Slowly, Doireann walked to the door. No, don’t go there. Giggling, she reached for the handle, then turned to smile back at her father. No, go back. Turning the handle, she opened the door, still looking at her father making faces at her. Don't look! Turning, she saw her mother, with stakes through her hands and feet, rope marks on her wrists and ankles, her face cut with strange carvings, and a note stuck to her chest by a decorated dagger. Opening her mouth she screamed, “Mommy!”

Sitting up quickly, Doireann looked around. She placed a thumbnail in her mouth and began chewing, holding back tears. This was not supposed to happen today. It was her birthday, and she was going to be a big six-year old today. There weren’t supposed to be nightmares today.

Suddenly, there was a candle in the doorway. She looked up to see a woman in red standing in the doorway. Doireann couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. The woman ran in and set the candle on the table near the bed, and pulled Doireann close to her, and began murmuring.

“Oh, Dory dear, it’s okay. Was it the same nightmare?” the woman asked, brushing the little girl’s hair with her fingers. “It’s over now, nothing can hurt you.”

“They hurt my last mommy,” Doireann sobbed, "They can hurt me." Suddenly tightened her hold on the woman. “They can hurt you too. I don’t want to lose my new mommy.”

From the hall, Xandria watched the two, and sneered. Poor baby, she thought, looking at her new “little sister”. Why don’t you just die like your mother and make everyone’s life easier. While you’re at it, make sure your stupid father dies with you. Rosemary is my mother, she slowly narrowed her eyes, not yours.

Xandria walked away, her fist clenched. Maybe if Doireann died, she wouldn’t have to have her birthday ruined. She went into her room and slammed her door closed, then leaned against it. It wasn't her fault her mother married Doireann's virtuous do-gooder father, ruining her eighth birthday. Stomping forward she stopped, looking on her bed.

A mouse circled a jar, pressing his hands against the walls. Looking at the animal trapped within the jar, Xandria smiled. Oh, good, my present to me. She reached her hand in, grabbed it by the tail, and pulled it out of the jar. Watching it squirm, she walked to a desk, and sat down. She placed the mouse in an old, wooden container she found, and began to flex her hand.

“In Sar.”

She watched the mouse wither in pain, and laughed softly to herself.

“Vas Flam.”

A flame arose around the mouse. It mouse stopped withering and was silent. Pushing the chair back, Xandria went to the bookcase on the other side of the room. She pulled a green book concealed by a false lining, and stared at the skull on the cover. Holding it close to her, she walked back to the box.

“Uus Corp.”

Frowning, Xandria looked down, noticing nothing happened. Looking back at the book, she splayed her hands a few times.

“Uus Corp!”

Slowly, she watched as a black mass slid towards the mouse, engulfing it. She watched as the mouse opened it eyes, looking at her. Suddenly, she heard a gasp. Turning to a door, she saw her new step-sister, watching wide-eyed.

“Dory, dear, what are you doing here?”

The six-year old stared at the mouse as it moved its head jerkily. Bringing her hand to her red hair, twirling it, she looked at Xandria. “What’s that, Xandy?”

Xandria began counting in her head, and then looked at her sister smiling. “Why, Dory, that is how I am going to save lives.”

Doireann’s eyes widened further, and looked up with wonder. “Really?”

Xandria walked to Doireann, and kneeled down, looking her in the eyes. “Trust your new big sister on this. I have learned a few things in my eight years. I know. If I can figure this out, I can figure out how to keep the soul from leaving long enough to heal them. Wouldn’t that be great? Then, people like your mother would not have to die from their wounds.”

Doireann’s eyes began to tear up. She looked to Xandria. “I don’t want anyone else to die that way again,” she said slowly, sniffing back tears.

“Of course you don’t, dear. Now, if anyone asks you, just tell them I am learning new forms of healing, alright?" Xandria watched Doireann, nod, and smiled in satisfaction. "Now, shall we have a happy birthday?”

Still nodding, Doireann began turned and walked out the door, still sniffling. Watching her leave, Xandria shook her head. Stupid fool. Looking at the door, Xandria checked to make sure the door was secured. Turning to the mouse, she felt her hips hit the jar, and she watched it fall, breaking off a piece. Sighing, Xandria, picked up the pieces, and walked to the mouse. Her hands shook as she brought the jar near the mouse. Suddenly, she began to notice the jar taking on a slight pink color. Tilting her head, she stared into it, trying to find its source. Slowly, she reached her finger in, feeling along the jar to find out where that strange discoloration was coming from. As her hand slowly touched the pink film, she felt her whole body tingle then felt nothing as her world went black.


