Excerpt for The Peerless Seer's War by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

The Peerless Seer’s War

The Emaleen Andarsan Series

Book 3

by B.S. Gibbs

Creative Assistants: A.R. Gibbs and S.R. Gibbs

Edited by: Stephanie L. Ryan

Cover Design By: Anca Gabriela Marginean

Copyright and Notices

Copyright © 2017 by B.S. Gibbs. All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

The Emaleen Andarsan Series is a trademark of B.S. Gibbs.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

This work does not express any views or opinions of any person or organization other than the author.

Chapter 1

A buzzing sound awoke twelve-year-old Emaleen from a deep sleep. She reluctantly opened her eyes and reached for her phone, which was sitting on the nightstand next to her. Squinting at her phone with morning eyes, she read the time. It was 6:15 a.m. Who could be messaging her at this hour of the morning? Whoever it was should still be sleeping, just as she should, she thought, with some irritation.

She looked over at her aunt and uncle. They were snoring loudly. Turning back to her phone, she opened her text message app. There was a text from Skye. “u up? uk?”

“yes,” Emaleen texted back.

“fyi stuff going on. idk sup.”

“wonder what sup”

“let u know when i do.”

“i’m coming,” Emaleen texted.

“no stay.”

“k tyl.” Emaleen texted.

Emaleen returned her phone to the nightstand. The sun was just starting to shine through the curtains of the hotel room where the Barsans were staying in Buffalo, New York, making them glow gently. There was no going back to bed, now, she thought.

As she stood up from her bed, she stretched her arms out over her head and let out a loud yawn before she quickly hushed herself. It wasn't often that she arose before everyone else and after a day like yesterday, she relished the chance of having a little time to herself, to think before her aunt and uncle were awake. She must be quiet, she realized, or she would lose this precious time alone.

She tiptoed over to the window, past the bed where her aunt and uncle were sleeping, and parted the curtains. Outside, the sun was shining with a brightness that was almost blinding to her still sleepy eyes. She squinted as she peered outside, surveying the area for activity. Maybe she could see evidence of whatever was going on. Seeing none, or anything else out of the ordinary, Emaleen sat down in a chair next to the window. From her seat, she continued to stare out into the parking lot. A few more moments and still nothing happened. She let go of the curtain, and it slid closed.

“Good morning, Belenus,” said Emaleen as the furry tan, black-striped kitten jumped up onto her lap. “How are you on this first day of May?” she asked jokingly. She lifted him up from her lap and pulled him into her arms, hugging him. Then, she placed him down and stroked his soft fur from the top of his head down his back with a gentle, but firm, touch.

Belenus let out a quiet meow in response. He then turned his head so that the side of his chin was right next to Emaleen’s hand. She reached out and gently scratched the side of Belenus' chin. He immediately started purring. The gentle vibrations of the purring calmed her.

After a few minutes, Belenus glanced up at Emaleen and meowed again. She reached out to him and lifted him off her lap and put him down on the ground, and then stood. She walked over to the kitchen area and retrieved his bowl and a can of food. She filled the bowl and placed it down on the ground. Belenus eagerly wolfed the food down.

Yesterday, she had achieved a victory, she reflected, as she sat back down. It was a life-changing event that removed a significant threat to her safety and security. But it still wasn't enough. There were still dangers to face, and at this very moment, she felt the weight of her worries about not having any idea how they would fight and defeat Lanus. She fidgeted in her chair, unable to contain her discomfort at the lack of control she felt.

They needed to develop a plan so that Lanus would no longer be a danger, and it needed to be created as soon as possible, she thought. She wasn't sure how much more she could handle. She also wanted to play an integral role in determining their next steps, but right now, as hard as she tried, she wasn't able to figure out what she should recommend they do.

It wasn't long before Aunt Zeraida arose. When she did, she sat herself down in the chair opposite Emaleen. She stared out the window and let out a long sigh. For several minutes, she didn't speak, and the only sound in the room was Uncle Morvin's loud snoring. When she turned to her niece and made eye contact with the girl, Zeraida still didn't speak.

“You seem sad, Aunt Zeraida,” remarked Emaleen while searching her aunt's face with a concerned expression.

“Yes,” admitted Aunt Zeraida in a quiet voice, which was almost a whisper. “But I'm all right. You needn't worry.”

Aunt Zeraida then reached over toward her niece, who was now standing next to her, and hugged her from the side. It was comforting, she thought, to see Emaleen so concerned for her. But it also worried her that her obvious emotion could be troubling to her niece. Emaleen had already been through so much.

“Why are you so sad?” Emaleen asked quietly. She couldn't help but feel worried. Her aunt was usually the person who lifted her spirits. She had not needed to worry about her aunt before, she realized at that moment.

