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The large turrets of Craigharon rose into dark clouds, casting shadows across the forest of Appledore.
A full moon, bright and silver, shone down on the rich green forests below, still with the silence of night.
Craigharon lay deep in the forest, its only entrance through huge iron gates guarded by wolves.
The doors to the castle were tall and wide with metre thick black bolts, groaning with every turn when the doors were opened to the forest. The grey stone walls gave way to large windows offering light to the castle's dreary interior. A series of stone archways led to a maze of corridors and deep granite steps led to the rooms below. A carpet of wild ivy reaching up from the forest floors covered the south facing wall plunging the rear of the castle into darkness.
The dense forests of Appledore moved mysteriously with the eerie shapes of the creatures living in its shadows. Fallen trees littered the mossy floor and cruel bindweed wound itself around every dog rose nestling in twisted boughs.
Far beneath the forest floors lay a network of caves, dark, damp and very cold. They provided an escape for the inhabitants of Craigharon when the Countess of Choslov hunted with her pack of werewolves.
Deep in the forest behind Craigharon lay a secret glade, where a strange white creature could be seen emerging from a cave with the dawn of each day, returning before nightfall to the safety of its lair.
The creature was half horse and half dragon, with a large pointed tail, and wings strong enough to carry its body hundreds of miles across the skies.
Its legs were those of a horse as were its head and ears but its nose was one of a dragon, with flaring nostrils and its eyes were as blue as sapphires. The creature could out run most of the wolves in the forest but he could not out run the werewolves who ruled the lands around Appledore. Draghorov lived in the glade alone, the only one of his kind. Countess Choslov and her pack of silver backed werewolves had wiped out almost every creature who posed a threat to her powerful family and she had taken control of most of the land around Appledore. She knew nothing of Draghorov's existence.
Draghorov had many mystical powers, which the Countess of Choslov would steal, if she ever discovered his secret lair behind Craigharon Castle. He guarded the ancient scrolls of Thealdabar with his life. The powers of the ancient kingdom were his alone.
Countess Choslov was a Medial Witch and a Vampire, who had once lived at Craigharon as the Lady of the house. Her fondness for hunting and her greed for power had taken her away from Appledore to the kingdom of Anthereon. It was in that kingdom at the palace of Iolanthe, that she met the Queen of Anthereon, the most beautiful witch in the world. Jealous of her wealth and beauty, she set about to destroy the Queen and steal her precious gems. If she stole her kingdom too, she would have the wealth and power she craved, and she would have the Book of Life - the secret to eternal youth.
Age would never wither her body, and her face would remain ever youthful. The Countess tricked the Queen by inviting her to stay at Craigharon. The Queen however, was no fool, and she realised that the Countess was trying to destroy her. The Book of Life was a precious treasure. Craved by many and the cause of many battles, it had remained the property of the kingdom of Anthereon for over 1000 years. Should anyone try to steal the book, the guardians of Gerilion would awake from a deep sleep and the forces of Anthereon would rise in fury against the enemies of the Queen.
Countess Choslov and the Queen each drew upon the dark forces of Anthereon, awakening the guardians of Gerilion. Rising from the ashes of the dark earth, the powers began to move across the palace, swirling in a purple mist until they reached the ancient chapel where the Book of Life lay hidden. The powerful forces threw Countess Choslov to the ground as they began to move around the palace, in search of the enemy of Anthereon. The Countess fought to control the forces using her own powers but they were too powerful for her. She was finally lifted into the air and thrown through a window into the gardens below. The Queen, in her fury, called for the Gerilion to punish the Countess. The palace gardens glowed with a bright orange haze as forked lightening struck the ground beside the countess where she had fallen. The Gerilion roared with anger as the Countess rose to her feet cursing the Queen and her royal palace. With one last attempt to overpower the Anthereon forces and claim the Book of Life, she raised her right hand and called on the forces of Gerilion to turn on the kingdom and destroy all in its path. The bright orange haze began to change colour, first to grey, then to black. Through the misty haze, she could see the stocky form of Olaf the great wizard of Iolanthe, standing arms outstretched, his black piercing eyes looking directly at her. He raised his wand, and pointing the magic eye, he cast her out of the Kingdom of Anthereon, into the barren lands beyond the mountains of Carillia along with her wolves.
