individuals.”

Martha felt her jaw drop. Jaden and Keith, seated across from their cousin beside their respective mirror-self, nearly coughed up the food they had been eating. Even Carly, who up until then had been very accepting of what the Atlanteans said, was shocked to learn that Lightning Flash and Joyful Melody had been born as the opposite gender.

Upon looking at the two it was hard to tell, but then again Martha had noticed a strange androgyny that all Atlanteans seemed to possess. None of the males had facial hair and the females were rather flat-chested. But there were still clear distinctions that allowed Martha and her relatives to tell which gender an Atlantean was.

Jaden turned to Joyful Melody, who was seated on the opposite side of his mirror-self, Dark Shade. The apprentice mage smiled at her beloved’s mirror-self. She could sense the burning curiosity in her beloved’s mirror-self and knew how to answer his unasked question.

“What Lightning Flash says is true. When I was born my body was male but my energy was female. I was left in the care of the royal palace when I was very young—my parents and clan were killed when Atlantis sunk—so I was raised by various caretakers until Master Blue Sky took me as his apprentice. My master raised me as a female and taught me how to use my duel-energy, as he himself was also duel-spirited. Once I reached the time of maturity, I underwent the transformation ceremony,” Joyful Melody explained.

Jaden was confused at the mention of the transformation ceremony. Joyful Melody looked at Rustling Wind. As a healer, Rustling Wind was the most knowledgeable about the process and procedures done during the transformation ceremony.

“All healers are trained to perform the transformation ceremony,” Rustling Wind began. “We have to be trained to glimpse and sense the connections between bone and muscle with our magic. The transformation ceremony consists of rearranging the structure and positioning of various muscles, bones and some organs to match the desired gender of the duel-spirited individual. It takes multiple sessions and the individual will have to take special herbs to replicate their preferred gender’s hormones in order to fully transition.”

Rustling Wind went on to tell about the exact details of the procedures of the transformation ceremony. Jaden nearly vomited upon hearing Rustling Wind so easily talk about rearranging various organs and muscle tissue in graphic detail. He quickly excused himself, running out of the dining hall before anyone could stop him. Jaden ran so fast that he nearly knocked someone over.

“I’m sorry, man. I wasn’t looking were I was…”

Jaden locked eyes with the person he ran into. The person’s dark eyes seemed too stared through Jaden, sending shivers down his spine. The person dressed in the gold chest armour and white kilt of the Atlantean guard along with a golden helmet. Jaden noticed the various scars covering every inch of the Atlantean’s exposed bronze skin, one prominent scar stretching from the left temple down to the right earlobe.

“There is no need to apologise to me, Your Majesty. I should have been more observant while conducting my rounds. Please forgive me. I shall make sure no such accident occurs again. I give you my word, Prince Dark Shade.”

“I’m not Dark Shade. My name’s Jaden, Jaden Johnson.”

A twisted smile crossed the guard’s face. “You must be one of the mirror-selves everyone has been talking about. Tell me; is there still some food left? I have not eaten since morning.”

Jaden suppressed his uneasiness to answer the guard. “There is still some food left. I can take you Guard…I didn’t get your name.”

A cold laugh escaped the guard’s throat. “Rain River. My name is Rain River.”

Chapter Text

Everything was going exactly as Rain River had planned.Two of the exiles that infiltrated the city had informed Rain River of the crowned princes’ and their companions’ return alongside the four surface dwellers. The high priest had not even noticed the two guards that had accompanied him were in truth exiles, a simple enchantment placed upon them by Rain River keeping the fact that the two had no magic hidden from everyone. Now that the royal family was isolated in the dining hall along with the Council, centuries of waiting were finally going to come to an end and Rain River would finally be able to enact his plan.

The moment Rain River followed the red prince’s mirror-self into the dining hall, it was too late for anything to stop his plan from coming to fruition. The Council members sitting closest to the door were the first to notice Rain River’s presence followed by every other Atlantean in the dining hall. It took the surface dwellers a few moments before they too noticed the sinister air that suddenly filled the room.

All eyes turned to Rain River. Everyone was instantly on their feet, but before anyone could cast a restraining spell or summon their astral-beasts, Rain River had secured Jaden as his hostage. He pressed a dagger to Jaden’s throat, drawing a few drops of blood.

“If any of you so much as attempt to cast a spell or call on your astral-beast, I will slice this retched surface dweller’s throat. Now you all return to your seats and if I even believe I glimpsed any of you trying to use magic, my followers shall kill you.”

With a loud yell, Rain River called all the exiles out of hiding. Suddenly, guards and servants stationed throughout and around the dining hall began removing helmets, turbans and head scarves to reveal short hair, the mark of an exile. There were over thirty exiles in the dining hall and another three dozen or so scattered about outside or in the surrounding halls.

The Atlanteans were shocked, unable to believe the situation that was happening before them. There was no way this could be possible. How could so many exiles possibly sneak passed the guard patrols along the outer edges of Atlantis, let alone get into the heart of the royal palace, without anyone even possibly noticing? It should have been impossible to get passed all the ancient wards and protection spells the surviving clergy had cast about the city after Atlantis sunk, or so everyone on the Council had believed. In truth Rain River was familiar with all the wards and protection spells the clergy used, having learned about most if not all of them directly from Lightning Flash, son of the high priest, Blue Lightning, before his exile. With that knowledge, it was quite simple for Rain River to form a counter spell that would allow his followers to slip in to the city and the palace without anyone noticing.

Realising that they were grossly outmatched and unable to call on their astral-partners, the Atlanteans had no choice but to surrender to Rain River and the rest of the exiles. The Atlanteans, snarling and growling at the exiles with a look of pure malice in their eyes, reluctantly returned to their seats. Their eyes never once left Rain River or the jagged blade he had at Jaden’s throat. The exiles confiscated everyone’s bond item and bound their wrists to prevent them from escaping, using the restraining charms Rain River had crafted and soaked in his own blood as an extra precaution to prevent any escape attempts from the Atlanteans. With everyone restrained and unable to use magic, Rain River no longer felt the need for a hostage. He threw Jaden to the nearest exile, who quickly bound Jaden’s wrists and put him with the other surface dwellers.

Dark eyes glimpsed about the dining hall until they met an icy amethyst glare. Rain River smiled to himself as he approached the snarling half dragon priest. Lightning Flash nearly bit Rain River’s nose when the half dragon exile brought his face only a breath away from the young priest. The action only caused Rain River to laugh, which fueled Lightning Flash’s rage towards the other half dragon.

“Why are you here, Rain River? What do you want?” Lightning Flash snarled between clenched teeth.

Rain River grabbed the priest by the chin, making Lightning Flash glimpse him in the eye as he spoke.

“I only want the same as you, beloved Lightning Flash. I want what is best for Atlantis and our people. All I want is for those I care about to be safe,” Rain River replied in a surprisingly gentle voice.

“How is bringing the exiles, the worst criminals known to all of Atlantis, into the palace and taking the Council and to-be times kings hostage supposed to be good for Atlantis or its people?! How is killing and consuming the heart of the one you love keeping those you care for safe?! You are nothing more than a demented-rogue, Rain River. And that is all you will ever be to me!”

Rain River frowned. His patience with the half dragon priest was slowly eroding. Why did Lightning Flash always have to be so stubborn? Could he not glimpse what he was doing was for the good of all Atlantis. Surely he must know why Rain River was doing this, as the son of the high priest…

Rain River’s gaze instantly turned to Blue Lightning. The high priest glared daggers at the exile leader as he stormed up to where he and his mate were seated alongside several other Council members. Grabbing Blue Lightning by the front of his robe, Rain River forced the high priest’s gaze to meet his eyes as barely contained rage resonated in every word he spoke.

“You never revealed the truth of the Five Blessings to Lightning Flash! You never revealed it to anyone, did you? How could you? My parents warned you what would happen to Atlantis before they died. They told you the citizens had to be informed, before it was too late. Was their sacrifice meaningless to you?!”

Blue Lightning’s face portrayed no emotion as he responded to Rain River’s enraged accusations.

“I appreciate everything True Heart and Indro did for Atlantis and its people. We would not have survived for as long as we have without their sacrifice. But as high priest my duty has first and foremost always been to the gods. While your parents were valiant scholars, they did not understand the way of the gods as the clergy do. The gods would have sent a vision on what we were supposed to do following your parents sacrifice, but you acted too soon foiling any attempt there could have been for the gods to help us. That is why they have remained silent until now, following six young individuals receiving a vision from the gods and the four surface dwellers arrival here in Atlantis. We only need to wait longer and all will be restored as to how it was.”

“You religiously blind fool!” Rain River shouted. “Do you not think that I also received those visions? I am bound to Lightning Flash just as we were both bound to Harmony. How is it that you believe the surface dwellers even managed to get here? No portal has been able to reach the surface since Atlantis sunk. Only light dragons, such as myself and my father, retain the ability to form portals on command as the species descendants of Sapientiae the Wise. I still retain the magic of my father’s species and all the abilities light dragons possess, including forming portals. I was the one who brought the surface dwellers through the portal and made them cross paths with the crowned princes and their companions. None of your precious gods had anything to do with the surface dwellers arrival here. All of this was part of my plan, Blue Lightning, and there is nothing you can do to stop me.”

Rain River punched Blue Lightning in the stomach, having finally lost his patience with the high priest. The high priest doubled over in pain, unused to the concept of physical pain being inflicted upon him by another Atlantean. Draca quickly rushed to her mate’s side, easily throwing off the exiles that tried to restrain her. The night dragon in human form glared at the one who harmed her mate, amethyst eyes becoming daggers as she forcefully touched the mind of her mate’s assailant.

How could you do this, Rain River? I know True Heart and Indro raised you better than to assault people, let alone the leader of the Council. I knew your father since I was a child and he would be ashamed to see how you betray the ideals of peace and love that he held so dear. What happened to you to cause you to fall so far from the teachings all Atlanteans hold as sacred?

Rain River nearly assaulted the human formed night  dragon as he did the high priest, but he reined in his rage at the last possible moment. This was not the time nor the place for him to be losing control. He had to stay focused on the plan. Otherwise centuries of carefully calculated planning would be wasted and all hope of saving Atlantis would be lost.

“Those teachings you speak of, Draca, are what led Atlantis to sink in the first place. As an astral-beast you should know better than most, Draca, having been forced to take on that Atlantean form and distinctive white hair when you mated Blue Lightning. My father suffered from the same fate when he mated with my mother. Just another reason to despise the gods. We should have never bound ourselves with the Five Blessings of Mortem, Fraud, Sapientiae, Ignis and Lux. It only caused Atlantis to fall when the Five Curses took effect. My parents warned you both about the danger you all continued to put us in. Everything given has an equal repercussion. That is the first law of magic. When Atlantis was given the Five Blessing we were also affected by the Five Curses. Throughout our history whenever the gods helped us in any major way, Atlantis suffered through an equally disastrous consequence following. The only way to temporarily uplift the tragedy was by offering the most precious resource we Atlanteans possessed, our lives.”