“You will not go, and that is that! You are not trained enough to go. Now, stop arguing with me!” Marcus glared at his daughter, who lifted her chin in defiance.
“I am too good enough! You trained me! I am not scared!” Doireann said, staring at her father mutinously. “Besides, if I don’t go, who will watch your back?”
“My colleagues will watch my back, of course. They have more training and knowledge than you do at sixteen. They have trained and fought in battles and wars, not just play fights. Now, if you are done asking questions, I am leaving.”
“Play fighting? How can you say that? You are the one who taught me!”
“And as the one who taught you, I know your limits. One more argument out of you and you will regret it. Do you understand me?” “Yes, sir,” Doireann said in a small voice.
“Good, now go upstairs and behave for your mother, for once. I will be back in a few days time, and we can all have a nice, warm dinner, and I will tell you all about my adventures.” Marcus hefted his sword and paused. He turned, still seeing his daughter in her armor and glared. “Upstairs! And, take off that armor!”
Doireann turned, and slowly started to walk upstairs, turning on the landing to wait until her father left. She heard his horse whinny, and the hoarse command he made to his troops. Counting to one hundred, she checked to make sure her step-mother wasn’t coming. Then, slowly tip-toeing, she went out the door. She saddled her mare, Vendetta, and mounted her, riding steadily to keep an eye on the party, without giving away her position.

Xandria looked out the window and smiled. So, the little rebel wanted to go play with the big boys, did she? Well, this might prove to be better than she could have hoped. Running into her mother’s room, she began to stare at her mother, frantic. “Oh, mother! It’s horrible! Dory ran off after father to join in the fight. I heard him, and he said she would surely die if she were to come. Hurry, we must fetch her before she gets hurt.”
Rosemary looked at Xandria, alarmed. “Alright, Xandria, go and get our supplies. We must stop her from going there, or she will get killed.” Rosemary ran around, gathering various forms of regents, and rushed to her books, grabbing any she could.
“Come, my dear, and bring your spell book too.” Xandria followed her Mother’s instructions, and grabbed her spell book. Smiling, she also grabbed a green book and placed it in her pack.
“Oh, Helena!” Rosemary cried. She ran downstairs, and called a servant up to watch her five year old daughter.
“Alright, I am ready to go,” Xandria said, and grabbed extra regents from her stash. Placing a floppy hat on her head to hide the horns, she raced outside after her mother, and saddled an available steed. Wrapping her tail around her leg under her long skirt, she jumped onto the horse, and rode after Rosemary. The journey was treacherous, as was to be expected, and long. After two nights, they stopped at the hill in horror. There were dragons of all sorts everywhere, slaying everything in their path. Xandria saw at the top of the hill a face, and recognized it for Marcus’s first lieutenant. Slowly, it dawned on her, that there was only a face left of him. Looking at the destruction, she could only think, was anything alive?

Doireann slashed at the dragon coming after her, and her father jumped behind it, killing the beast. “If you are going to learn your skill here, at least aim for the heart,” he said, taking his sword out of the dragon. Doireann nodded and looked wide-eyed at the horror around her. She knew they were fighting dragons, but had no idea the horror that waited within these hills. She looked up at her father, who stared at her in disappointment. She could not handle the beasts, as he had said. Now, he was not just fighting to stay alive, but also fighting to protect her as well. She sighed, looking at the dragon he had slain. Once a year, he came here, and culled the beast to a normal level, weeding out those that were sick and old. Unfortunately, when she went to kill her first dragon, she had not counted on it being an ancient wyrm. Her father and his troops came in, rescuing her, but then everything got out of hand. Apparently, the ancient wyrm was the last thing to be killed, for it called upon vengeance with its death. Suddenly, they were surrounded by not just dragons, but more monstrous beast. The worst, though, were the skeletal and shadow dragons, which used necromancy against them. Many had died in the attempt to stave off those horrendous creatures.
Hefting up her long sword, she grabbed her shield and headed forth behind her father. It was truly a disastrous day. Slashing at the next dragon, this time, aiming for its heart, she began to feel defeated. Killing the dragon, then turning her back on it, she reached for her father, suddenly, she felt a cold prickle on her neck, and turned around. There, where the dragon had once lain, was a skeletal dragon, breathing deep on her, but staring at her father, who was busy slaying a white wyrm. Reaching for her sword, she prepared to battle the beast, knowing she had not a chance in the world of defeating him.