When she returned to Appledore, the castle gates were firmly closed. A dark cloud hung over the forest and the fragrant smell of pine and wild garlic had been replaced by a nasty smell of old mushrooms. Craigharon stood in a garden of slowly growing wild ivy, which, as the Countess looked on, began to creep across the ground and up the walls. It wrapped itself tightly around doors and windows, finally stopping short of the castle parapet. The Queen of Anthereon had cast a powerful spell on the Countess, forcing her out of her own kingdom and turning her home into a ruin. The tall trees of the forest groaned as their roots began to move, spreading out towards the creaking castle grounds. The secret glade, which hid the Draghorov, shook as the forest moved closer to the castle, the sunlight blocked by branches heavy with pine needles. The wolves of the forest began to move through shady lanes to join the evening hunt.
The forests were alive with the sounds of howling wolves and the distant cries of strange misshapen creatures and tortured souls, echoed through the dark domain. Shadows danced in the moonlight as the pack moved around the fallen trees and mossy floors of the forest. Mists rose from the sodden ground and carried by the damp air; they swirled lazily around the green boughs, dressing leafy branches in delicate grey and glistening white. The skies above were littered with silver stars, shining like diamonds onto a sea of emerald velvet. The leader of the pack was Keetya, a large black animal with long muscular legs, which carried him swiftly across the ground.
His body was strong and powerful and his eyes as red as rubies, caught every movement in the forests and the lands beyond. Keetya was the enemy of the werewolves who hunted with the Countess of Choslov. He had once ruled the lands of Appledore but had been overpowered by the Countess.
Draghorov, awoken by the noise of the wolves, began to move around his lair. His large wings brushed against the dense leaves, which hid him from the forest. His flaring nostrils caught a faint breeze, carrying the smell of the wolf packs to his secret hideaway. He drew in a deep breath. They were very close this evening, closer than they had ever been. The scrolls of Thealdabar lay hidden in the darkness, covered by layers of earth and pine needles. Draghorov had cast a spell of enchantment over the glade to protect the scrolls. The spell had been active for over 200 years, and had prevented his capture by the werewolves who he feared would take the scrolls if his secret became known. He was uncomfortable. There was something about the night he found disturbing. The noise coming from the wolves was different somehow. He knew that the Countess of Choslov hunted at night. She also wanted revenge for the ruin of Craigharon and all that came with it. It had been hers for the taking. The Queen of Anthereon had made it impossible for her to control the castle. Draghorov's powers would suit her nicely if she discovered the lair.
Draghorov's sapphire blue eyes pierced the darkness. They shone like blue lasers, cutting through the grey mists shrouding the castle. His ears moved with the slightest whisper, his body tensed as he began to sense a change in the mood of the forest. Agitated, he moved silently from one foot to the other, snorting gently. His large tail rested on the mound of earth covering the scrolls of Thealdabar. Through the mist, he could see a shape moving along the walls of the castle. Keetya was hunting in the shadows. Draghorov watched in alarm as the wolf turned towards the glade. Keetya's eyes glowed like the embers of a forest fire and as Draghorov watched closely, they drew nearer with each breath. Draghorov stepped first to the left, then to the right. He raised his right foreleg, moving it in a circle, and then disappeared into the darkness.
A small figure emerged from the glade casting a shadow across the ground. The large pointed ears, white hair and short nose of an elfin creature, were silhouetted in the moonlight. The creature had a large rounded body and short legs. Its feet were chubby and covered in white silken hair. Each foot had a compliment of eight toes, and a silver ring with a yellow peridot, could be seen on the smallest toe on the creatures left foot. Laser blue eyes shone in the darkness, like beacons dancing on the breeze in the night. The creature was Draghorov. He moved silently through the trees, clutching a dark black wand, made of ebony and finest silver. Keetya prowled the shadows of the glade.
