All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
The combination of the cool lake breeze and the burning rays of the sun felt odd. Warmth and cold, two universal opposites, coexisting together like best friends on the surface of Lake Gryphon. Sitting on a protruding boulder in the shallower parts of the lake, Saphira gazed alone at the orange billed white birds that feasted on the many water plants growing beneath the ripply surface, her pure white hair twisting in the wind.
Saphira’s eyes constantly changed color, from pale ice blue to a yellowish bronze to dark blue, giving her a ruling aura. Her hair only added to the effect. Others feared her, excluded her. But Saphira cared little for what others thought about her, she was fine on her own. In fact, she liked the solitude, the time she had to perfect her life. Perfection was her purpose, and though she did not always manage it, one mistake could destroy everything she had worked for.
Lake Gryphon was where she came in her free time. Lake Gryphon was really just a pond in Maine next to the actual Lake Falla that looked vaguely like a mythical gryphon. No one else cared about the nameless little pond, but Saphira did. Saphira had given it a name, recognized its true beauty. But she didn’t visit regularly just to watch the wildlife, she came to escape the havoc of modern life, even for a little while, and to ponder her thoughts.
Today, she was studying the crystal ring that her mother had given her. Her mother said that Saphira’s father had carved it and instructed her to give it to Saphira. Saphira often marveled at the beauty of the ring, the ice blue crystal base with the runes glinting in the sunlight. But the most beautiful of all was the smoothly curved, long tailed phoenix on the top of the ring---
every feather whittled to perfection, the wings stretched upwards as if in flight to touch the sky.
A sudden screech pierced the air, and Saphira almost slipped into the water. Almost. Her right arm extended at the last moment and touched the bottom of the pond. She turned her head to identify the source of the squawk, and saw a groggy goose standing up under a tree. It must have crashed into the tree while flying. She turned her head back to the pond, where her hand groped around for a proper position to get up. Her hand touched something smooth. Was it just her, or had the crystal ring just grown cold in her left hand? Immediately she snatched up the object from the pond bottom. It was a perfectly spherical piece of crystal, about 4 inches in diameter. And then it struck her: the sphere was made of crystal---the same type as her ring. As she inspected the sphere, she noticed a groove on its surface. Now she was sure of it--her ring was freezing cold. She held the ring next to the sphere, and only then did she realize that they were both glowing a pale shade of ice blue.
Saphira didn’t know why she did it, her body seemed to act against her will. The phoenix on the ring fit perfectly into the dent on the sphere, every little mark locking into place. The outlines of the phoenix glowed pure white, and the ring melted into the brilliance. The crystal sphere floated in front of her, expanding into a vortex of pure light. She heard one last phrase before she was sucked in:
The ring is the key…….
The whisper rang faintly in her ears, and darkness enveloped her with sleep.
A gentle puff of air on her face woke her. She sensed something next to her: something big. Instinct told her to get up and run, but the sunlight just felt so soothing and the grass so soft….Wait a minute. Grass…..? There wasn’t any grass next to Lake Gryphon!
She instantly bolted upright to a sitting position and looked at the landscape before her. A green grass valley, lush trees……..Saphira wasn’t next to Lake Gryphon anymore. Another puff of air, stronger this time, brought her back to the present. Only then did she notice the magnificent creature next to her.
The horse’s coat gleamed pristine white, with a golden mane, tail, and hooves. Its eyes were a deep, knowing golden yellow, an ice blue gem shining on its forehead. But what caught Saphira’s attention most of all were its wings. Yes, here standing next to her was a golden winged pegasus, a creature from myths. Okay, she probably wasn’t even on the planet Earth anymore.
Saphira tentatively touched the gem on the pegasus’s brow. She suddenly shuddered as a deep connection flowed between pegasus and girl. Its name, childhood, emotions--a second later she knew everything about it, her, she realized, and probably the same for the mare about Saphira.
“Felane,” she whispered, “Felane the pegasus.
For some reason she could not explain, Saphira was not at all surprised when the pegasus replied.
“Saphira,” she said in a voice in her head, “We meet again.”
Sudden shouts interrupted the moment. Both mare and girl turned their heads in the direction the noise had come from. Saphira was confused even more at what she saw: a group of about ten, all on galloping horses wearing medieval tunics, bows, and quivers full of arrows. When they drew closer, Saphira saw that they had pointed ears. That meant only one thing: they were elves.