Rain River had been waiting to deliver that speech ever since he saw his parents sacrificed seven centuries ago. The young half dragon had sworn to continue his parents’ research and reveal to all Atlantis the high priests and priestesses had been keeping secret from their citizens since the time of the first monarchs. Everyone had been kept in the dark for too long. It was time for the truth to come to light.

Silence fell about the dining hall. No one, not even the Council, had heard about these so called Five Curses and sacrifices that Rain River mentioned. Everyone in Atlantis knew of the Five Blessings bestowed upon them by the gods, but had never heard of the Five Curses or Atlanteans having to sacrifice themselves to temporarily uplift its affects.

Lightning Flash could not believe what Rain River was saying. The exile's words could only be that of a demented-rogue who had lost his mind. It was the only logical explanation. Otherwise his parents had been keeping secrets from him and everyone else in Atlantis, and Lightning Flash refused to accept that as an option.

“Stop lying, you demented-rogue. My parents would have mentioned these Five Curses you say has afflicted Atlantis for all its history. As the next high priest, I have read every restricted text in the archives. There was never any mention of these Five Curses. Therefore, the only logical conclusion is the Five Curses cannot exist,” Lightning Flash exclaimed.

Rain River sighed. “All texts mentioning the Five Curses were destroyed once my parents sacrificed themselves more than seven centuries ago. Why do you think the exiles were created or how Atlantis dealt with its few ‘criminals’ before it sunk? They were all given as sacrifices to prevent the Five Curses from taking full affect. Or have you noticed how the number of exiles seems to increase every few centuries? My parents were the last sacrifices seven centuries ago because they knew too much about the Five Curses. I watched them be killed, but the ceremony did not go as intended. Not enough exiles died during that sacrificial cycle and it was felt everywhere in the following three centuries. Weakening magic, disconnect from astral-partners, and food shortages were just a few of many major problems Atlantis faced during those three centuries. It was only through my intervention four hundred years ago that there is even still any of Atlantis left standing.”

He knelt down beside Lightning Flash and gently caressed the half dragon’s cheek. Lightning Flash growled and shook Rain River’s hand off of him. Rain River only sighed and shook his head.

“I had hoped you would see reason but your father’s ways are too ingrained in you. Take them and pacify the others. We have what we came for,” Rain River ordered.

On his order, the exiles rendered everyone in the dining hall unconscious with a few precise nerve pinches to the back of the neck, save for two. Only Lighting Flash and Martha were spared from unconsciousness for reasons only known to Rain River and his followers. When the last person was rendered unconscious and Lightning Flash and Martha were successfully restrained, Rain River used every last ounce of his dwindling magic to form a portal large enough to allow all the exiles to return to their camp. Lighting Flash and Martha tried to fight against their captives but it was no used. They were prisoners and there would be no escape, not as long as Rain River had anything to say about it.

Chapter Text

By the time everyone awoke, the exiles had long since vanished. The guards had attempted to capture a few of the exiles that were left behind but they all committed suicide before the guards could subdue them. With no captives and no idea where the exiles’ hideout was, there was no way for them to locate Rain River or save Lightning Flash and Martha.

Dark Shade and White Light met with Blue Lightning and Draca privately in the high priest’s chambers. The high priest and dragon watched the crowned princes pace the length of their personal chamber. From the grim expressions on their faces, Blue Lightning feared he would have to reveal the truth long since hidden to all of Atlantis.

Draca turned to her mate, putting a hand on his shoulder.

We both knew this time would come, beloved. There is no use denying the truth.

Blue Lightning sighed. “Once more you are correct, beloved Draca. This secret has been kept long enough.”

Blue Lightning turned to the princes. Dark Shade and White Light faces bore identical grim expressions, their eyes burning with curiosity and suspicion about what the high priest was about to tell them.

“I believe you two are familiar with the story about how High Priestess Hopeful Song, daughter of King Dark Song, and King Sun Rays, son of Queen Sun Light, and how they created the laws governing how and when magic was to be used?”

The princes were surprised Blue Lightning would mention something so irrelevant. Seeing the doubt in the crowned princes’ eyes, Blue Lightning continued his explanation.

“High Priestess Hopeful Song was the first to learn about the Five Curses, the consequences forced upon Atlantis from the use of the Five Blessings given to us by the gods. Through careful study, she learned that unless precautions were taken all of Atlantis would be destroyed. King Sun Rays was suspicious about the existence of the Five Curses, but after a flood nearly destroyed Atlantis for the first time he realised his cousin spoke the truth. Together the two formed the laws on how magic was to be used and when, in an attempt to forestall Atlantis’ destruction. For a while it worked, but by the time the next generation came about limiting the use of magic was a meaningless effort.”

Blue Lightning sighed, looking to the ground in shame as he revealed the next part of Atlantis’ dark past to Dark Shade and White Light. “It was my father, High Priest Lightning Flash the First, who came up with the idea of using live sacrifice as a way to offset the Five Curses for longer periods of time. He only confessed these ideas to his own father, King Sun Rays, and his mentor, High Priestess Hopeful Song.  The two were at first reasonably against such a practice, but eventually the two realised it was the only way to prevent Atlantis’ destruction. My father had a temple built on the far northeastern side of Atlantis’ coast, close to where all the criminals were kept during their banishment sentencing. It was easy to find sacrifices there. Only a handful of sacrifices were needed every few centuries so the plan could have worked indefinitely, if Atlantis had not been attacked by outside forces.”

Dark Shade and White Light’s eyes were wide with shock and fear. They could not believe some of the past monarchs and high priests would condone the sacrifice of their own citizens, even criminals. Had their grandfather, elder brother to High Priest Lightning Flash the First, been aware of this horrid truth? And what about their mothers? Had they also known of Atlantis’ policy to sacrifice their own citizens to stave off the destructive forces of the Five Curses?

“Did our grandfather know of the plan his brother created to stave off the Five Curses?” Dark Shade questioned, his tone as dark as the expression on his face.

“And what of Dark Shade and mine own respective mothers, Sun Wing and Wind Song? Were they informed of this practice when they ascended to the throne after their father’s death?” White Light asked his tone unsettlingly dark for the usually soft spoke prince.

Blue Lightning shook his head. “King Sun Rays forbade my father from ever telling anyone but his successor the truth about the sacrifices. He never told his elder brother, King Darkened Light, the truth for all of his reign. When I ascended to the priesthood and the high priest’s sacred bond item chose me, my father told me the truth of the sacrifices and swore me to secrecy. I was appalled when my father told me how Atlantis ensures its survival. I wanted to reveal the truth to everyone, but my father had me locked away without food or water until I swore never to tell the truth to anyone. I kept that promise when Sun Wing and Wind Song became Atlantis’ queens after King Darkened Light’s death, and long after I ascended to the position of high priest upon my own father’s death. Only now have I broke my vow and told anyone about how Atlantis truly became a civilization of peace, through the countless sacrifice of its own citizens.”

Tears welled in Blue Lightning’s dark eyes, leaving tear tracks down his bronzed cheeks. Draca wrapped her arms around her weeping mate; bring Blue Lightning’s head to rest on her shoulder. As the dragon gently comforted her mate, she turned to face the males she considered her nephews, hoping to ease some of the rage they now held to the one they called uncle.

Do not blame Blue Lightning for keeping this secret from you. He only wanted to protect you both, as well as all that remains of Atlantis. Our son does not even know the truth, and he is the next high priest. What happened in the before times cannot be changed, but there is still a possibility to change the to-be times before it is too late.

“You mean there is a way to stop the Five Curses without sacrificing anyone?” Dark Shade asked with the slightest hint of hope in his voice.

Draca nodded. Blue Lightning and I have been searching for a way to end the Five Curses without sacrifice for centuries. We have tried thousands of plans and have only recently glimpsed the answer. The only way to ensure the end of the Five Curses is to return the Five Blessings to the gods.

Dark Shade and White Light were shocked, unable to believe what they just heard Draca suggest to put an end to the Five Curses . There was no way Draca’s suggestion could be serious. Return the Five Blessings to the gods! Only a demented-rogue would even suggest such an outrageous plan. The Five Blessings was the only thing ensuring what remained of Atlantis’ survival. If the Five Blessings were returned to the gods, that would destroy the surviving remnants of Atlantis. And if the remains of the city were destroyed, then what would happen to the people who had been carving out an existence in the underground cavern for the last twenty-three centuries?

“Are you a demented-rogue, Draca?!” White Light exclaimed. “How could you even suggest something that would ensure Atlantis’ full destruction? Without the Five Blessings how do you expect our people to get any of the resources we need to survive? Without access to our astral-partners or the Astral Plane, our people will starve and their will cease to be any Atlantis!”

Draca was slightly taken aback by White Light’s outburst, but she quickly centred herself.

There is one way to safely ensure the return of the Five Blessings without destroying what little remains of Atlantis.

“And what way is that, Draca?” White Light asked bitterly. Every word the young prince spoke was laced with venom, which only caused concern to bloom in Dark Shade’s chest for his younger cousin. He had never seen White Light act so aggressively, especially towards their aunt. Ever since the morning they left for the vision quest, Dark Shade noticed the change in his cousin’s personality. The normally quiet and soft spoken prince had became more aggressive and short tempered over the last few days, at times barely being able to keep his newly awakened rage under control. 

Draca was put off by White Light’s aggression and took a moment to compose herself. The human formed night dragon made a silent vow to discuss the blond prince’s sudden change in character with her mate once the two were alone. With a silent sigh, Draca forced her concerns for White Light to the back of her mind and told the crowned prince how they could return the Five Blessings to the gods without risking harm to the remainder of Atlantis.

Through our countless centuries of research, Blue Lightning and I have learned the only way to return the Five Blessings to the gods without ensuring Atlantis own demise would be to return Atlantis to a place where it could obtain its own resources naturally.

The crowned princes’ eyes grew wide as their mouths hung open. The implication of what Draca was implying, if she truly meant what she said, would be astronomical. Dark Shade could not believe what he was hearing his aunt suggest could actually come to fruition. Even White Light found it hard to believe, despite what Draca suggested to save Atlantis being his longest held and dearest dream.

Draca saw the stunned expressions on her nephews’ faces and nodded, silently confirming what they both already knew. The only way for Atlantis’ people to obtain the resources they need for survival is for us to return to the surface. Atlantis must return to the surface, otherwise all hope for our survival will be lost.