Draghorov had many secrets and the elfin creature he had now become was one of them. His powers of transformation were spectacular if witnessed by others. His keen eyes studied the dark form approaching him in the gloom. The spell of enchantment he had cast years before to protect the scrolls, appeared to be having no affect at all on the wolf. Keetya's eyes searched the glade for signs of life. The forests behind Craigharon were unusually silent, the wolf's presence stirring no reaction. Creaking branches of trees laden with damp leaves and flowering columbine brushed against his tail as he jumped on fallen boughs and leaped to the ground.
He landed squarely on huge paws, gripping the soft ground beneath him. His senses heightened as he drew closer to the entrance of Draghorov's lair.
A deep growl, followed by a loud snarl echoed around him his mouth began to curl into a vicious smile.
His teeth were as white as glistening snow and his eyes burned like a forest fire.
He could smell the heat of a creature he did not recognise.
The battle between the Countess of Choslov and the Queen of Anthereon had caused a great weakness in the spell of enchantment which had protected Draghorov.
The powers of the Gerilion had followed the Countess and her werewolves into Appledore, ensuring that she remained in her own kingdom.
In doing so, they had broken the spell around Craigharon, making it very easy for the creatures of the forest to roam freely in the secret glade. It was only a matter of time before the scrolls were found and the Kingdom of Thealdabar would be at the mercy of the Countess.
The earth moved slowly beneath Keetya's powerful feet as he approached the trees overhanging the entrance to the lair. His long claws gripped the damp mossy ground and his pointed ears moved from side to side with the sounds of the forests.
Draghorov peered through the long branches of a willow tree, it was the only one in the forest and it hid him well from the prowling wolf.
Keetya breathed in the heady scent of the warm air nestling in the lair.
He had reached the entrance and, step by step, moved in to the centre of the soiled carpet of pine needles and willow bark.
He breathed slowly, his heart beating steadily. He lowered his head to the ground and drew in the aroma of the ground beneath him, carefully lifting his feet, he began to move around the lair.
Draghorov spoke quietly in the ancient tongue of his fathers.
No creature had ever been powerful enough to break the spell of enchantment, it had been broken and was now laid bare to the kingdom of Appledore and the evil Countess of Choslov.
He knew nothing of the Gerilion and its powers of control.
The Countess had ruled the lands of Appledore for more than a century and no one had dared to fight her for the powers she held over the kingdom.
Draghorov began to chant the words of a spell to draw on the magical powers of Thealdabar.
A gentle breeze danced around the branches of the willow tree and the sounds of whispering grass echoed eerily through the glade and across the ground to Craigharon Castle.
The Countess of Choslov had been hunting for several hours and she had not found the prey she was looking for, her werewolves were becoming impatient.
The forests were silent, its creatures preferring to remain hidden in the shadows.
The lands around Appledore were veiled in grey mists and the Countess had found it difficult to move across the swamplands with her loyal pack.
Hunger and thirst, had driven the evil group back into the forests in search of food.
The werewolves too sensed a change in the forest, they prowled the dense undergrowth listening for the cries of restless souls treading the creaking ground.
The Countess called out into the darkness, her voice a high shriek of warning to any creature who dared to cross her path as she sped through the night.
A trail of orange mist drifted behind her and the smell of burning sulphur filled the air.
Her cries reached the glade where Draghorov was beginning to move away from the shadow of the willow tree, he could see Keetya moving around with his head lowered to the ground.
His eyes narrowed as the wolf turned and began to walk back towards the entrance to the lair.
Draghorov was still chanting the words of the spell of enlightenment.
The Countess and her werewolves searched the fallen trees and hidden dells. Feelings of anger overcame the hunger, driving them deeper into the forest beyond Craigharon and towards the secret glade.
Keetya had left his scent on the mossy ground so the werewolves began to follow it, their lips curling, and baring razor sharp teeth.
The growls of the pack echoed through the woodlands and were carried to the glade by a chilling breeze.
The spell of enlightenment shook the trees sending ripples across the earth to the Countess who suddenly appeared in the shadow of Craigharon.
The carpet of wild ivy stretching across the castle walls was covered in a light layer of orange mist and just for a moment, Craigharon looked almost elegant in the moonlight. The green of the ivy and the bright orange colour of the mist, gave the impression of a garden, rich with the colourful jewels of flowering shrubs and roses dancing delicately in the summer winds.