“Well . . .” started Aunt Zeraida slowly as if it was difficult for her to find the words. “I know we didn't have a choice, but I am unhappy that we had to do what we did to Maerdern — I mean Halwyn.” She rose from her seat and walked over to the cupboards.

“But we didn't actually hurt him,” insisted Emaleen in a polite but stern tone. “And, I don't want to sound mean, but he did deserve what we did.” She stared at her aunt with widened eyes as she waited.

“He deserved a consequence, and we couldn't let him continue to be a threat to you. But, I have a hard time thinking of what we did to him as something he deserved,” said Aunt Zeraida.

Aunt Zeraida pulled an electric kettle from the cupboard. She filled it with water and plugged it in. She continued, “Although we didn't harm him in the traditional sense, we did harm him. Imagine if you lost your seer powers forever. It would change you for the rest of your life, and you would feel that loss keenly. Our magic is a gift. It’s part of who we are. To a seer, the loss of magic is a serious harm.”

“I see,” replied Emaleen, staring down at her fingers, lacing them together. “I’m having trouble feeling sorry for him, though. He brought what happened to him on himself.”

“I understand why you would feel that way,” said Aunt Zeraida. “He’s the reason you couldn’t grow up with your parents. I was upset with him, too. However, I also have empathy for him. There must be a reason that he became such an evil person. Of course, that does not excuse what he did nor does it lessen the severity of his awful acts.”

“It's still hard to feel sorry for him, though,” said Emaleen, glancing away from her aunt and shaking her head.

“Yes, but empathy is something different,” asserted Aunt Zeraida. “We should always have at least some empathy for others.”

“I suppose,” said Emaleen doubtfully. Then she changed the subject saying, “So, what are we going to do now? We still have Lanus to fight, right?”

“Yes, we do,” agreed Aunt Zeraida sadly.

“How are we going to fight him?” asked Emaleen. After a pause, she asked, “Are we going to use that magic on him?”

“No,” said Aunt Zeraida. “I don't ever want to use it again, unless we don’t have any other options.”

“Then what are we going to do?” asked Emaleen with impatience sounding in her voice.

“I don't know yet,” admitted Aunt Zeraida with a slight grimace as she prepared her tea. “But we probably need a larger alliance to fight Lanus and the entire organization that Maerdern put together.”

“Well, we can just get more people to join our alliance, then, can't we?” asked Emaleen.

“That’s just one step,” replied Aunt Zeraida. “We have a bigger problem to figure out.”

“What's that?” asked Emaleen. Don't we have enough problems, she wondered?

Aunt Zeraida replied, “If we fight them, we’ll have to attack their headquarters in England. That means we’ll have to fight all of them at once. We wouldn’t win. There are too few of us.”

After a short pause, Aunt Zeraida continued, “Also, our alliance doesn't have a headquarters. Our members have homes that are far apart and in different parts of the world. If Lanus decided to attack, he could bring a huge army to the house of any alliance member and win.”

“Hmm,” said Emaleen with a worried expression. “I hadn't thought about that. So, should we set up a headquarters for our alliance?”

“That might not be a good idea, either,” replied Aunt Zeraida.

“Why not?” asked Emaleen.

“There are many reasons,” said Aunt Zeraida. “One is that we can't expect our alliance members to move from their homes into a headquarters. It also provides him an easy way to attack us all at once.”

“So, what do we do then?” asked Emaleen, throwing her hands up in the air. This is starting to get very frustrating, she thought.

“I'm not sure yet,” replied Aunt Zeraida. “We'll need to think this out carefully.” Then she added, “And, you should calm down a little.”

“I'm sorry, Aunt Zeraida,” said Emaleen. “I'm just so frustrated, and I want this all to end. We need a plan now.”

“I realize that,” replied Aunt Zeraida. “But allowing yourself to get upset won't help you solve these problems. Getting upset will cloud your mind and will prevent you from thinking clearly and logically.”

“Okay,” said Emaleen, “it’s easier for you to tell me to be calm than it will be for me to calm. But I’ll try.” She took a deep breath and blew it out slowly to calm herself.

Once she had relaxed and shaken off her worries, Emaleen added, “We should discuss this at our meeting. We need a plan. I'm tired of living in fear like this.”

“Yes, we will meet with the group. But there is something else we need to do today, too,” said Aunt Zeraida, changing the subject.

“What is it?” asked Emaleen.

“It would be easier to show you than explain,” said Aunt Zeraida.

“Can you give me a little hint about where we’re going?” asked Emaleen.

“You need to be patient,” said Aunt Zeraida. “It won’t be long.”

