By the time they reached their destination, they were in a beautiful city at the base of a mountain where the buildings were made of living trees and stone. The streets were made of cobblestone but had moss in between the stones.
“We’ve made it to the city of Alerai. The Weyr is at the top of the mountain in a crater…” Rex said.
“It's huge” Ash said.
“I've never seen so many people in one place. Or somany kinds of people.” Kaine said, looking around in awe.
Cassie was completely blown away. Her sapphire blue eyes twinkled like stars in a night sky and she looked around speechlessly. The city was truly magical looking, and Cassie was especially taken by the buildings made of trees.
“Wooooooowwww…” she finally breathed, “This place is so beautiful…” It was love at first sight for her! For a moment, an image of another city made of massive trees with elegant bridges and staircases winding along the trees flashed in her mind, but only a passing thought.
The five gawked for a while before finding a trustworthy stable to entrust their horses and belongings to.
Outside in the arena, by the barn, a large man in black armor was drilling another man in full armor, helmet and everything, on the techniques of jousting. And the black knight was quite tough on his student.
“Whoaaaaaaaa!!!” Cassie exclaimed, “They have jousting
here! That’s freakin’ awesomeeee!” She had been to Renaissance Festivals many times before and had seen jousting there, which she thought was really cool. But having it here in this magical city with the Weyr was even cooler!
The silver knight seemed to get distracted at Cassie’s exclamation and the black knight barked something at him in what Cassie thought
was Spanish, snapping the silver knight back into his training mentality.
“The knight in black seems like a toughie” Cassie observed out loud as she watched them, studying their demeanor. “If I had to take a guess, he’s the silver knight’s teacher. Kinda weird to hear a language other than Elvish around here, though.”
“That's Sir Desmund the Black Knight of Fellguard Weyr.” a nearby Elf said. “He’s a Dragon Rider and he trains the best knights. Not many can handle the intensity, though. Though there's a rumor that the last knight he trained from a far off land returned home and became a hero of legends!”
“Wow!” Cassie exclaimed, completely impressed, “That’s really cool! Sir Desmund the Black Knight... I’m so
coming to watch a joust here sometime”
A girl Elf giggled. “He’s currently training his younger brother. They're both a dreeeam” she sighed.
Cassie chuckled. “Well that sounds even more exciting then! Avalon, the land of attractive boys.” she teased
Rex chuckled and patted Cassie’s shoulder. “Come on. We have to get up to the Weyr. I think we’re distracting the student and making the master agitated.”
“Whoops, my bad” Cassie said apologetically. “Let’s go check out the Weeeeeeyrrrrr!”
As the group left, the silver knight looked over to where he had heard a familiar voice but couldn't spot anyone he knew. The knight in training shook it off and continued his practice.
The five approached the base of the mountain and started walking up the long, winding trail towards the Weyr.
“This is all so super cool!” Cassie said excitedly, finding fascination at nearly every corner, “The city of trees is a freakin’ dream
. The magic around here couldn’t be any clearer!”
“It is amazing. I’ve only heard stories about places like this!” Bree exclaimed.
“Me too!” Cassie replied, “Everything I’ve seen I thought only existed in fantasy, and there was a time I thought magic wasn’t actually real as well! I’m glad I was wrong” she chuckled
They climbed the mountain path higher and higher and watched as a huge black dragon with red under his wings take off from the Weyr and head down to the city below.
“Whoaaaaaaaa” Cassie breathed with awe and admiration as she watched him fly. The Dragons she had seen so far-Kyrah’s and Sarina’s- were small when she saw them so seeing a dragon in its normal size was nothing short of magnificent. “He’s amazing!”
Rex gawked as well “That was a Nightwind! They're one of the largest breeds of Dragons!”
“Niiiiiiiiiceeeee!” Cassie exclaimed, “So there’s different types of Dragons?”
“Yeah. Many different breeds. Though we think that most of them are now extinct.” Kaine said.
“Such a bummer” Cassie said sadly, “But you never know. We might end up seeing a variety.”
“Maybe.” Ash said.
When they arrived at the top of the mountain path, Cassie grinned wide when she saw a crater with several holes that she knew were called hollows.
“The Weyr... where dragon riders and their dragons live… ooooohhhhh this is sweeeeeeeeet
!” Cassie raved
The four Stronghammer siblings were gawking as they walked through the Weyr.
“So many hollows…. All but a precious few empty…” Bree said.
“At least for now though, right?” Cassie stated optimistically, “With the coming of new Dragons and, as a result, new Riders, this place should be booming in no time!”