Chapter Text

Martha awoke with a splitting headache. She tried to rub her head, only to realise her hands were bound. Martha was instantly wide awake. Her head whipped around trying to get her bearings. She found herself in a damp cave with strange runes and symbols were carved in to the stone walls. From the classes she took in college, Martha could recognise some of the symbols as being Egyptian, Greek, Aztec and Mayan in origin. From the few symbols Martha could decipher, they all translated to something either involving blood or death.

Footsteps echoed from the nearby opening as two shadows entered the cave. The bioluminescent moss covering the cave ceiling shone light onto the faces of the two figures as they entered the cave. Martha paled as she recognised one of the figures as the exile that captured her. The other shadow belonged to Lightning Flash, who was currently bound and gagged. Lightning Flash struggled against his restraints, but Rain River’s grip held firm against his feeble attempt to escape.

Rain River forced the half night dragon to kneel on the cave floor beside Martha. He bound the pair’s ankles together with a few tattered strips of cloth. Once he was satisfied neither could escape; Rain River removed the gag about Lightning Flash’s mouth.

Lightning Flash bit down on Rain River’s hand the moment the gag was removed. Rain River screamed and jumped back before the other half dragon had the chance to bite him again. Blood dripped down Lightning Flash’s chin as he spat the lump of flesh out of his mouth. Snarling, Rain River stormed up to Lightning Flash. He grabbed the priest by the front of his robe, blood pouring from the open wound on his hand.

“You are trying my patience, beloved. Refrain from repeating such actions again or I shall be forced to use more drastic measures to restrain you.”

Lightning Flash scoffed, eyes narrowed. “You invaded my home, attacked my family and have taken me prisoner. There is nothing more you can do to harm me, Rain River.”

Martha noticed the gaze in Rain River’s eyes soften as he glimpsed at Lightning Flash. The expression sent shivers down her spine when Rain River turned that softened gaze to her. For such a soft, innocent gaze to come from the marred face of a demented-rogue made Martha wish she was back in the forest lecturing Jaden and Keith about the importance of bonding on the camping trip before she, her sister and cousins fell through the portal that brought them to Atlantis.

“I do not wish to harm you, Lightning Flash, or Harmony’s mirror-self. I want no harm to befall anyone from Atlantis. In truth, I want to save them all. And the two of you shall help me.”

“There’s no way in hell I’m helping you!” Martha shouted. “You’re insane if you’d think I’d help a maniac like you.”

“I am not asking for your help, surface dweller. All I require is your body for my plan to be fulfilled.”

Reaching into the pouch at his belt, Rain River pulled out a small blue stone about the size of his thumb. Lightning Flash gasped upon seeing the stone, instantly recognising what it was.

“What are you doing with that consciousness stone?!”

Rain River smirked, a dry laugh passing his lips as he turned to the young priest.

“Did you forget that I was a fully trained healer before I was exiled, Lightning Flash? I learned everything about how the body is affected by magic. Performing the Spell of Life becomes easy once you know how to properly extract and manifest the consciousness in physical form; after such it is quite easy to dispose of a body. Do you honestly think I would sacrifice my own mate without ensuring a way to revive her?”

Lightning Flash gasped. “Then that consciousness stone belongs to…”

“Yes,” Rain River said. “The consciousness stone which I possess does in fact belong to Harmony. And now that I have another body to contain her consciousness, I can perform the Spell of Life and bring Harmony back to life. Then I shall be able to complete my plan. And once that is done, beloved Lightning Flash, the three of us can be together and everything can go back to how it was before Atlantis sunk.”

Rain River slipped the consciousness stone back into the pouch at his belt. With the stone out of sight, Lightning Flash snapped out of his shock. The half dragon priest reached out with his mind but was unable to penetrate Rain River’s mental defenses. Lightning Flash threw his head back in pain, a blood curdling scream erupting from deep in his throat.  

“None of those tricks will work on me anymore, beloved. I have grown far better at shielding my mind since we last met. It truly is a shame you have not,” Rain River spoke as he gently caressed Lightning Flash’s face, the priest still screaming in pain as his body was racked by waves of burning magical energy.

Martha watched in horror as Lightning Flash stopped screaming and fell onto his side, exhausted and drained but still conscious. With Lightning Flash too exhausted from his mental torture to even move from the cave floor, he and Martha were now at the complete control and mercy of Rain River.

Retrieving several glass bottles filled with scented oil, a handful of dried herbs, a ceremonial dagger and a piece of white chalk from a rocky ledge, Rain River began to perform the Spell of Life. He grabbed the front of Martha and Lightning Flash’s coverings, tearing at the cloth until their entire upper bodies were exposed. He poured some of the oil on the herbs and crushed them in his hand before rubbing it over Lightning Flash’s and Martha’s chests. Lightning Flash and Martha were mortified by the intimate contact Rain River subjugated them to, the former for tainting happy memories from when the two had truly loved each other and the latter because she had never been touched by anyone before in any form or capacity.

Next Rain River took the ceremonial dagger and coated it in more of the scented oil. He then lit the dagger aflame with a basic fire spell, leaving the blade white hot.

“What do you plan to do with that dagger?” Martha asked, unable to keep the fear out of her voice.

“I have no reason to tell you anything, surface dweller. I only need your body to hold the consciousness of my mate,” Rain River replied.

“You’re insane. How is my body possibly going to hold your mate’s consciousness? And even if your crazy plan does work, what makes you think Lightning Flash won’t find a way to stop you.”

“When I am through with this ceremony, I will not only have Harmony returned to me but Lightning Flash as well. I modified the Spell of Life with some Lemurian runes and spell casting. I will now be able to change and modify memories alongside transferring consciousness.”

Martha saw Rain River’s grip tighten on the dagger as he laid it over her heart. “Now hold still. In order for the ceremony to work you will need to resemble Harmony in every way.”

In one swift motion, Rain River began to cut into the soft tissue of Martha’s right breast. The young female screamed out in pain as the muscle and tendons of her breast were slowly severed. Blood poured from the fresh wound until Rain River cauterized it with a basic fire spell. He then flipped Martha onto her back and began carving the Atlantean symbols for loyalty and bravery over each shoulder blade. Down her spine Rain River carved a series of small, vine like patterns which ended in a star light blossom, the Atlantean flower for undying love, on the left thigh.

Lightning Flash recognised the series of body modifications Rain River had just implemented on Martha, for they were identical to the ones Harmony had possessed. He remembered exactly when Harmony had gotten each of the body modifications which Rain River had just duplicated on the surface dweller. Harmony had been training as a warrior before Atlantis sunk. As Atlanteans could not physically harm another, Harmony had cut off her own right breast and branding her shoulder blades with the runes for loyalty and bravery to complete her training as a warrior. The vines and star light blossom had been carved into Harmony’s flesh after her mating, both Lightning Flash and Rain River bearing identical markings along their own spines and thigh. It was a Lemurian tradition and the three had wanted to honour the other half of Harmony’s heritage as she did with each of their dragon half. The pain had been agonizing but worth it as the three—Lightning Flash, Rain River and Harmony—had taken turns carving the pattern into their mates’ flesh, forever binding their hearts and spirits.

The pain from her flesh being carved and blood loss drained what little of Martha’s energy that remained. She was unable to fight back as Rain River ran his fingers through her hair, weaving a spell into the bright red locks to make them grow. Martha’s hair grew down to her knees, the locks irritating her sore back at only the slightest movement. With his work complete, Rain River laid the surface dweller aside and turned his attention to Lightning Flash.

Rain River knelt down, a warm smile on his bronze face. Lightning Flash glared at the half light dragon, taking notice of the gold bracelet upon Rain River’s left wrist.

“You have Harmony’s bond item?!” Lightning Flash gasped.

Rain River’s grin grew wider as he held up the bracelet to Lightning Flash’s eye level. “Your eyes are as keen as even, beloved. I managed to hide Harmony’s bond item on my person throughout my trial and when I was stripped of my magic. In truth it was surprisingly easy to conceal another’s bond item when everyone believes your own to be destroyed. Though you and I never actually knew what it was like to have a bond item, did we Lightning Flash? Just another of many secrets your father made the two of us keep.”

It was a rare occurrence, but a handful of times throughout Atlantis’ history there were a few born unable to be bound to a bond item, and therefore unable to be subjugated by the blood oath. Lightning Flash had spent his entire life hiding the fact that he was free of the blood oath. It made him a constant danger to everyone around him. Proof enough lay in the scar across Rain River’s face, the injury inflicted upon the exile by the half dragon priest the moment his eyes set upon that gruesome scene in the holy temple.

 “As long as I have Harmony’s consciousness stone I can use her bond item. It served as a useful tool to summon the other exiles' astral-partners from the Astral Plane and keep them under control even after going rogue. This allowed me to become the exiles’ leader in less than a century. Though once the ceremony is complete and our Harmony will have returned to us, I will no longer have need of her bond item or the exiles.”

Lightning Flash only scoffed at the demented-rogue. “No one will ever be able to replace Harmony, not even her mirror-self. Even if you change Martha’s appearance to more closely resemble that of Harmony’s, her consciousness will still exist. There is a reason laws surrounding the Spell of Life demand nothing more than the extraction of life energy from the near dead to create new life in a viable female. Extracting one consciousness and placing it within a living body will only cause both the original and implanted consciousness to suffer. Do you not realise that?!”

The smile faltered from Rain River’s face. “Those are just more lies created by high priest to continue to hold power over the citizens.” He roughly grabbed Lightning Flash’s jaw, forcing the priest to glimpse at him. Lightning Flash spat in his face. Raising a hand, Rain River slapped Lightning Flash across the face so hard he sent the other male flying backwards.

The taste of copper filled Lightning Flash’s mouth. He must have bit himself from the impact of Rain River’s blow. Slowly, the half dragon priest returned to his previous sitting position.

“I am sorry that I had to hurt you, beloved,” Rain River said, “but you left me no choice. You shall see things more clearly once the ceremony has been completed.”

Grabbing the white chalk, Rain River drew a five sided pentagram on the cave floor, outlining it with what remained of the herbs and scented oil. He dragged the two prisoners into the center of the pentagram. Holding Harmony’s consciousness stone above the red mirror-self’s heart, Rain River began the ceremony.

“Hear me Mortem the Cursed One, god of life and death. I enact the gift you gave to us Atlanteans in the time of the first monarchs. Let the consciousness flow from one body to another and let there be life where there was none before. Make old memories fade and new ones take form until all that remains the truth of my word. Restore to me that has been stolen and mend the bond that time has broken.”