However, these elves were nothing like the short, clumsy elves children believed worked for Santa. These elves were tall, agile, and had an air of elegance around them. The group stopped in from of Saphira, and the leader dismounted.
“You are not of our land,” he said, “Who are you?”
Saphira replied simply. “My name is Saphira.”
An uneasy murmuring rose up within the rest of the elves. Saphira caught bits and pieces of their conversations: “Saphira? The princess Saphira?”
Then the leader raised his hand for silence.
He said, “ I am Helato, general of the elf army. If you indeed are our lost princess, you would do well to join us on our trip back to the palace.”
Saphira frowned. What princess? She didn’t even know where she was, much less be the princess of this place! Then she realized that it was quite possible. Her mother had never told her where she was from.
Felane spoke. This is the land of Vacalha. It is a realm very different from yours, in a different dimension.
Saphira realized that Felane could read her mind, so she thought back.
What about me being a princess?
You are the princess of this land.
Your father is a powerful wizard and the ruler of this land. Your mother took you to Earth after a war started.
Helato interrupted their conversation.
“Saphira, you’ll need to ride the pegasus. Don’t worry about steering, it knows the way. Just try not to fall off.”
Try not to fall off. That didn’t sound very promising. An image of herself plummeting thousands of feet to the ground came to her mind.
She quickly banished the picture. No negativity was allowed in this type of situation.
To her surprise, Felane automatically kneeled on the ground, allowing Saphira to mount. She tentatively swung her leg over Felane’s back, sitting on the spot between her wings and shoulder. She then realized that she was riding bareback, but she was perfectly comfortable and it felt natural--somehow. Like she’d done it dozens of times before. Gripping Felane’s mane, they rose into the air.
One sound. That was all it took. One sound, and the air was suddenly filled with flying shapes and feathers. Felane was weaving frantically, avoiding attacks from deadly claws--gryphons claws.
Then time slowed down. Every sound was intensified, filling her ears. The jewel on Felane’s forehead began to glow. Brighter and brighter, the light flooded her vision.
Saphira and Felane were flying in a bright nothingness. The vague shape of a boy about her age came into view. He had long black hair and wings. Dragon wings. They were a shade of dark blue, the same color as his right eye. His left eye was the black of his hair. He was wearing armor that seemed to be made of a jagged black crystal.
“Saphira,” he said in a familiar tone,”You have spent your life trying to figure out who you are. Today, your true form will be revealed.”
“Who are you?” But her voice was swallowed by the silence as the world was once again filled with light.
She was back in the midst of the battle. The golden feathers on her wings fluttered in the wind, her golden armor glinted. The gold hilted and ice blue bladed sword with a diamond in the pommel in her hand begged to be given a target. She felt a confidence she had never known before, and an urge to fight.
“This is the entrance to the King’s chambers,” Helato said, gesturing at the gilded wooden door in front of them. “He looks younger than he really is,” he added, and then opened the door. “In you go.”
The room seemed plain for a king. A modest wooden planked floor(polished to shine), stone walls(also polished), some couches(velvet), and a few paintings(no doubt priceless). Saphira looked for the inhabitant of these rooms, but found no one. She was startled when a voice came from behind her. “I see your true form has been revealed.”
Saphira whipped around and faced him. She was honestly surprised This man seemed to be only in his mid-twenties, but something deep within her stirred and told her that he was much older than that and he was her father. “So you’re the father that I’ve been lacking for seventeen years,” she replied.
“Yes, but please, don’t put it like that,” he said, “Being a user of magic, I am immortal unless purposefully killed. I do not age as quickly as mortals. Take a seat.”
After settling herself comfortably on a couch, she started asking questions.
“Are we in a war with the gryphons?”
“They were supposed to serve you when you grew up, Saphira. But then they decided they wanted to rule Vacalha. For seventeen years, we have battled.”
“What about Felane?”
“She was born the same day you were. You two met and developed a friendship at 3 years old. Alicorns age at the same pace we do.”
“There was a dragon winged boy in the vision that unlocked my powers. Who is he?”
“That would be your younger twin brother, Solama. In fact, you should go to see him right now. He has quite a talent for helping people control and develop their magic skills.”