“That's the hope.” Rex said. “I've heard that there's only seven mated pairs of mature Dragons in existence.”
“So little, but... Ash told me why... and I’m sorry” Cassie said as her mood turned glum, “I know I didn’t do nothin’, but still…”
“You're going to be a Dragon Rider. You don't have to apologize because you're going to be part of the solution.” Kaine said.
Cassie smiled a bit, feeling better and knowing that Kaine made a great point.
“Yeah... that’s true... dang right I’ll be a part of the solution, however I can help and show people how awesome Dragons are” she replied
“It's a new era. Anything is possible.” Ash said.
“Yeah, that’s true. I bet we’re gonna have some really epic Dragons” Cassie’s smile grew as her excitement started to return
“Definitely.” Ash and Kaine said.
“So what do we do now?” Cassie asked, “Do we need to find Kyrah and Sarina and let them know we’re here?”
“That's where we’re going.” Rex gave a nod before pointing to a hollow with a dark haired teen in the entrance. They couldn't see what was in his hands at the moment because they were too far away.
As they got closer, Cassie decided to be polite and greet the boy first.
“Hi there” she said to him
He was playing on a 3Ds “Aaagh! Charizard no!” he cried before looking up from his game. “Oh. Hey there, yo! Sup?” he said with a smile.
Cassie was startled and stepped back a couple steps. She was shocked to see an elf boy in a Weyr on Avalon playing Pokémon on a 3DS and talking in slang! This was a totally unexpected reaction! But after her initial shock faded, she grinned wide.
“Dude! You’ve been to Earth?!” she asked
“My uncles are from earth, yo! They human. My uncle Mike is da bomb, girlfriend! Taught me how to board when I was four.” the boy replied.
“You know how to skateboard?!” Cassie asked excitedly, “Dude! That’s awesome! I may not look it but I’m from Earth myself. And boarding and video games are my passions!”
“That is sick! We should shred it up sometime. I know this place we can go to skate. You surf too?” he asked.
“Yeah! My sisters and I live in San Diego right next to the ocean. It’s fun! But my sister Charmaine is crazy obsessed with the water!” she laughed, “Like, she’s pretty much a mermaid with no tail!”
He laughed. “Mermaid with no tail? That would be a siren or a Nixie. Nixies are fresh water only, though. I'm Meric.” the boy offered her his hand.
“Cassie” Cassie introduced as she took his hand and shook it, “Nice to meet ya. I think we’re gonna get along real good, dude” she grinned
“Same here, girlfriend! Oh. Y’all lookin for Mmom?” He asked
“Kyrah’s your mom?” Cassie asked in surprise. She didn’t realize Kyrah had kids!
“Yeah, she's inside. She got a letter from my great aunt this morning by magic. She's expecting ya.” Meric said
“Alright” Cassie nodded but then something hit her before turning to the Stronghammers. “Great aunt! Guys! I think he means Mumma! A letter from back home!”
The Stronghammer siblings looked at each other excitedly.
“Go on inside yo. It's aight.” Meric said.
“Thanks, man. Maybe we can chat again later” Cassie smiled, “Come on, guys! Let’s go!” she beckoned the others
They all went into the hollow to meet Kyrah.
The woman was sitting in a chair reading something when they found her. The hollow was odd and had jars and containers of many different kinds on the wall.
“Hello, Ms. Kyrah!” Cassie called out to her
Kyrah looked up from the letter. “Oh good. You're here and well. And Rex and Bree. Your mother and father sent you all a letter.” Kyrah said handing an unopened to them.
“I hope they have some good news” Cassie told the older siblings~We are so proud of you all. Don't worry about the farm. We are rebuilding. Everyone is safe and sound. We love you.
Rex, Bree. Stay with your brothers.
Follow your dreams.
Love, Mumma and Papa~
Cassie felt touched by the letter and was relieved to hear that the rest of the Stronghammer family was okay, but she felt sadness tug at her because of Rex and Bree. They couldn’t go back home! It was now official that they had to start brand new lives in a place so far away from the little farm. She looked over to them to see what their reactions were.
Rex and Bree looked solemn.
“What do we do now, Rex?” Bree asked.
“I don't know… we’re not even chosen to be Dragon Riders…” Rex replied
Cassie gave each of them a hug.
“I’m so sorry, you guys” she said sympathetically, feeling even more sad for them
Rex and Bree hugged her back.
“We’ll figure this out.” Rex sighed, “Don't worry about us.”