“I will try,” promised Emaleen. After a moment, she reminded, “Aunt Zeraida, there’s one other thing.”

“What’s that?” asked Aunt Zeraida.

“Remember,” said Emaleen, “I found another gem before we left.”

“Yes,” recalled Aunt Zeraida. “We can’t do the wand ceremony just yet, though.”

“Why not?” asked Emaleen.

“There are many reasons,” replied Aunt Zeraida. “It will take a lot of energy out of you, and you will need time to recover. So, we have to make sure it’s a good time to do it safely. We also don’t have a workroom here, and those help hide the magic. Finally, we have to focus on other tasks.”

Emaleen nodded. She understood in theory, but she had this nagging feeling that she needed to do the wand ceremony right away. But she would have to wait as her aunt had requested. She just hoped that doing so wouldn’t cause any disadvantages.

Suddenly, there was a knock at their door that was so loud that Emaleen almost leaped out of her chair. Aunt Zeraida motioned for Emaleen to stay where she was and then approached the door and peered out the peephole.

Chapter 2

“It's Mr. Jaimeson,” said Aunt Zeraida as she opened the door. “Good morning, Brayan. How are you this morning?”

“I'm good. But, I'm sorry to have to tell you this . . .” replied Brayan Jaimeson. “After we left last night, we prepared a magic holding prison for Maerdern — I mean Halwyn — and we placed him in it. This morning, when Mrs. Jaimeson brought breakfast to him, he was gone. But Baldolf and Rycroft are still there in their magic jail.”

Emaleen's eyes widened, and her facial expression changed from happy and relaxed to shocked and stressed. She shook so violently that it was visible to Aunt Zeraida. Where could he have gone, wondered Emaleen? What did it mean? How did he get out? She had some many questions running through her mind that she didn't know where to start.

“How did that happen?” asked Aunt Zeraida. “We disabled his magic powers. He couldn't have escaped on his own.”

“We can't figure that out,” replied Brayan Jaimeson. “The magic prison was intact, but he was just gone. The only explanation I can think of was that he was summoned out, but I don't think any seer has that power. It just doesn't make any sense.”

“Did someone help him?” asked Emaleen, finally finding her voice.

“Someone must have helped him,” insisted Aunt Zeraida. “But the question is — who would or could do that? How?”

“It can't be Lanus,” said Brayan. “I don't think there is any way he could know what happened last night. And, even if he did, I think he would use the absence of Maerdern as an opportunity to take over the followers. He’s been waiting for such a chance.”

“Maybe he did know, and he thinks it’s his duty,” suggested Emaleen.

“I doubt Lanus would lift a finger to help him,” countered Brayan. “If he knew Halwyn was our prisoner, he would leave him here.”

“Then who else could have helped him?” asked Emaleen.

“I don't know,” said Brayan. “Someone with a lot of power.”

“Maybe it was someone in his family,” suggested Aunt Zeraida. But, she didn't think it was likely. Yet, there is another possibility, she mused. But it was too terrible to think about, and it was best not to speak of it.

Brayan said, “He isolated himself from his family members, and I understand many have been ashamed by the way he has been acting. They probably wouldn’t even know we captured him.”

“Should we search for him?” asked Emaleen. “Isn't not knowing where he is or how he got there dangerous?

“Mrs. Jaimeson, Mrs. Stewart, and I already searched for him this morning,” said Brayan. “We also asked Mr. Earl to send out Shaolin. There was no sign of Halwyn anywhere near us or any clues as to where he went.”

“Did the magic removing his powers not work?” asked Emaleen.

“I’m sure it worked,” insisted Aunt Zeraida. “He doesn’t have magic.”

Uncle Morvin, who had awoken when Brayan Jaimeson knocked on the door and who had been listening, stated, “It doesn’t matter how he escaped. The only risk to us is that Lanus might find out and put his takeover plans into place. However, we can't waste our time trying to find him. We have too much to do.”

“So, what do you need from us?” Brayan asked. “My wife and I would like to continue to help.”

“That's wonderful news!” exclaimed Emaleen. “Are you attending the meeting?”

“Yes, absolutely,” said Brayan.

“Have you and your wife had breakfast yet?” asked Aunt Zeraida.

“No, we were going to go after feeding Halwyn,” replied Brayan.

“Why don't you join us for breakfast?” suggested Aunt Zeraida.

“That's a great idea,” said Brayan. “My wife and I will be there.”

“Wonderful!” said Aunt Zeraida.

“But before I go, I have a question,” said Brayan. “What should we do with Baldolf and Rycroft? I don’t think we need to hold them captive anymore. They seem a little scared. I don’t think they’re interested in spending any further time with seers.”