By the time she got to the far towers at the very edge of the palace grounds(she had gotten Solama’s address from a nearby maid), her feet were sore from keeping balance in her heeled shoes. She raised her hand to knock on the wide double doors on the right tower, but then decided against it. If her brother was anything like her, no formalities would be needed. She pushed open the doors. A soft voice chuckled. “You came in just as I thought you would.” Saphira looked up, and sitting on the staircase was the boy from her vision, except in regular trousers and a white shirt. “Considering we’re twins, we don’t look very much alike,” she retorted.
“You could have just flown here, you know. The wings aren’t just for show,” Solama commented.
“Oh really? I’d like a demonstration,” she shot back.
“Sure.” Solama shrugged, stood up, and jumped off the staircase. Saphira gawked as he flapped his dragon wings a few times and landed neatly in front of her.
“There’s a reason why we live in towers, by the way. Apparently it’s so we can fly easily.”
“Well there’s no point in that if I can’t fly then, is there?”
“You should go to your own tower now. It’s getting late. You also might consider practicing in there. I’ll expect you at the top of my tower tomorrow morning. And I’m locking the front door, so don’t bother trying.” He smirked at that.
“You jerk.” Saphira glared at him, and stomped out of the tower, heading for her own. Her bedroom was at the very top. The top of the tower was hidden in the clouds. That was very high indeed. So Saphira took Solama’s suggestion and decided to try flying. After a few incidents of crashing into bookshelves and such, Saphira could fly perfectly. It came naturally, as easy as walking. She carefully flitted up the staircase and into her room at the top.
The room itself was of no surprise--a four poster bed, a dresser, a table, some chairs, and a full length body mirror--but what was really interesting was the window wall. It must have been hidden by the clouds, but from the inside the glass was perfectly pristine, no doubt enchanted to deflect damage and grime, and gave a perfect view of the entire palace. It also faced the sunset. Saphira sighed, and concentrated on imagining the buttons on the back of her dress. One other thing she’d found out while flying was that she could control objects just by imagining them move the way she wanted them to. Once she’d slipped into a silky nightgown she found in the dresser, she lowered the veils around her bed and was content to sleep.
In the morning, Saphira woke up exactly when the sun rose, as she always did. She sat up and untangled her hair with levitation. She sifted through the contents of her dresser and decided to go with a pale yellow, long sleeved, loose dress.
After Saphira finished her meal(she sent a telepathic message to the kitchens), she opened the trapdoor on the ceiling and flew out. She had planned on landing on Solama’s tower and going in through the trapdoor, but she found it locked. Enraged, Saphira hurled insults and curses at Solama, who was no doubt in his room, listening to how she would react. By the time Solama unlocked the door and came out, Saphira was panting heavily and leaning on her thighs.
“Whoa, calm down, sis. You don’t want to wear yourself out this early.”
Saphira “hmpfed” and started breathing normally again.
“Considering your appearance, you’re obviously a controller of heat and light. It means you can heat and destroy things and solidify light into objects. Freezing is also one of your specialties.” He held out a scrap of metal and set it on the stone. “See if you can melt it.”
Saphira could do more than that. She focused an energy stream into the shard of metal, and instantly it melted. Then she extracted every single bit of heat from the puddle. By the time Solama bent down and examined it, it was frozen solid. He stood up.
“I expected no less. You did do more than I actually expected though.” Just as he finished, a horn sounded a low, resonating cry.
Solama glanced up sharply, and his black armor appeared. “The gryphons are attacking.”
Instantly, Saphira summoned her armor, sword, and Felane. The transformation felt comforting and made her feel less exposed. When Felane came into view, she was with a pure black alicorn with dark blue wings, eyes, hooves, mane, and tail. It had an indigo horn.
“This is Lodan,” Solama mounted the black alicorn.
“And this is Felane,” Saphira answered when she vaulted onto Felane’s back.
“Flank them or stick together?” Saphira asked.
Solama considered this for a moment.
“Stick together and make a way straight through until we find the general. The gryphons are nothing without a leader.”
“Very well,” she agreed.
They took off, buffeting the nearest gryphons with the wind from the alicorns’ wings. They charged head on at the gryphons, gouging a path of destruction in their wake. Stab, slash, dodge, incinerate. Battling became a weird dance routine of some sort for Saphira. She relied on pure instinct to decide what to do next. Gryphons everywhere were falling, either from arrow, magic, or sword. The screams of gryphons and elves alike filled her ears.