A white light arose from the pentagram, engulfing the three. The consciousness stone dissolved in Rain River’s hand and merged in to the red mirror-self’s chest. Another agonizing scream erupted from Lightning Flash as the spell forcefully tore aside his mental shields and began to alter and change his memories of the last four centuries. Even Rain River was not left unaffected. The exiled half dragon felt the Empathic-bond he shared with Lightning Flash strengthen and deepen as a new one formed with the red mirror-self who was slowly being overtaken by Harmony’s consciousness. Rain River felt the magic swirling around him, restoring his lost power as his hair regrew to its former knee length.

The light faded and Rain River rose to his feet. He severed the bonds restraining his two victims, knowing from the gaze in Lightning Flash’s eyes that the ceremony had been a success.

“What is happening? Where am I?” Lightning Flash asked.

“Do not fret, beloved,” Rain River said. “We just completed the Spell of Life. Do you not remember? We have spent centuries waiting for this day. Harmony has finally returned to us. Glimpse upon her yourself if you do not believe my words.”

Lightning Flash looked at the red haired female lying unconscious on the cave floor and instantly remembered everything. Four centuries ago he and Rain River had fled Atlantis after Harmony willingly sacrificed herself to offset the Five Curses. The two had quickly located the exiles and in less than a century ascended to leadership. From there they had spent their time waiting until they sensed the arrival of Harmony’s mirror-self and were able to complete the Spell of Life to revive her.

A few moments later the red haired female gained consciousness. Her dark eyes glimpsed a familiar form and she instantly recognised him.

“Rain River, Lightning Flash, what has happened? Where are we?” she asked weakly.

Lightning Flash embraced the female as Rain River laughed, tears pouring down his cheeks. Rain River reached out his good hand, gently caressing the red haired female's face. “Everything is fine, beloved Harmony. Do not fear. Just get some sleep. You shall need your strength in the coming days.”

Harmony nodded and lied back down, allowing a familiar blackness to overcome her.

Rain River’s gaze turned to Lightning Flash. The half dragon priest was still looking at him was soft eyes, reassuring Rain River that the Lemurian runes and castings he incorporated in to the spell had successfully altered Lightning Flash’s memories to ensure the half night dragon stayed loyal to him.

Lightning Flash noticed the injury on Rain River’s hand. He gently grabbed the other male’s hand, carefully looking it over.

“Who did this to you, beloved? Whoever it is I shall tear out their throat for attempting to harm you,” Lightning Flash swore.

“Do not worry, beloved. My hand was merely injured retrieving Harmony’s new body. Do you not recall?”

Confusion flashed across Lightning Flash’s face before the recollection came back to him. “Of course. How foolish of me to have forgotten. Still, it will not do for you to go about with only one good hand. Let me heal you.”

Lightning Flash cast a spell and Rain River’s hand was fully healed. The exile flexed his hand, checking to see if his mate had cast the spell correctly.

“You cast the spell well for someone only trained in basic healing but you still have to work on your concentration. Healing is a far more delicate craft than those incantations you priests carelessly throw around. One misspoken word and irreversible damage can be done to the body.” Rain River turned and began to walk out the cave entrance. “Come, beloved Lightning Flash. There is still much we have left to do before our people can be restored to their former glory.”

Lightning Flash hurried after Rain River, interlacing his fingers with the other male as they discussed the next stage of their plan. Throughout the conversation, Rain River could not hide the proud smile stretching across his face. The ceremony had worked and his beloved mates had finally returned to him.

And with Lightning Flash and Harmony at his side, Rain River knew he could fulfill his parents’ plan and return Atlantis to the surface.

Chapter Text

As High Priest Blue Lightning and his mate, Draca, talked with the crowned princes, Dark Shade and White Light, the princes’ companions remained outside the monarchs’ chambers, hoping to listen in to some of their conversation. Joyful Melody had her ear pressed against the door, Quick Thunder and Carly keeping watch for any patrolling guards that would have the three youths confined in solitary if they discovered them eavesdropping on a conversation between the to-be times monarchs and high priest.

Suddenly, two sets of footsteps came thundering down the hall. Joyful Melody nearly jumped out of her skin until she realised the footsteps only belonged to Rustling Wind and Jaden. With a sigh, the young mage got to her feet and approached the apprentice healer and red mirror-self.

“What have you two learned in surveying the other members of the Council?” Joyful Melody asked, her tone hopeful for anything encouraging.

“The situation is as you predicted, Joyful Melody,” Rustling Wind said. “The rest of the Council are meeting as we speak. Keith is keeping watch while Jaden and I came to retrieve you three.”

With a nod, Joyful Melody followed after Rustling Wind and Jaden once she grabbed Quick Thunder and Carly by the hand. The five youths crept through the elaborate palace halls until they reached the secret antechamber connecting to the Council chamber. Joyful Melody and Rustling Wind were the only ones to know of the antechamber’s existence, having discovered the secret antechamber in one of their many explorations of the palace in their early youth. While the antechamber would not allow the youths to glimpse the Council meeting in progress, a series of metal tubes that connected to the antechamber from the Council chamber would allow them all to listen in on the meeting.

Keith glimpsed his brother, cousin and the Atlanteans running down the hall. He quickly ushered the group into the antechamber, closing the door just as a small patrol of guards passed by on their rounds. With a sigh of relief, the three Atlanteans and three surface dwellers settled themselves down upon the cracked stone floor and listened in on the conversation going on in the other room.

The Council meeting had been called to order by Black Flame, the old sorcerer having the most authority in the absence of the monarchs and high priest. The ancient Atlantean shakily rose to his feet, leaning against his equally old griffin astral-partner for support. All eyes glimpsed at the high sorcerer, as he shakily raised a twisted, wrinkled hand to call the meeting to order.

“I, High Sorcerer Black Flame of the Black Aura Clan, call this emergency meeting to order. We are here to discuss what we shall do in preparation for retaliation against the exiles for invading Atlantis, and devise a plan in order to rescue High Priest Apprentice Lightning Flash and the surface dweller known as Martha. Any who hold an idea on how to proceed, speak now or retain your silence.”

Champion Quick Strike of the Strong Battle Clan was the first to speak. The champion rose from her seat, one hand upon the golden sword at her hip. The nine tailed fox that was Quick Strike’s astral-partner growled and lashed her tails, expressing the frustration her partner felt but kept concealed under a stone cold mask.

 “I suggest that I lead the guards and warriors and we set a series of controlled rock slides along the outer caves surrounding Atlantis. With the entrances to the cavern blocked the exiles will not be able to enter Atlantis again, and conduct another attack. Their lack of magic will prevent them from forming portals to enter Atlantis again secretly. This is the only way to ensure the safety of Atlantis and protect ourselves from the exiles. As for rescuing Lightning Flash and the female surface dweller, we cannot risk anymore Atlantean lives to save them. Lightning Flash would rather die than see innocent lives uselessly sacrificed in an attempted rescue mission. As for the other, she is only a surface dweller and not Atlantean, despite being a red mirror-self, and therefore is of no concern to any of those gathered here,” Quick Strike stated.

“Are you as much a demented-rogue as Rain River? Your plan will condemn Atlantis to ruin, not save it,” said a female voice.

Quick Strike turned and saw the one who challenged her idea was none other than Silent Stealth, master healer and her only surviving clanmate. The champion frowned and stormed up to her clanmate. Her nine tailed fox astral-partner hissed at the master healer, but Silent Stealth’s own astral-partner got between the nine tailed fox and the master healer. The black serpent reared up, beating blood red wings as the nine tailed fox continued to growl. Neither female did anything to correct their astral-partner’s behaviour, their focus too drawn to each other to pay attention to anything else happening around them.

“Of course you would be the one to question my decision, Silent Stealth. I cannot believe that you are also a member of the Strong Battle Clan. You have always been a pacifist, despite our clan elders trying to instruct you in the ways of combat. But then again, given who your parents were, it does not surprise me,” Quick Strike sneered, her disdain for the other female obvious from the venom in her voice.

“My parents might not have been the chief and chieftess of the Strong Battle Clan as yours, Quick Strike, but you forget one thing. My nature is in line with that of all other Atlanteans. Only the warrior clans, our own among them, lacked the full pacifying effects of the blood oath. Despite being unable to kill, the warrior clans still possessed the desire for blood shed, which allowed them to be able to send their astral-partners against enemy fleets, concoct poisons and set deadly traps knowing they were capable of killing,” Silent Stealth spoke. She turned her gaze towards the ground, holding silent shame for the clan she had been born to. “While both I and my parents were healers, we still suffered from being born of the warrior clans. That is why I continue to hold my pacifism, Quick Strike, because it is the only thing allowing me to glimpse clearly and not destroy what remains of Atlantis.”

Quick Strike had finally lost her patience. She lunged at Silent Stealth, her nine tailed fox partner going for the black, red winged serpent at the master healer’s side. Silent Stealth and her astral-partner prepared to defend themselves from the enraged champion and nine tailed fox, when two individuals stopped them. Blue Sky and Peaceful Wind had risen from their seats the moment the high mage and high wizard had sensed the inevitable fight between the champion and master healer. Peaceful Wind quickly restrained Silent Stealth while the Pale One’s astral-partner, a twin tailed cat, pinned the black serpent’s red wings to the ground. Meanwhile, Blue Sky had been forced to cast a light paralyzation spell on Quick Strike to stop her attack, as his astral-partner, a small pixie, cast a strong sleeping spell on the nine tailed fox to keep the astral-beast from going on a rampage through the Council chamber.

“Enough!” Blue Sky shouted. “None of this arguing shall help any of us prepare for the exile’s next attack or rescue Lightning Flash and Martha from Rain River. I know the pain the two of you feel, I truly do. We are all scared and wary of outsiders, and have been since Atlantis sunk. We all lost someone that fateful day. Friends, family, clanmates.  I myself lost my mate and twin daughters. I watched my mate as he pounded against the force-field that surrounded what is now the only surviving portion of the city. I heard both my infant daughters crying, calling out to me and I was helpless to do anything to save them. Believe me when I say I want to protect Atlantis just as strongly as the both of you, Silent Stealth and Quick Strike, but we must go about it in a way that shall not cause us to lose anymore of ourselves than we already have.”

Everyone was moved by Blue Sky’s confession. It was rare for anyone to talk about the day Atlantis sunk. It held far too many painful memories for everyone, especially those who had been along the energy shield when it was erected, like Blue Sky. To be that close to the divide between safety and complete destruction would have driven most to become a demented-rogue. Many who had been along the border had committed suicide. Others, such as Blue Sky, hid their pain from everyone around them, grasping at whatever they could to give their lives meaning and keep from falling into a deeper depression.