The smell of burning sulphur was a reminder that flowers never grew in Appledore. The Countess had seen to that, she despised the smell of flowers and wild garlic threw her into a frenzy of anger.
She moved away from the castle walls, her werewolves faithfully following her every step.
In a quiet corner of the glade, Draghorov watched as Keetya walked steadily back towards Craigharon, his nose still touching the ground. He too had felt the earth move beneath his feet and was carefully putting each powerful paw down on the ground, listening to the strange sounds around him.
Draghorov's twitching ears moved from side to side and his toes tapped the floor very gently until he could feel the earth beginning to move again.
Tiny waves grew stronger as they reached across the forest floors and out towards the lands of Appledore. They moved in the direction of the barren lands and the mountains of Carillia, crossing foul smelling swamplands and shaking the murky caverns of the creatures living below the muddy surface.
The earth moved angrily beneath Draghorov's tapping feet, he grasped the ebony wand, wrapping his fingers tightly around its tip.
The orange mist around the walls of Craigharon began to fall away to the ground and as Draghorov looked on, the Countess suddenly appeared before him.
The skies above Appledore roared with a clap of thunder, a flash of yellow forked lightening struck the ground where the Countess stood with her pack of snarling werewolves. Tiny clouds of grey smoke rose into the air from the scorched ground.
Draghorov gasped at the sight before him.
He knew of the Countess and her faithful pack but he had never been as close to them as he was now.
He had to think very quickly.
If the Countess were to see him she would surely send her werewolves out to catch him.
With the twitch of his nose and the blink of an eye he transformed himself into a delicate mist, heavy with the aroma of white lilies and lavender. The air was filled with the sweet smell of summer meadows. As the mist wrapped itself around the wild ivy of the castle the scent of the lavender reached the Countess in the glade.
She despised the smell as it brought feelings of peace and tranquility to Appledore.
As she breathed in the heady aroma, her werewolves began to search the glade. Carefully, taking several steps forward, the Countess followed the pack.
Without warning she came to an abrupt halt.
Startled by the intensity of the smell her nose curled and then began to twist and turn. Her face looked almost painful as she slowly drew her arms around her body and ran swiftly back to Craigharon castle.
Dark moody clouds rolled across the sky and the moon lay hidden for one brief angry moment.
A flash of lightening followed by a roll of heavy thunder echoed through Draghorov's secret glade. A fury of red and orange flames lit up the sky as lightening struck the ground turning the willow tree into a huge ball of fire.
The Countess realised there must be another unseen force in the forest.
The scent of the lavender around the castle was stronger than ever and the evil Countess was more than angry. Her green eyes gazed across the ivy covered earth to the burning willow tree.
She could not contain her anger, striking the leader of the wolf pack across the face she ordered him to find the creature with the secret powers.
The leader disappeared into the shadows.
Draghorov had already removed the scrolls of Thealdabar from the cave.
For now, at least, the secrets of Thealdabar were safe.
The Countess was impatient, she called out to the leader of the pack.
The only sound to be heard was the distant crack of falling branches as the willow tree burned to the ground.
Flashing streaks of yellow lightening bathed the forest in a hazy golden glow. The howling winds and roaring earth bellowed anger at the watching world as nature's powers rose against one another.
In the midst of the growing storm a golden bullet shaped case began to spin through the air and then slowly fall from the sky.
A large white creature flew above the treetops; its wings outstretched like ships sails, Draghorov was now in his true form moving gracefully across the sky.
The Countess looked on as he rose and fell through glistening stardust.
Circling the forest, his wings cast ghostly shadows across Craigharons tall towers.
The golden case danced beneath his feet sending rainbows of colour into the stormy clouds.
Draghorov's midnight display of shooting stars and moonbeams brought daylight to Appledore and the Countess was becoming weak with every passing moment.
Enchanted by his majestic beauty she was powerless and along with her whimpering pack of werewolves she sank to the ground.
The evil Countess watched defeated as the forces of Thealdabar moved away from the kingdom of Appledore, taking with them the secrets of a mystic kingdom that only Draghorov knew.
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