Suddenly all of her movement stopped. Saphira’s mind wondered why at first, but when the red haze of battle cleared, she realized that there were no more gryphons in front of her. Solama and Lodan hovered next to Saphira. Suddenly, Felane issued a warning. Above us!
Saphira glanced up, spotting a gryphon with a brilliant plume of feathers on its head aiming for her, razor sharp talons glinting evilly in the sunlight. At the last moment, she held her arm in front of her face and the claws glanced harmlessly off the enchanted gold wristguard. For only one moment the gryphon wobbled, but it was enough. An arrow shaft appeared in its chest and it tumbled toward the ground. Saphira looked down, and saw Colan grinning up at her. She glared at him and sent him a message. What are you looking at?
She carefully landed.
The morning after the battle, Saphira stared out the window wall at the battlefield.
There were feathers and blood everywhere. Some elves were dragging and throwing gryphon bodies into a huge pit, leaving long trails of red on the ground. Just as they were filling in the hole, there were two taps on the trapdoor above her. “It’s not locked, Solama,” she answered loudly.
Solama pulled open the wooden trapdoor and poked his head in. “Dad wants to see us both. And make it quick.”
Saphira flew up and joined him on the roof, closing the trapdoor. “We’ll land on Dad’s balcony,” he said. It felt delightful to fly with her own wings outside, the breeze blowing against her face. When they landed on the King’s balcony, the door was open and they stepped in without hesitation. The king was seated on a couch facing them on the other side of the room. Saphira and Solama sat on a couch facing him. Saphira started.
“What did you call us here for?”
“As you know, Solama, I’ve been training elves to ride and battle on pegasi. And it has recently been a success. All of the elves directly under Helato can now battle while riding in the air. You two proved yesterday that you have enough tactical knowledge to become military leaders. So I’ve decided that you two should each lead a group of twenty pegasus mounted troops.”
Both gasped aloud.
“Are we actually ready?” They squeaked in unison.
Their father chuckled softly. “Yes, of course you are. One of your twenty elves will be your second in command. I’m sure you both have someone in mind already.”
“Colan,” Saphira said instantly, “He’s clever and functions well in battle.”
The king nodded. “A wise choice. Solama?”
“I’ll have Colan’s older brother, Enthalon, then. He’s pretty good when it comes to combat too.”
“Very well. The rest of your teams are waiting in the training area. Pick out your nineteen warriors and get to know each other. I’ll send the commanders over.” He flicked his hand, dismissing them.
All thirty eight elves snapped to attention when Saphira and Solama landed in front of them. all of them bowed deeply. Choosing went by without an argument. Saphira took the ones that seemed more social and Solama chose the distant ones. Colan and Enthalon were introduced to their respective groups, though both looked a little shocked at being placed as second in command. Saphira found her regiment extremely amusing, the way they looked at her like her sole purpose was to point out their every mistake and punish them.
After a few days when she lay in bed at night, an uneasy chill ran down her spine. Something was going to happen. Something momentous. Saphira shook when she realized what it was. The final battle with the gryphons. Another part of her was literally screaming with joy; tomorrow would be the day when her homeland would see peace. The word homeland echoed through her thoughts. Since when had Saphira considered Vacalha her home? Her home should be Maine, where she grew up. Maine had been her entire world. But she felt connected to this land of myths, it was where she actually seemed to belong. After the battle tomorrow, Vacalha wouldn’t need her anymore. She would be free to go back to Maine, to her mother. Yet...could she leave behind everything that had happened here? All the friends she’d made? If she went back to Maine, she would be with her mother, but before she’d left, her tiny family had been on the verge of financial ruin. Her mother would fare much better without another person to care for. But she would be heartbroken. If Saphira stayed in Vacalha, she would live a life of pure luxury. How could she choose between her mother and father? She was about to scream in frustration when the tiniest seed of an idea wormed its way into her head. It just might work...But it all depended on the outcome of tomorrow’s battle. She needed to win the battle. She absolutely needed to. With that in mind, Saphira set herself to sleep.
As usual, Saphira woke up at the crack of dawn. However, today she did not put on a dress. She simply summoned her armor and sword and flew to Colan’s quarters in the back of the palace and knocked on the window. When he came to see what it was, he was quite shocked to see Saphira in the full armor. She sent him a telepathic message.