Without another word, Quick Strike and Silent Stealth returned to their seats. Blue Sky joined the two females a moment later, feeling too drained from his confession to continue speaking for the time being.

“Does anyone else have a suggestion as how to deal with the exiles and the rescue of Lightning Flash and Martha?” Black Flame asked, hoping to get the Council meeting back on track.

“I have a suggestion, High Sorcerer Black Flame,” said Peaceful Wind.

“Then speak to all gathered your idea, High Wizard,” replied Black Flame.

Peaceful Wind stood in the center of the room. The Pale One drew everyone’s eyes to her as she carefully laid out the theory she had been constructing every since the exile’s attack.

“I do not believe the exiles plan to attack Atlantis again. Before any of you object and question my reasoning, I have proof that Rain River, and by extension all the exiles who follow him, have gotten what they came for from the first attack.” Reaching into her satchel, Peaceful Wind pulled out an old scroll. She opened the scroll and held it for all the Council to glimpse its contents. “This scroll was written by True Heart and Indro. The contents of this scroll go in to great detail about something known as the Five Curses, the exact thing Rain River was talking about when he held us as hostages. As a member of the Gentle Breeze Clan, I have been taught to research and learn of anything that I have never heard of before. For generations my clan has served Atlantis as scholars and archive keepers. True Heart was one of my closest friends and I knew her to be one of the best scholars produced by my clan, alongside her mate, Indro. After their deaths nearly one thousand years ago, I noticed many of the works they had commissioned began to disappear from the archives. I located and hid as many of True Heat and Indro’s works as I could find, but sadly most were lost by apparently the order of High Priest Blue Lightning, if Rain River’s words are to be believed.”

Silence fell over everyone in the Council chamber. None had wished to believe that Rain River's allegations about High Priest Blue Lightning willingly sacrificing his own people and knowing of these Five Curses. Surely Blue Lightning would have informed his fellow Council members of the Five Curses, or they would have been mentioned in texts in some capacity, or so they all would have preferred to believe. Peaceful Wind delivered a scroll on the Five Curses, written by none other than Rain River's parents, as well as several others which she had stashed in her satchel. There was proof the Five Curses existed, giving weight to Rain River's words. None wished to believe that Blue Lightning of all people would have sacrificed anyone, but the evidence was there. The high priest would have to be investigated to either confirm or deny the accusations raised against him.

Suddenly, a loud scream echoed throughout the Council chamber. Everyone turned to see No Eyes, the master seer, flailing about on the floor. The seer’s phoenix astral-partner flew wildly about his head, an agonizing cry escaping the bird’s throat as she set herself on fire in panic. Lion Aster commanded his astral-partner, a massive sphinx, to capture the frantic phoenix before the bird set fire to the entire Council chamber.The sphinx complied with his partner’s wishes, cornering the frantic phoenix so Lion Aster could seal her with a basic alchemical seal. The phoenix continued to call out in a sharp, agonizing voice until she lost consciousness.

With the phoenix calmed and being guarded by his own astral-partner, Lion Aster ran to the side of his mate, knowing the meaning behind No Eyes’ sudden condition. The master seer was receiving a vision from the gods, and it was a truly powerful one from the reaction Lion Aster and everyone else had witnessed from No Eye’s phoenix astral-partner. The master alchemist had not seen his mate react in such a manner since before Atlantis sunk. After a while No Eyes stopped screaming and his body went rigid, the seer slowly returning to himself as he sat up with his mate’s assistance.

“It has been centuries since you received such a strong vision, beloved No Eyes. What did you see that caused you such pain?” Lion Aster asked, concerned for his mate.

No Eyes gently caressed his beloved mate’s cheek. “I received a prophecy from the gods, beloved. Not just Mortem, Fraud, Sapientiae, Ignis and Lux but all the gods of Atlantis. Over two thousand voices yelling the same words in unison.”

A dry laugh passed No Eyes’ lips as the blind seer repeated the prophecy that had echoed throughout his head in two thousand simultaneous voices.

“Take heed, Atlantis, for the time of sorrow grows near. For you all shall have to face what you fear. From dark to light and all in-between is not as it first seems. Friend is foe, and foe is friend, but they are all the same in the end. When two forces converge, for all races and worlds, the time of separation unbounds and swirls. The chosen of the blessing and the shunned by the curse shall join forces to do their worst. The world shall end and be reborn, from the blood and love of the one scorned. Only through him can we all be saved, and a new world of justice be raised.”

The Council tried to decipher the prophecy No Eyes had received, but the hidden youths did not have the time to ponder the prophecy’s meaning. The three young Atlanteans and three surface dwellers quickly left the secret antechamber. They had to report what they just learned to Dark Shade and White Light and make a plan. Something was telling them that they were the only ones who could deliver the message, and be it fate or the gods, they intended to complete their mission and find a way to save both Lightning Flash and Martha and keep the prophecy from seeing fruition, by any means necessary.

Chapter Text

Darkness descended over the crumbling city of Atlantis. Citizens returned to their homes for a good night's sleep. All was still and quiet. Not a single person stirred throughout the city, besides the strengthened patrol in light of the exiles’ invasion. About the palace the patrols and on duty guards had been increased three fold, making it difficult for the crowned princes and their companions to sneak out.

Once the others had informed Dark Shade and White Light of what the Council spoke of during the emergency meeting, the crowned princes quickly realised they had to act. It would take several days for the Council to agree upon an idea of how to save Lightning Flash and Martha and several more before they agreed on a plan to go about accomplishing it. By then it could be too late for the half dragon priest and his late mate’s mirror-self.

“We cannot afford to wait for the Council to come to a decision,” Dark Shade had told to all those gathered about him in the monarchs’ chamber. “We must find a way to rescue Lightning Flash and Martha on our own. Joyful Melody, Rustling Wind, gather all the supplies you can from nearby storage rooms and your mentor’s chambers. White Light, Keith, Jaden and I shall go to the armoury and secure us the necessary armour and weapons to face the exiles. We shall meet back here once our tasks have been completed.”

Without another word, Joyful Melody and Rustling Wind departed the monarchs’ chamber to retrieve the necessary supplies for their quest. The crowned princes and their mirror-selves were about to leave for the armoury when they were stopped by Quick Thunder and Carly. The two youths confronted their respective cousins, determined to be of use in the rescue of their older siblings.

“What are Carly and I to do while everyone else is getting supplies and weapons?” Quick Thunder asked.

“Rain River and the exiles kidnapped our siblings. We want to help save them,” said Carly.

Jaden sighed as he looked at his cousin. “This isn’t one of your fairy tales, Carly. We’re about to confront some very dangerous people that could kill us! Where we are going and what we’re about to do is too dangerous for children. Stay in Atlantis where it is safe. Keith and I’ll be back for you once we save Martha.”

“What are you talking about Jay?” Keith asked his older brother. “We shouldn’t even be going on this crazy quest. We shouldn’t even be here. We’re supposed to be on a camping trip, not trying to save our cousin from some insane madman. I just want to go home and forget that all of this ever happened!”

Jaden glared at his brother. “We can’t just turn our backs on Martha, Keith. She needs our help and Dark Shade already explained the Council would take too long to come up with and coordinate a successful rescue plan. Martha could be dead right now for all we know but if she’s still alive then we’re wasting precious time having this pointless conversation.”

Jaden turned from his brother and marched through the door. Keith stormed after him, determined to finish the conversation with his brother if it killed him. Dark Shade sighed at the brothers' antics before following after them to ensure they were not discovered by any of the patrolling guards. White Light lagged behind only a moment to address the still patiently waiting Quick Thunder and Carly.

“Wait for us to return,” White Light said. “Your blood will be needed to save your siblings.”

Quick Thunder and Carly wanted to ask White Light what he meant by their blood being needed to save their siblings, but the blond prince had already left the chamber, quickly catching up with Dark Shade and their mirror-selves. The four young males could not take a direct route to the armoury, instead having to divert through several different halls and antechambers to avoid the increased guard patrols. When they finally reached the armoury, all they had to do was open the door. As the blood oath prevent Atlanteans from killing, there was no fear of anyone stealing from the armoury so it was always left unlocked. Only the guards and warrior clans ever had need to openly carry weapons, and for the most part it had been more of a ceremonial gesture that for actual combat. However, the weapons and armour were still fully functional and would serve as decent protection against the exiles.

The four males dressed in white war kilts, gold chest armour, helmets, gauntlets and leg bracers, grabbing extra for the two eldest of their missing companions. Once they had the armour, the crowned princes hesitantly raided the nearby weapon racks. Though most Atlanteans despised combat, the crowned princes had been trained in the arts of weaponry and warfare from a young age. Neither prince would be able to kill or injury any of the exiles they would most likely face, but having the weapons would allow them to defend themselves when they were attacked. Dark Shade and White Light each grabbed several spears, knives, daggers, and a sword and shield for themselves. They grabbed a few explosion seals and barrier beads for Joyful Melody and Rustling Wind, knowing the apprentice mage and apprentice healer had no form of combat training.

Jaden and Keith had each taken a bow and two quivers of arrows before following Dark Shade and White Light back to the monarchs’ chambers. Archery was the only combat skill the two brothers had, limiting their weapon choice. Back on the surface, Jaden and Keith used to be on their school’s archery team. Both brothers had been good at archery but Jaden had been kicked off the team for getting into a fight with another member of the team. Keith had only joined the archery team in an attempt to bond with his brother and quite not long after Jaden had been kicked off. Several months had passed since then, and Jaden and Keith hoped their skills would be good enough to help them survive the upcoming battle.

The four males arrived at the monarchs’ chamber without being spotted by the guards. Joyful Melody and Rustling Wind had already returned with all the other supplies needed for the quest. As the apprentice mage and apprentice healer dressed themselves for battle in the armour provided for them, White Light explained the plan he and Dark Shade had devised to rescue Lightning Flash and Martha.

“Dark Shade and I discussed how to save Lightning Flash and Martha once our aunt and uncle had concluded informing us about the Five Curses. Rain River will most likely be holding Lightning Flash and Martha in the center of the exiles’ camp. However, none in Atlantis know of the location of the exiles’ camp. That is why we will use a tracking spell to determine their location and a portal to take us there.” He turned to Quick Thunder and Carly. “Your blood is the same as your sibling. The spell will not be as effective as if we had actual samples of Lightning Flash’s and Martha’s blood, but your blood shall be enough to determine their location.”

Before enacting the tracking spell, Dark Shade, White Light, Joyful Melody and Rustling Wind called forth their astral-partners. Sandstorm, Nightrunner, Screech and Faith emerged through the portals from the Astral Plane and quickly went to the side of their respective partner. The four astral-partners could sense the tension in the room and seeing the blockaded door, knew their partners had something dangerous and unexpected planned. They each reached out through the bond hoping for answers about the unexpected summoning, but all four astral-beasts were met with silence from their Atlantean partner.