Xandria looked at her mother and made a motion of going around the hill. Rosemary nodded, and went the opposite way, saying small incantations, killing the beasts as they tried to attack her. Xandria wandered the opposite way, using her magery to ward off the beasts. Occasionally, she would see a dead beast, and would mutter a spell to make it rise, just to see if she could. No one would notice a new edition amongst this hell. Creeping along the hill, she spotted Doireann fighting a dragon, and looking further ahead, she noticed her step-father fighting multiple dragons, slaying most with two to three strikes. Laughing, she watched the scene. Suddenly, the dragon Doireann was fighting died, and she turned to help her father, who was now battling a white wyrm. Laughing fiendishly, Xandria looked at the dead dragon, and muttered a small incantation.
“Uus Corp.”
Suddenly, the skeletal remains of the dragon began to twitch. Slowly, it got up, and stared down at Doireann who was in front of her, then at her father who was killing the white wyrm. She watched Doireann turn and go wide-eyed, staring at the horror before her. Giggling, Xandria watched as she tried to battle the fiend, and watching the skeletal dragon making gouges going across her body with his magic. Suddenly, Marcus turned around to help, slashing furiously at the undead, using his holy sword to try to defeat it. Seeing that he having troubles protecting his daughter and killing the fiend at the same time, Xandria looked at the white wyrm’s corpse.
“Uus Corp.”
Rising behind him, a mass of fury, the new skeletal dragon slashed at Marcus from behind, slashing his torso in two with one swipe.
“No!” Doireann yelled, watching her father fall. Running to her father’s body, she grabbed the sword he had held, and began swinging furiously. Suddenly, she felt a slash against her back, and fell to the ground, the sword falling a few feet beside her. The dragon advanced on her, and she began to mutter unconsciously. Suddenly, the dragon was thrown back, walking away as if in fear. She muttered the spell again, and watched as everything ran from her, looking at her wide-eyed. She picked up her father’s sword, and walked down the hill. Turning she stared at the hill, too numb to grasp what had happened.
Xandria smiled, and yelled to her mother. “Mother, I found her!” She stared at Doireann with a look of sympathy. “What happened, my dear?” she asked, looking concerned.
“He’s dead,” Doireann said, looking blankly at the hill. “They are all dead.”
“No! Not again!” Rosemary yelled, hearing the last of what Doireann had said, and ran to her, shaking her. “What have you done? You killed them! You foolish child, you killed them!” Rosemary looked at her suddenly, raised her hand and said coldly. “You will die slowly, in unending pain, to match the misery you have brought me today.” She closed her feet, and fell, weakened. Doireann suddenly clutched her chest, falling. Staring at her mother, Xandria smiled a smile of true delight.
“Why thank you, mother. I was wondering how I would get rid of her. In Sar!” She said, waving at her mother, weakening her to the point of death. “I thought for sure the dragon I made that killed her father would surely slay her.”
“You, my daughter, caused this destruction?” Rosemary asked, staring at Xandria in horror.
“Well, dear Doireann here did go off on her little rebellious whim and caused, well, most of this, I am sure. However, yes, I killed dear Step-daddy, and now you will die too. You should not have wasted your energy on that curse, but, no matter. It makes getting rid of her that much easier.”
Staring in horror, Rosemary breathed in a rattled breath, and began to murmur silently. Xandria watched with a smug smile on her face, watching the light begin to leave her mothers purple eyes, so like her own. She began whistle when she saw her mother rise, and stare with intensity at her.
“To correct my wrong I curse you both. One can not live without the other; one’s death shall cause the other to die. When they bodies perish, the souls shall combine and be reborn together. She who attempts to break the curse shall suffer the wrath of those who came before me and the very virtues themselves!” Rosemary gasped on the last word, and fell to the floor, never to wake again.
Doireann breathed in suddenly, as the pain ceased to be. Looking in horror at Xandria, she lifted her sword, and held it beneath Xandria’s chin. Xandria stood, and smirked at Doireann. “Feeling suicidal, are we? Didn’t you hear her? If I die, so do you.”
Looking in horror, Doireann dropped the weapon. “Your right,” she said and backhanded Xandria. “She stated to break the curse was to invoke the wrath of the virtues. So, I cannot harm you. However, you apparently do not follow the path of the virtuous. So, please, find a way to break this curse. I wish to kill you.” Then, picking up her father’s sword, Doireann began to walk out, leaving Xandria holding her cheek in her hand, letting the blood fall freely from her mouth.