WE STARED AT Elena, our expressions a mixture of shock and horror.

'Are we meant to be excited about this?' Kassie looked understandably dubious. 'We may have super powers and if we do a family of nutters is going to hunt us down and suck us dry?' Her voice increased an octave.

Sian stared icily at Elena. 'Well put, Kass.'

Loi and I gave the Sorceress similar unimpressed looks.

Elena appeared a little stunned by our not so rapturous response and stared at us in shock before exclaiming, 'No, NO! That is not what's going to happen at all. There are a couple of reasons, please let me explain. Do you know how the late King died?'

Loi, Sian, and I shook our heads but Kassie spoke up.

'Yes. Well, I think I do. Rumal told me it was in a fight, and his first griffon, Ofelaan, died in it too.'

'Yes, but there is more to it than that. The late Queen Ariadwen, Alek's mother, died not long after she gave birth to him. We thought at the time that it was an unfortunate complication from the birth, but now I suspect she may have been murdered. That left just Alek and King Nikias, as the surviving members of the Thalian line. Understandably we watched over them very closely. When Alek turned ten he linked with a griffon, Loushka. He was the fifth to link with a griffon within a ten year period. All of the five were suitable candidates for forming a new Griffon Guard. And so we; the King, myself and Yakov, began to train them. It was at our first training camp that we were attacked by Jenviet and her brother Diantew. In the ensuing fight King Nikias and Ofelaan were killed.'

Elena gave a sad sigh, her eyes sorrowful. 'The one good thing out of it all was that Diantew was also killed in the fight, which brings me to one of the reasons why I am sure that this time we will succeed. Jenviet is the only remaining DeNaga, so our odds are much greater and, unlike the past Elementals, you four are already warriors and used to defending yourselves.'

Warriors? I wasn't sure if I'd use that word to describe myself. The look of astonishment on the others faces was comical.

'Is Alek is the last of the Thalian line?'

'Yes, all our power goes into protecting him. That's the reason Jenviet and Diantew attacked us then, in the hope of wiping out the Thalian line and thus effectively throwing the realm into Civil War again. I am not able to remain in the castle if the Thalian line isn't ruling, they came dangerously close to succeeding in their cause that night.'

I stayed silent while I thought about it all. What an incredible history. What if we were gifted like she hoped? How would you cope with such a gift? And Alek watched his dad die when he was just ten, that would have broken my heart. Not that it wasn't at the moment, knowing I'd never see my parents again. I breathed through the pain when my chest seized again at the realization.

'What will Jenviet do if she succeeds?' Sian asked.

'I expect she would side with a family, as my family did. Once she had control of this realm she would take over others. The DeNagas desire power and dominion above all else. They appear to thrive on it.'

'So a truce isn't possible?' Loi asked.

Elena gave her a sharp look and a long pause before she answered. 'No. She would never consider one.'

Loi held her hands back. 'I didn't mean to be rude, I was just curious.'

We sat there silent, until Sian spoke. 'What do you want from us?'

The Sorceress looked pleased to get the conversation back on track. 'As I suggested before, a one month trial. We would begin your training in a couple of days and continue until the time of Alek's birthday ball, after which you would make your final decision.'

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