The Atlanteans knew there was no time to explain anything to their astral-partners. They had been forced to summon them for added protection before going to invade the exiles’ camp, but summoning them would have alerted everyone in the palace that someone was preforming a spell. The sound of opening doors meant that the Council had already been awakened from having sensed the summoned astral-partners. Some of the Council were pounding at the door while others called the guards, fearing an exile had somehow snuck into the crowned princes’ chambers. The blockade was starting to break and soon the guards would be upon them. With little time left, White Light drew two daggers from his belt and handed them to Quick Thunder and Carly.

“Cut your palms and sneer the blood upon the floor. I shall be able to track Lightning Flash and Martha so long as your blood continues to flow. Hurry now before the door is broken down by the guard.”

Without a moment’s hesitation, Quick Thunder and Carly cut open their palms and smeared their blood upon the stone floor. Clasping his hands together, White Light fell to one knee and began to recite the tracking spell.

“Hear me now all minor deities. I seek the ones known as Lightning Flash and Martha who are lost and must be found. Accept the blood of their closest kin to help me find those which I seek.”

A pale green light surrounded Quick Thunder’s and Carly’s wounded hand. The pale green light surrounded the dripping blood, forming a trail of airborne blood drops. Seeing the first part of the plan had worked, Dark Shade and Joyful Melody clasped hands and began to summon a portal. The red prince and apprentice mage reached out along the Mystic-bond binding the beloveds to each other, allowing them to harness and draw strength from the other’s magic. In the center of the chamber, a massive red portal formed. The airborne blood drops descended into the portal, radiating it in a dim green light as the tracking spell changed the portal's course to the nearest possible location of Lightning Flash and Martha. 

Outside the monarchs’ chambers, the Council was doing everything they could to break down the doors. Quick Strike and Silent Stealth rammed the doors with all their might but the doors would not budge. Black Flame sensed a number of wards and seals had been hurriedly placed upon the door in order to blockade it. The old sorcerer, with assistance from Blue Sky and Peaceful Wind, worked to remove the wards blockading the door while Lion Aster and No Eyes dispelled the seals plastered about the door. As soon as the wards and seals fell, Quick Strike and Silent Stealth were able to push the doors open only to realise a crude physical blockade made from furniture had been placed in front of the door alongside the magical wards and seals. All seven of the present Council members push against the door, breaking down the crude furniture barricade, but it was already too late.The portal had already closed, taking the crowned princes and their companions along with it.

High Priest Blue Lightning and his mate, Draca, were returning from praying in the holy temple when they saw all the Council standing outside the open doors to the monarchs’ chambers without any sign of the crowned princes in sight.

“What in Lux’s name is going on here?” Blue Lightning demanded to know. Though he was still being held on suspicion for the revelation of the Five Curses and the accusation of willingly sacrificing his own people, until any proof was found for a trial Blue Lightning still held the position of high priest and leader of the Council. And that fact alone is what gave Blue Lightning the right to demand information from the rest of the Council as he saw fit.

The seven Council members told Blue Lightning everything they knew. They told the high priest and his dragon mate about awaking from an unexpected summoning of astral-beasts, finding the door to the monarchs’ chambers barricaded by magical and physical means, and just managing to break down the doors only to see the crowned princes and their companions, Blue Lightning and Draca’s youngest son amongst them, disappear into a portal. Blue Lightning was appalled by the end of the Council’s story.

“What were our nephews, son and their friends thinking?" Blue Lightning exclaimed. "Do they not realise how much danger they just put themselves in? They are headed for the center of the exiles’ camp and we can do nothing to help them?"

Draca put a comforting hand on her distressed mate's shoulder. There is nothing we could have done to stop them, beloved. We knew this day would come. Dark Shade and White Light are each the son of their mother. Sun Wing and Wind Song would never stand by when those they loved were in danger. You and both are sons are the same. Quick Thunder would never abandon Lightning Flash to the exiles, just as you refused to abandon me to those dragon slayers all those millennia ago when we first met. Whatever happens next to our son and nephews and those who follow them is not for us to decide. Their fate and future now lay in the gods’ hands.

Blue Lightning collapsed to the floor, heavy sobs racking the high priest’s body. Centuries of pain and guilt came pouring from the broken male as he cried for the loss of everything he ever loved. He cried for the loss of his country and ancestral homeland. He cried for the loss of his cousins and queens, Sun Wing and Wind Song, upon Atlantis’ destruction. He cried for the loss of the people he was forced to sacrifice to maintain the shattered remains of a once great empire. And he cried for the loss of his sons and nephews, who Blue Lightning feared he would never see again.

Chapter Text

The Atlanteans and surface dwellers emerged from the portal in a massive cavern far from Atlantean territory. This could not be right. Everyone had been expecting to emerge from the portal in the middle of the exiles’ camp. Had something gone wrong with the tracking spell?

Without any warning, the eight youths were set upon by dozens of armed exiles and rogue astral-beasts. With no time to wonder why the exiles were not at their camp, the Atlanteans and their surface dweller friends prepared to defend themselves against the approaching enemy warriors. The exiles and their rogue astral-beasts came at the small party from all sides, clad in rusted armour and armed with crude weapons. The six older youths, armed with the best weapons and armour obtained from the palace armoury, formed a protective circle around Quick Thunder and Carly. About them the four astral-partners—Sandstorm, Nightrunner, Screech and Faith—bore fang and claw prepared to defend their partners with their very lives. The exiles and rogue astral-beasts were now upon them and would show no mercy, so they would have to show no mercy in turn.

Jaden drew back his bowstring until the arrow’s fletching tickled his ear. Taking in a deep breath, the mirror-self to Prince Dark Shade let loose the arrow. The arrow arched, spinning wildly before lodging into the neck of its target. Jaden winced as he saw the exile’s body writhe against the ground, gasping for breath before falling still. He forced himself to keep focused on the battle. He could not afford to dwell on the fact that he just killed someone and would have to kill many more if he wanted to save his cousin.

Again and again Jaden fired his arrows, aiming for the central mass when there was no armour and the head and neck when an opponent wore no helmet. Each and every shot Jaden made hit dead center, never once missing. Jaden silently thanked every god and deity, Atlantean or otherwise; that Joyful Melody had been able to enchant his and Keith’s bows before they went in to battle. Otherwise, Jaden suspected, his aim would have been farther off and he would have most likely end up like the people on the other side of his arrow, writhing helplessly on the ground, gasping for breath before a cold death overtook them.

Sweat beaded off Joyful Melody’s brow like heavy rain in a storm. The young mage extended her rod, casting another deflection spell as a rain of arrows nearly befell her and her to-be times mate. Joyful Melody and Dark Shade protected each other’s back as their astral-partners, Screech and Sandstorm, added extra support from the air and ground. While Dark Shade was having an easy time keeping pace with wave after wave of the exiles’ attack, Joyful Melody was slowly tiring. Unlike her beloved, Joyful Melody had no weapon or combat training, forcing her to confront the exiles’ with her magic alone.

Blue Sky had trained her how to conserve and utilise her magic, but Joyful Melody was only still an apprentice mage. She neither had the training more the experience to maintain full use of her magic over long periods of time. With ever spell she cast, Joyful Melody could feel herself grow weaker. Soon her strength would be gone and she would not even be able to hold Screech in the physical plane, let alone continue to evade the exile’s attack.

Suddenly, a familiar blood curtailing cry drew Joyful Melody’s attention from the battle. The apprentice mage gasped when she glimpsed her astral-partner, Screech pinned to the ground. The enraged harpy was thrashing under the rogue griffin who held her down. Fearing for her astral-partner’s life, Joyful Melody charged at the rogue griffin. With a wave of her rod, Joyful Melody summoned the last of her strength to form a powerful wind. The magical wind tossed the rogue griffin to the side, freeing Screech. The harpy quickly flew to her partner’s side, catching the young mage just before she fainted from exhaustion.

The rogue griffin slowly rose from the ground. The enraged rogue astral-beast glared at the harpy and unconscious mage. With a vicious cry escaping its beak, the rogue griffin charged forward. Screech flared her wings before taking to the sky. Rage burned furiously in Screech’s heart. The harpy’s instincts were demanding retribution for what had been done to Joyful Melody.  Screech would have the griffin’s blood and stand triumphant when she fed upon its corpse.

The rogue griffin’s sharp cry echoed throughout the chamber as Screech scratched the astral-beast across the face. Screech’s attack drew the attention of one exile, most likely the rogue griffin’s partner, who aimed a bow at the harpy. Just as the exile was about to let loose an arrow at Screech, an arrow shot out of nowhere and buried itself deep in the exile’s throat. Screech glimpsed the form of her partner’s beloved’s mirror-self, Jaden, standing over the fallen Joyful Melody with his bow still drawn. The harpy and surface dweller locked eyes for a moment, exchanging a silent agreement before returning to the battle. Jaden would defend Joyful Melody until she regained consciousness while Screech dealt with all the exiles and rogue astral-beasts that dared to get too close to the blood thirsty harpy.

Dark Shade ran to try and help his beloved’s astral-partner and his mirror-self, but the prince was stopped by an exile. Sighing at yet another attack, Dark Shade raised his shield to deflect a blow from the exile’s club. The red prince thrust his spear forward, disarming his opponent with a flick of the wrist. The exile shouted in frustration and glared at the prince. Drawing a short sword, the exile lunged at the red haired prince. Dark Shade quickly drew his own sword and parried the exile’s attack. Both and forth the two went, blocking and striking their opponent whenever there was an opening.

Unbeknownst to the first crowned prince, the sword fight the exile had drawn him into had only been a distraction for the exile’s astral-partner to get in range to attack the red prince. Rain River had warned all the exiles that the princes and their companions would come to try and save Lightning Flash and Martha. The exiles’ were ordered to kill anyone who entered the cavern but their main target were the crowned princes, Dark Shade and White Light. If they were able to kill them, then the princes’ companions would have no choice but to surrender or be killed. And with the princes’ deaths, the Council would have no choice but to bow to their leader’s wishes. At last they would finally have revenge upon the monarchs for what they had done to Atlantis’ citizens for thousands of years. With their fall a new age would rise. One where they were all free and no longer bound by the will of the monarchs and the Council.

Sandstorm sensed something was wrong with her partner before he did. Sniffing the air, the female sphinx locked onto the threat she sensed to her partner’s life. Growling, Sandstorm lunging at a rogue winged serpent that had tried to bite Dark Shade. The furious sphinx pinned the serpent’s wings to the ground, avoiding its thrashing tail and venomous bite as she delivered the finishing blow.

