Empress Adelaide stared down from her ivy draped rowan-wood throne. “What do you mean the southern forest is lost?”
The elf bowed low. “There’s a glamour, Majesty. I could feel it as I rode through it. The trail that should lead to the wood now comes out the other side into the Southern Lands of Elven King Gebelin. While it’s convenient to avoid the four-day ride to King Gebelin’s lands, still, all of the Southern Wood is gone.”
Adelaide stood up. “Bring the Wizard to my chambers.” She stepped down to the hall’s flagstone floor and everyone bowed.
Twenty minutes later at a knock, she called “Enter”.
“Empress, you summoned me?” The wizard stepped into the center of the Empress’s.
“The Southern Wood is missing, Emil. Find it.” Adelaide poured wine into a goblet and handed it to the Wizard. “Warrior Tara said she felt a glamour so it’s not really gone, just hidden, at least from her.”
Emil stroked his white beard. “A mystery, Majesty.” Emile sipped. “Let me scry in the silver bowl to see what has transpired. Do you have any suspicions?”
“Same as you.” Adelaide went to the south-facing window and stared. “Gebelin has coveted the forest for hundreds of years. He may have found a way to take it.”
Emil nodded. “True. I’ll search there first. I’ll send a note when I’ve finished.”
Emil bowed. “As you wish.” He turned and left.
Not without her own magic, Empress Adelaide strode to the far end of her chambers and pulled the purple silk drape from a tall finely carved wooden frame holding a mirror. She dropped the silk and stood in front of the mirror. She chanted. The mirror clouded, a swirling mist that grew light then dark again. The mist coalesced, showing a series of scenes—the woods, growing darker and darker. Animals racing, fear radiating from them as though they were being chased by fire. The village, people racing along the cobble streets, snatching children up and into their cottages, bars sliding into place behind the doors and windows.
Adelaide frowned. That was the result, what was the cause? She waved her hand and the scene shifted. The mountains bordering the forest on the east came into view. Atop the highest peak, was a dragon! The dragon, Adelaide realized. Lissoth who was supposed to have been slain a thousand years ago. Nails bit into palms as she watched Lissoth rise from the peak with huge down strokes. Behind her, a battalion of dragons rose into the sky. Smaller, but just as deadly, Adelaide assumed. Lissoth had been absent building a dragon army. She waved the mirror quiet and re-draped it then hurried to the Wizard’s tower.
Emil looked up from his scrying bowl. “You saw.”
“I did. We must move now.” Adelaide watched the waves in the bowl settle. “Summon the General.”
In two hours all of the warriors assembled. Adelaide was in armor as was the Wizard. “We fight Lissoth and her dragon army.”
The warriors blanched. “Lissothe has been beaten before,” Adelaide used just a little magic to project her voice. “We will kill her this time.”
The General waved and the magical horses carried the warriors through the castle gates. They met Lissoth at the northern edge of the forest. Lissoth screamed from the sky then landed in front of the Empress.
“Empress Adelaide. You did not kill me those centuries ago.” The dragon, three times the size she was before, hissed with malice.
“A pity,” Adelaide said, her silver armor glinting in the sun. “I’ll have to rectify my error.”
“Not this time, elf.” With that, Lissoth brought her wings down and rose fifty feet on the first wingbeat.
The general signaled the army to advance. The battle began. Things looked bad for Empress Adelaide when the Army of Gebelin rode through the glamor and joined the fight. At the end it was Adelaide against Lissoth, just as it was a thousand years before. Adelaide positioned herself on top of a hill, trees burnt to cinders. She stood alone, her horse dead an hour past, sword in hand, helmetless, her white-blond hair streamed in the light breeze.
Lissoth, green blood dripping from wounds on chest and legs made pass after pass, flaming at first, then striking as a hawk would a mouse. Adelaide, through magic, sword and shield, held the dragon off. She tired. Both sword and shield arms shook. Lissoth’s last strike drove her to one knee. Fear and despair washed through her. Would Lissoth win this time?
As the dragon circled high overhead, readying for a final attack, Adelaide could feel a tickle, like a cool drop of rain on a hot day. First one, then another. The trickle became a stream and she recovered, standing, sword and shield ready. Lissoth came screaming out of the sky, talons outstretched. The Empress readied—she’d spied a spot at the base of the dragon’s neck where the scales had been cut off. She kept her eyes on the patch as the dragon arrowed straight for her. Adelaide transformed her sword into a mighty spear and placed the butt into the ground at her right foot.
The dragon struck. Adelaide dropped to one knee, crouched nearly flat to the ground and the dragon drove the spear into its own neck. The dragon’s speed caused it to tumble across the hilltop and down the hill. The remainder of the army attacked, chopping Lissoth to pieces.
The Wizard hurried up the hill. He lifted the prone Empress to his lap and poured a few drops of elixir between her lips. She opened her eyes. “I could feel you sending me more magic.”
“All that the rest of us could send, Majesty.”
From the hill top they could see south. They watched a glimmer, then a flash, and the whole of the Southern Wood appeared.
Adelaide sighed. “I’ll have to thank Gebelin.”
“In due time, Empress.”