Gather the team. The gryphons will attack in exactly half an hour. If anyone asks, tell them not to doubt me.
He nodded, and hurried off.
Saphira called for Felane and mounted her.
You sense it, don’t you? The final battle will occur soon.
Yes. But we are much stronger than we were.
And they will be too. I just hope the new pegasus riders will have the desired effect.
They flew in lazy circles above the training grounds, watching her regiment’s staggered arrivals. When they all gathered, she spoke in a grave tone. “Today will be the day when we either destroy the gryphons or get destroyed ourselves. I hope it’s the former.”
Solama was also there, no doubt having felt the same premonition Saphira had. The alarm horns sounded. With deadliness and precision, Saphira and Solama pulled away from the main group and started dispatching any gryphons in sight. Saphira froze entire gryphons solid, drawing away all their heat energy and leaving them plummeting to the earth in giant ice blocks. Once again, the rhythmic beat of battle controlled Saphira’s movements. She incinerated entire platoons of gryphons on the spot, so within an hour the numbers of the gryphon army had decreased dramatically.
None of the gryphons had even come close of touching her, so Saphira was genuinely surprised when a lock of her hair was severed by a claw. The talons had obviously aimed for her throat, but she had managed to duck just in time. Saphira whipped around and lashed out with her sword, but all that happened was a half cut feather floating in front of her face. This gryphon was no doubt the general, as the feather was long and a luscious orange, obviously from a head plume. Instinct took over, and Saphira found herself on the defensive.
Eventually, the gryphon started wheeling around her, preparing for the death blow. It was too fast for her to use heat magic. The rest of the battle had come to a standstill, watching the duel between princess and commander. Everything pointed to the death of the princess. Just as the gryphon commander closed in for the final strike, the princess and her alicorn disappeared in a flash of light.
In the last half minute, Saphira remembered something Solama had once said. “It is possible to use magic and teleport, though few have succeeded.” It had been her last hope. She called upon the ancient energy that resided everywhere in Vacalha, and willed it to bend the laws of space and time. One moment Saphira was about to get mauled by the talons of the commander, but the next she was above the confused gryphon. Then she did something that even the most dim-witted pegasus rider would know not to do: she jumped off Felane. But she did not use her wings. Instead, she folded them in and dove head-first with her sword extended downwards, gathering speed as she fell, at the gryphon commander. The ice-blue blade pierced its head, the point sticking out under its beak. At this time, Saphira was falling at such a speed that she could not use her wings to slow her fall. She closed her eyes, a strange peace settling over her. The war is over, she thought, and I am needed no more. But she was jerked back to the present when she remembered the vow she made to herself the night before. She had to win this battle and survive. Saphira forced her wings to extend and flapped them against the wind that that pushed her down. Seconds before she hit the ground, her wings pulled her up, out of a very narrow dive. She landed gently in front of the fallen gryphon commander, and collapsed.
Saphira stood on the hill where she had first set foot in Vacalha. She chanted the spell her father had taught her the day before, and almost instantly the swirling vortex of light appeared. Saphira stepped in. This time, she did not black out. When the light cleared, Saphira was standing on the boulder she had sat on so often. It was the middle of the night, but Saphira knew that her mother would still be awake, worried sick about her. Silently she flew toward her house and knocked on the door. When her mother opened it, Saphira said, “We’re going home, Mom. To Vacalha.”
Saphira flopped onto her bed, exhausted. The festivities for the return of the queen and the end of the war had taken up the entire night. She cast a wayward glance at the table and was surprised to see a sparkle. She used levitation to bring the object into her outstretched hand. Her crystal ring glimmered in the sunrise. There were now streaks of gold in every carved dent of the ring, including the runes. It seemed to glow a soft ice blue. Saphira knew that it was because its true power had been released.
Saphira decided it was only right, as the elves had begun to call her the Icegold Phoenix. It seemed so long ago, but it had only been a few weeks since she had last studied the ring. She smiled, thinking of everything she owed a simple ring. Family, friends, a new life--nothing would have been possible if the ring hadn’t brought her to Vacalha. She was honestly shocked that she had achieved this much in such a short period of time. A princess and a war hero--this was way more than she had ever expected.
This was truly where she belonged.