The moment Sandstorm had ended the rogue winged serpent’s life, the club wielding exile began to scream. Her deafening screams echoed throughout the cavern, momentarily bringing the battle to a halt. Putting at her shorn hair, the exile charged her own allies like a demented-rogue. It took several sword thrusts before the demented-rogue exile ceased her screaming and lay dead on the mossy cavern floor.

The unexpected halt had given the Atlanteans and surface dwellers the moment they needed to regroup. They had all seen how the exile reacted after her astral-partner was killed. Before the flood, countless cases had been documented of Atlanteans committing suicide after losing their astral-partners, but none had shown symptoms like the exile had when her astral-beast was killed. Perhaps the fact these astral-beasts were rogue effected the bond with their Atlantean partner, making them behave like a demented-rogue? Whatever the case, it just gave the princes and their companions the edge they needed to win the battle.

Dark Shade and Jaden led the charge back into battle. Sandstorm flew over the red mirror-selves heads, the sphinx’s road resounding as a battle cry that struck fear into the hearts of the enemy. Screech continue to defend Joyful Melody, who had recently regained consciousness. The apprentice mage was still weak but able to continue with the battle after Rustling Wind gave her a few potions to restore her energy. The young healer watched as Joyful Melody ran after her beloved and his mirror-self before returning to his previous duties protecting Quick Thunder and Carly.

Throughout the battle, Rustling Wind had been helping Quick Thunder and Carly keep the tracking spell active while Faith protected them all under a magical barrier. The tracking spell had gotten the portal to bring them all to the cavern, but they not yet found Lightning Flash and Martha. They neither had the time nor the resources to gather the materials necessary to complete the spell again, leaving them no choice but to keep the spell going. Quick Thunder and Carly had continuously been slashing at their palms with the daggers White Light gave to them, doing everything they could to keep their blood flowing and the spell active. Rustling Wind had been easing the two children’s pain with his magic. It was all he could do. He could not heal either Quick Thunder’s or Carly’s palms without stopping the blood flow, thus breaking the tracking spell.

Suddenly, Rustling Wind screamed as an arrow pierced his shoulder. Quick Thunder and Carly glimpsed wide eyed at the arrow that had somehow managed to penetrate Faith’s barrier. The two children rushed to the apprentice healer’s side as the protective barrier shattered around them. Faith’s concentration had broken upon seeing her partner be hurt, causing the small fairy’s barrier to shatter. Before Faith had the chance to regain equilibrium and re-summon the barrier, the exiles and rogue astral-beasts were upon them.

A sharp pain ran up White Light’s side, nearly causing him to drop his spear. Nightrunner rushed in to protect his partner from an incoming overhead attack just as the blond prince regained his composure. Without even stopping to catch his breath, White Light’s bright blue eyes glimpsed about the cavern. He knew something was wrong but he could not tell what it was. Then, he glimpsed it.

Exiles and rogue-astral beasts approaching upon Rustling Wind, Quick Thunder and Carly. The three had been surrounded with no chance of escape. That was when White Light saw the arrow lodged in to Rustling Wind’s shoulder. A savage snarl escaped the blond prince’s throat. How dare those exiles attack Rustling Wind! How dare they attack the one he loved! He would make every last exile pay for hurting his beloved Rustling Wind. In Lux’s name, they would pay.

Without any hesitation, White Light charged the regrouping exiles with Nightrunner at his side. The blond prince and massive black manticore tore through the lines of gathering exiles. Neither the prince nor his astral-partner showed any mercy to their enemies. They attacked every exiles and rogue astral-beast that crossed their path, cutting them down before moving onto the next. One by one the bodies fell until not a single one was left standing.

Time stood still. No one moved. No one breathed. All they did was glimpse in horror at the sight that stood before them. There, in the center of a sea of dead bodies, stood White Light, his clothing and sword drenched in blood. Everyone glimpsed in complete shock and horror at the scene they had just witnessed.

White Light seemed to have returned to himself because the moment he saw the blood on his sword, he realised what he had done. White Light collapsed to the ground, hugging himself as heavy sobs wracked his body. He had killed someone. He had killed them all. He had killed them all without mercy. He had willingly taken so many lives, and what scared White Light the most was that he actually suspected he had enjoyed it. During the battle, he had reveled in the kill. He had laughed at seeing the life drain from his victims. What was happening to him? What sort of monster had he become?

The blond prince’s head shot up when he felt someone touch his shoulder. It was Keith. The blond surface dweller glimpsed at his mirror-self, unsure what to do. What Keith had just witnessed White Light do was shocking, but in truth it was not something that completely surprised him. Ever since the moment they first met, Keith suspected there was a hidden darkness within White Light that he had subconsciously been using to fight the blood oath. Keith had seen that darkness surface during the Council meeting and in the monarchs’ chamber before the exiles’ invasion, but the prince had been able to quickly suppress it then. But from the combined stress of the invasion, Lightning Flash and Martha’s abduction and the battle, seeing Rustling Wind be hurt had finally caused White Light to snap. That inner darkness had surfaced, overriding the blood oath and allowed the blond prince to complete the one act thought impossible for all Atlanteans.

Keith did not know what he felt about what White Light had done but he knew he could not judge his mirror-self. After all, he too had killed during the battle. True it was with a bow and at long distance, but he had still killed. Keith bore just as much blood on his hands as White Light, perhaps even more. It would not be fair to judge the prince for his actions when he himself was guilty of doing the same.

A negative energy flooded the cavern, causing everyone to shutter. The Atlanteans, surface dwellers and astral-beasts glimpsed about, trying to locate the source of the sudden negative energy. The source of the negative energy was coming from a dark cloud that rose behind three people. The three approached the massacre the eight youths stood in, their stride calm for the horrific scene that surrounded them. Everyone gasped when they were able to make out the features of the three figures.

At the lead of the three was Rain River, with Lightning Flash and Martha at his side. There was something off about the glimpse in Lightning Flash and Martha’s eyes. Rain River had done something to them. Given the physical changes all three possessed, blood magic had something to do with it.

“Thank you all for your help,” Rain River said. “Now my plan will finally be complete.”

Chapter Text

Rain River knew the crowned princes and their companions would eventually try to rescue Lightning Flash and Harmony’s mirror-self. He had planned accordingly for their arrival, moving to the abandoned cavern and ordering all three hundred exiles to attack the moment anyone came into the cavern, be it by foot or portal. The half light dragon had sensed the impending battle and the shift in energy just before it ended.

Rain River smiled to himself. The moment he had sensed that shift, he had brought himself, Lightning Flash and Harmony out of hiding. The wayward rescue party were still frozen in shock, staring at Prince White Light and the massive heap of bodies surrounding the young prince. But they soon all drew their focus to Rain River when the former healer sent out a negative energy. The shock and horror on those eight faces made Rain River’s smile grow wider. The sight caused some of the princes’ companions to shutter, which only made Rain River’s wide smile change into a demonic grin.

“Thank you for your help,” Rain River said. “Now my plan will finally be complete.”

Quick Thunder finally snapped out of his shock and stormed passed his still frozen companions, running towards the demented-rogue who had taken his brother. Carly came too a few moments later and ran after Quick Thunder, wanting to save her sister from the one who kidnapped her. There was nothing anyone could do to stop them. They were all incapacitated by injuries, fatigue, shock and even their astral-partners where too exhausted to stop the two children. Rustling Wind had an arrow sticking out of his shoulder and was relying on his fairy astral-partner, Faith, to numb the pain enough for him to even stay conscious. Joyful Melody could already feel the effects of the potion Rustling Wind gave her starting to wear off, having to lean against Screech to stay standing. Jaden and Keith were out of arrows, the strain of battle finally catching up to them as sore muscles screamed for much needed rest. White Light was still overcome with shock that he, an Atlantean, had somehow been able to kill. Only Nightrunner kept the young prince from drawing the dagger at his belt and sending himself to join his ancestors in eternal sleep. Dark Shade was the only one left functioning, but Sandstorm had the red prince pinned to the ground, the bond she and Dark Shade shared overriding her normal instincts, forcing her to focus all her strength on keeping Dark Shade alive and safe. And with no one able to stop them, Quick Thunder and Carly were the only ones left to face Rain River and save their siblings.

Quick Thunder and Carly nearly gasped upon glimpsing what Rain River had done to their siblings. Lightning Flash and Martha were completely naked, the same as Rain River, allowing the two children to clearly glimpse what had befallen their older siblings. One of Martha’s breasts had been cut right off and Carly caught the glimpse of elaborate scarring covering her sister’s back when she turned to face Rain River, her now long red hair swaying against the still bruised skin in a knee length braid. Lightning Flash looked slightly better, but Quick Thunder could still glimpse the minor wounds that marred his brother’s form alongside the dozens of self inflicted scars that mapped his body.

A draconic growl erupted from Quick Thunder’s throat as he realised Lightning Flash’s hair was loose. There would never be any type of situation where Lightning Flash would willingly leave his hair loose. Even after Rain River’s exile when Lightning Flash had been taking a dagger to his own skin when mourning Harmony’s death, he had never once let his hair come loose, as many other Atlanteans would have as a sign of their depression. Whatever Rain River had done to cause his brother to ignore the one law he held onto during the darkest point of his life, it had to have been done by a powerful magic. And judging by the long tresses the exile leader now had loosely flowing about him, Quick Thunder could only think it was some type of blood magic.

“Rain River,” Quick Thunder shouted, glaring daggers at the half light dragon, “release my brother at once or I swear in Mortem’s name that I will kill you!”

Rain River only laughed, not at all phased at the mention of the Atlantean god of life and death. He had come too far and seen too much to be scared of any of the gods, even the Cursed One. “I hold no fear of the gods, little dragon,” he spat. “Nothing they could do could ever compare to the pain I felt when your father sacrificed my parents in their name. The gods will rue the day they ever decided to dwell in mortal affairs. And I shall see it through, if it is the last thing I ever do.”

Without another word, Rain River dropped to all fours. Lightning Flash copied the motion, regret and anguish on his face. Quick Thunder instantly knew what they were doing. Quickly, the young Atlantean began tearing at his coverings, barely having enough time to give Carly his bond item and tell her to run before he too began to change in to his dragon form. In a matter of moments the three males had transformed into dragons. Lightning Flash and Quick Thunder took on their massive, bulky night dragon forms while Rain River became a slim and sleek light dragon.