Cassie nodded but in the back of her mind, she was already trying to figure out what she could do to help them. How could she help them earn marks to kickstart their new life?! She had never had a job before, although she once earned a good amount of money for creating walkthroughs for all the Legend of Zelda games and posting them on a website that she created by herself. But clearly she couldn’t do something like that here on Avalon! What could she do to help them?
“So...Ms. Kyrah” Cassie addressed Kyrah, changing topics and shaking her troubles off for the moment, “What are me, Kaine and Ash supposed to do until the Dragon hatching?” she asked
“You will live here at the Weyr.” Kyrah said.
“In the hollows... awesome” Cassie grinned, her spirits perking up, “This whole city is just amazing! And your son Meric is super cool!”
Kyrah chuckled “He idolizes his uncle Mike. His twin sister Merida is around the city somewhere.” she said.
“I’ll have to make sure I say hi sometime!” Cassie smiled, “It’s nice to meet someone who’s so familiar with Earth culture! A comfort from home, yanno?”
“It's understandable.” Kyrah said with a nod.
“I don’t know if you noticed, though, but… This kinda happened to me on our way here” Cassie stated as she pulled back her hair to reveal her long elf ears, and then showed her the runes on her wrist, “Do you think you have an idea of why
“This world naturally alters the physical appearance of humans who are… more or less magically inclined or have been warped and altered physically by magic. It's unclear fully why. Something must have sped up the process with you. And the runes on your wrist translate to ‘Cassandra’” Kyrah said.
“Wow…” Cassie replied, trying to comprehend what she said, “So I have magic inside of me? I mean I know I’ve always loved elves but I never would have expected to be one! I really am not related to my family anymore... My sisters have black hair and brown eyes, in case you were wondering. They used to joke that I was adopted but... maybe I really am misplaced…” That statement made her feel a bit glum
“Nonsense. You're not truly an Elf, though you appear as one. You are still human and very much belong in your family. Though it is not uncommon for some human families to have Elvish or Fae ancestors. And such magical traits are known to skip multiple generations.” Kyrah said.
“Wow… Elvish ancestors… I mean we are related to Lo Pei, this ancient Chinese guy who banished a demon called Shendu so I guess that wouldn’t be too out of the ordinary… And I guess I haven’t lost my identity, then… I don’t know much about actually being an Elf” Cassie chuckled a bit
“I am well aware of who Lo Pei is. My siblings and I were raised by Shendu.” Kyrah said, brushing something off her knee. “Doesn't matter now. We protect humanity and those of light magic.”
“Wow” Cassie replied, surprised to hear that, though she didn’t know much about Shendu personally. That was more in her sister Kaysha’s department. She wondered for a moment who exactly Kyrah was and what her family history was like… “Well that’s good, though.” she decided to say, “I felt guilty for my race when I heard about how they slayed most of the Dragons a long time ago but Kaine told me earlier that I’ll become a part of the solution, and I could only hope that humans would be a lot more accepting nowadays anyways. You should probably know how well fantasy does on Earth. Lil nerd over here as an example” she chuckled as she raised her hand
Kyrah chuckled and smiled. “I have one final thing to tell you. There aren't many Dragon eggs at this time. There are more candidates than eggs. You may not get a Dragon the first or even the second time around. But. Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
Cassie nodded in understanding, though it made her start to worry. What if...what if she didn’t get chosen? She shook the thought off quickly, though.
‘Don’t think like that’ she chided herself, ‘It’s just an extra opportunity. Dragons know what they’re looking for. Be confident; I know you have what it takes.’
“Understood, Ms. Kyrah” Cassie said out loud
“So they may not even get chosen?” Rex asked.
“Not right away. There just aren't enough Dragons.” Kyrah said.
“Then we’ll just have to to prepare for the worst and hope for the best” Cassie replied, though a small part of her had the lingering fear of not getting chosen. Rejection was difficult for her…
“You must have had a long hard journey here. Find a hollow to rest in for the night. We’ll discuss things further tomorrow.” Kyrah said.
“Alright” Cassie nodded, “Come on, guys. At least we’ll all have a roof over our heads tonight.”
“Yeah.” The twins nodded.
“Thanks for everything, Ms. Kyrah. See you tomorrow” Cassie told Kyrah
“Rest well.” Kyrah told them.
“We will” Cassie replied before she and the Stronghammer siblings left her hollow
“I hope you guys at least get chosen” Cassie told Ash and Kaine, “I’d hate for you to come all this way, even though...you had to…, and not get chosen.”
“It'll be alright, Cassie.” the twins said together.
“I hope so” Cassie replied, “But no sense in worrying about it now. Let’s rest up and enjoy ourselves tomorrow.”