Carly could not believe the sight of the three living, breathing dragons standing before her. The dragons Lightning Flash and Quick Thunder had become—night dragons, Carly thought she remembered Quick Thunder telling her—glimpsed exactly like traditional European dragons. Massive bodies, broad shoulders, spikey neck and tail, shiny black scales and leathery bat-like wings. Rain River’s light dragon form looked more like a Chinese dragon, Carly realised. Long and sleek with a slender, wingless body, long silver mane and sharp horns. But she only stood admiring the three dragons for a moment before remembering the danger she was in and began running back to safety.

Amethyst eyes met brown as the two night dragons sized each other up. Please stand down, Quick, Lightning Flash pleaded. I do not want to harm you but Rain River and I must complete our plan. It is for the sake of everyone in Atlantis.

Quick Thunder growled at his brother’s words. Your plan! Flash, Rain River is controlling you. He kidnapped you and Martha from the palace. He used some type of blood magic on you. Fight back against it, elder brother. You know what Rain River has planned is wrong.

The larger night dragon let out an anguished roar. Thrashing his head, Lightning Flash felt like a battle was going on inside his own mind. He sensed Quick Thunder’s words were true but his memories told his something different. How could this be? Lightning Flash knew Quick Thunder would never lie to him nor would Rain River. That only meant one thing. Quick Thunder’s words were true because he honestly believed what he was saying.

Rain River had warned him of this. No one in Atlantis, especially the Council, would ever agree to what they were doing. Lightning Flash reasoned that his father, Blue Lightning, had spread some lies about his defection by saying Rain River took him prisoner after his beloved was exiled. Blue Lightning would have wanted to hide the shame of his eldest son willingly following one the Council considered a demented-rogue, so he would have told everyone, especially Quick Thunder, that Rain River had used blood magic in order to control him. The thought made Lightning Flash sick, thinking of what other lies his father and the Council had concocted to cover their tracks.

Quick Thunder could tell there would be no reasoning with his brother. Whatever hold Rain River held over Lightning Flash could not be broken by mere words alone. Realising he had no other option, Quick Thunder opened his mouth and let out a stream of purple flames. Everyone stared in shocked as the smoldering purple flames Quick Thunder unleashed streamed towards his elder brother. Lightning Flash was so shocked that his own brother would attack him that he was nearly hit by the roaring mass of purple flames. Luckily for Lightning Flash, Rain River was able to push him out of the way, saving the night dragon from being burnt, but taking the blast for himself.

Rain River screamed out in pain as the purple flames burned his side and front left leg, blackening his white scales and singeing his long flowing mane. Lightning Flash and Harmony felt their mate’s pain along their Empathic-bond. The two winced from seeing and feeling their beloved be hurt, momentarily freezing in their tracks. Using a technique his father had taught him centuries ago, Rain River suppressed his pain. Shakily steadying himself on his three good legs, Rain River reached out to his mates and touched their minds to reassure them he was alright.

Do not worry, my beloveds, Rain River assured between suppressed waves of pain. I shall be fine. Stay focused on the plan. We are nearly within completion to our plan. I can glimpse the end. Forget about me and stay focused on the plan.

Reluctantly, the two returned to their previous tasks. Lightning Flash grudgingly returned to distracting and preventing anyone from approaching Harmony. It was Harmony’s task to summon a portal strong enough to bring the three of them to the surface. Rain River knew his plan to avenge his parents and take revenge on the gods could only be done where it all first began, the surface. It was on the surface where the gods gave Atlantis the Five Blessing and it was on the surface where the gods would receive their punishment for unleashing the Five Curses upon the Atlanteans.

As the two night dragons battled behind her, Harmony tried to concentrate on summoning a portal to bring them to the surface. The task was more difficult than it should have been. True, Harmony knew she had never been the strongest in Atlantean magic (mostly because she was half Lemurian) but the Lemurian crystals and runes Rain River had given her should have been helping her concentrate and amplify her power. But for some reason it just felt off. In truth everything felt a bit off. Ever since she had awoken in that stone chamber, Harmony had not felt like herself. It felt like she was not in her own body, even though every aspect of it was identical to what she remembered. She was also losing a large chunk of her memory, centuries in fact, but Rain River had assured her that she was just recovering from an injury and her memories would return in time. Still, the constant pounding in her head was breaking her concentration. It almost felt like someone was silently yelling in her head, trying to take control over her body.

“Martha!” The shout of a somewhat familiar voice which caused Harmony’s head to turn. Harmony saw a young female, just barely old enough to start looking for a mate, standing behind her. The young female looked like no one Harmony ever met but somehow she seemed familiar. The silent yelling started up again but Harmony quickly suppressed them. She had no time to be dealing with her headaches or this strange young female.

“Whoever you are child, turn back,” Harmony warned sternly, face contort in a deep frown. “This area is no place for children and I have no time to worry for you. Return to Atlantis with the rest of your companions now before my mates are forced to take drastic measures.”

The weight of those words caused Carly to step back as though she had been hit. Even with all the physical changes she had gone through, Carly hoped for a glimpse of recognition to flash on her sister’s face when she saw her. Instead, all Carly saw was a stranger who wore her sister’s face.

Tears began to fall down the young female’s face and Harmony felt the odd desire to comfort her. While it was true all Atlanteans considered children sacred and would do all they could to help them, the feeling that welling in her chest was different. It reminded Harmony of the second hand feelings she had experienced from Lightning Flash whenever he comforted Quick Thunder. What Harmony felt was the instinctual desire for an elder sibling to protect the younger. But that did not make any sense. Harmony was an only child and she had never seen this female before. However, the feeling to protect and comfort this young female nearly made the silent screams echoing throughout Harmony’s mind unbearable.

Rain River saw the young female and sensed the confusion radiating from Harmony’s side of the bond.  This was not good. The body’s original consciousness was fighting for control. Her mind must have been stronger than Rain River originally thought. He would have to find a better way of subjugating the original consciousness if he wanted to maintain control over Harmony. But for now he would have to dispose of the cause of his beloved Harmony’s confusion.

Bracing himself on his three good legs, Rain River knocked the annoying young female across the cavern with one flick of his tail. Carly screamed as she hit the nearest cavern wall. Quick Thunder heard Carly’s screams and abandoned the fight with his brother, quickly returning to his Atlantean form as he rushed to Carly’s side.

Lightning Flash, having returned to his Atlantean form, glared at Rain River, who had also returned to his true form.  “What were you doing, Rain? You said we would not hurt anyone who came through the caverns. That female was a child. I know we do not agree with what the Council or the gods have done to us, but even I would not have thought you capable of attacking a child.”

For a moment Rain River let the façade he had been implementing since he gained control of Lightning Flash and Harmony slip. “We have no time for debate. We have to get that portal open or everything I have been working for will be ruined.”

Rain River’s cold tone and deadly glare caught Lightning Flash and Harmony off guard. Unfortunately, Rain River sensed this and used the control he had over the two to get them back to work. A quick, sharp pain ran along the Empathic-bond from Rain River, stunning Lightning Flash and Harmony. Without any further arguing, Harmony summoned the portal and stepped through. Lightning Flash helped Rain River walk through the portal, the other male’s burned left side making it hard for him to move on his own in his true form.

There was no time for anyone to think. With the danger passed, the others were finally able to escape the protective grip of their astral-partners. Dark Shade was in the lead with Joyful Melody and Jaden on either side of him, Sandstorm and Screech flanking the three as they rushed towards the closing portal. White Light helped Rustling Wind climb onto Nightrunner’s back as Faith continued to relieve her partner’s pain from the arrow lodged in his shoulder. Keith followed after the pair, unnerved by the dark expression on his mirror-self’s face. Quick Thunder and Carly were the last to approaching the portal, Carly having to lean on Quick Thunder for support. Bracing themselves, the eight youths charged into the rapidly closing portal and stepped into the unknown.

Chapter Text

Deep underground a secret project was being conducted. Two males stood in a room filled with high-tech equipment. Monitors, computers and scanners were scattered throughout the massive room, all arranged around a central mass. In the center of the room lay a massive crystal with wires connecting it to various machines in the room.

One of the two males looked up from one of the monitors and stared at what lay within the crystal. The male was fairly tall with light bronze skin and dark hair and eyes. His long hair was pulled back in a low ponytail to keep it out of his face as he worked. Adjusting the glasses on his face, the male turned to his companion.

“No matter how long I work here, I’ll never get used to this sight. It just doesn’t seem right. How he can be trapped in the crystal and still be alive.” He sighed, running a hand through his hair. “At times I wonder if I was in my right mind when I agreed to come work here after Ava died.”

The other male put a hand on his colleague's shoulder. The other male was taller and more muscular than his colleague, who was half a head shorter and slimmer than the other male. He was a Dark One with a shaved head, goatee and piercing black eyes. Like his colleague, he wore a lab coat and regulation safety gear, despite neither being scientists.

“Lighten up Roberto. You always worry too much. Skylar always says you worry too much. If you had truly lost your mind, as you say, then I would not have moved my entire family here and left London five years ago when you offered me that job.” He playfully slapped the other male on the shoulder. “Now stop worrying or I’ll tell Skylar about it when I get home,” he playfully threatened, his accent and deep voice distinct despite both males speaking the same first language.

Roberto scowled at his colleague. “Don’t bring my sister into this, James. I have a right to be worried, and not just about what we are working on. I have not heard anything from my sons in five days. They were only supposed to be on that camping trip for three days. The police haven’t found anything at the cabin and are still combing the woods. There hasn’t been any sign of Jaden or Keith and I can’t help but fear something horrible has happened to them.”

“I know how you feel, Roberto, truly I do,” said James. “Martha and Carly were on that camping trip as well.  I was the one who suggested it. Now I wish I never had. Perhaps then we would still have our children with us.”

Sirens sounded from the surrounding machinery. James’ and Roberto’s eyes widen from the activity on the monitors responsible for measuring brain activity. For once, in all the years both males had worked there, no activity had come from any of the monitors connected to the crystal. But now the brainwaves were going off the charts. They checked then other machines and they were active too. Heartbeat, breathing, muscle movement. Ever last monitor and machine was active. The subject inside the machine was alert.

“Get Mr. Anand on the line. He’s going to want to know about this,” James said, gaze turned to the one inside the crystal. “After all these centuries, he’s finally waking up. I never thought I’d live to see the day. This truly is a miracle.”

Roberto was about to call Mr. Anand, his boss, and inform him of what just happened when all the monitors and machines began to go haywire. Monitors reading bodily functions spiked to dangerously high levels as sparks shot out of surrounding machinery. James and Roberto stared in wonder and fear as cracks formed along the outer edges of the crystal. The cracks grew as the figure inside the crystal began to move his limbs. The crystal burst into thousands of tiny shards, flying in every direction as the one inside was set free after centuries of artificial sleep.