“You’re probably right,” agreed Aunt Zeraida. “I can’t see any harm in letting Baldolf and Rycroft go.”

“Okay,” said Brayan with a small nod.

“What about the seer who attacked us in Rome?” asked Emaleen in a worried voice. “Do you still have her?”

“Yes,” replied Brayan. “But she’s not here with us. Another seer family is holding her captive for us. And, I don’t think we should release her — at least not any time soon.”

“I agree,” said Aunt Zeraida. “If we let her go, she might come after us again.”

“I agree too,” added Emaleen with a slight shudder. She didn’t like to think about what could have happened if Skye hadn’t beat the seer in a battle.

Brayan Jaimeson nodded and said, “Good. I’m glad you agree.” After a pause, he added, “I’ll see you at breakfast.” He turned and then left the room.

After Brayan had gone, Aunt Zeraida said to Emaleen, “I'll make calls to remind everyone about the meeting. After the meeting, we'll go on our special outing. Does that sound good to you, Morvin?”

“Yes,” agreed Morvin. “After you make your calls, why don't you take Emaleen to breakfast. I'll join you shortly. I want to take a shower first.”

Aunt Zeraida nodded. She made the calls, inviting the members of the alliance to breakfast and reminding them about the meeting. When she finished, she motioned for Emaleen to follow her out of the room, and the two walked to the breakfast area of the hotel.

“Emaleen, listen to me carefully,” whispered Aunt Zeraida. “When we are at breakfast, don't bring up what happened yesterday. Keep the conversation light and just be social. Everyone needs to relax today for a while.”

“What should I talk about?” asked Emaleen.

“Anything other than what happened yesterday and, of course, our plans to go out today before the meeting,” replied Aunt Zeraida in a low voice.

“I really don't know what to say,” uttered Emaleen with a frown and slightly pouted lips.

“Then ask questions,” suggested Aunt Zeraida. “Maybe you can learn something about each of them and find something you have in common. But be careful that it's not like you are interrogating them.”

“Okay, but now I feel a little self-conscious,” replied Emaleen.

“You'll be fine,” assured Aunt Zeraida. “Just pretend you are meeting a new friend at school. Would you talk all about you? You wouldn’t, right? So, what would you do instead?”

“I get it,” said Emaleen with a voice that sounded slightly annoyed, although she didn’t intend the tone. She smiled back at her aunt meekly as if to apologize. Aunt Zeraida acknowledged the apology silently by nodding.

Upon arriving at the dining area, Emaleen and Aunt Zeraida met the other seers and all the guardians who had helped fight Maerdern. They were seated around several tables placed adjacent to one another.

Emaleen and her aunt selected seats at a table with the Caravagios and the Stewarts. Emaleen sat down next to Skye, and the two girls giggled and hugged each other. Skye, who already had a plate filled with a waffle and some bacon, offered to help Emaleen prepare her food. So, the two girls walked over to the buffet area and chatted while Emaleen filled her plate.

When they returned to the tables, Emaleen noticed that Tristan was also with the group. As she examined his face, she noted that Tristan appeared differently today than he had previously. Before, he had a stiff body with his arms folded tightly in front of him. He had also been polite but stingy and guarded with his words. Now, his body was loose, even slumped slightly, and he was conversing and laughing.

He appeared relaxed and at peace, observed Emaleen. She realized that he must be relieved that Maerdern was no longer a threat to him. At the same time, she could sense that his energy level was still somewhat reduced after his ordeal the day before. It was bad enough, she thought, that Maerdern had nearly killed Tristan, but then he had to recover quickly to help perform the very powerful magic that they as a group had cast to remove Maerdern’s seer powers. She was amazed at Tristan’s strength.

Tristan smiled at Emaleen and tipped his head downward as if he was bowing his head to her. It appeared to Emaleen as if he was thanking her. She smiled back at Tristan. She was grateful to him, too, she thought, for his assistance in fighting Maerdern. Given what he had been through, he could have given up, but instead, he bravely gathered together as much of his energy as he could and then put all his effort into his part of the magic. It was fortunate, she knew, because they hadn’t had a replacement available to take on his part. As she pondered further, she had a feeling that he was going to be a great help for the other battles to come, too.

After their moment of silent communication, Tristan returned his attention back to his meal and Emaleen smiled at Skye, who whispered into her ear. Emaleen grinned and whispered back to her friend.

Emaleen then turned to her aunt and asked, “Are my parents still here? They didn’t leave, did they?”

“They are away for a few days, but they will be back,” assured Aunt Zeraida. “They are handling something special.”

“What are they doing?” asked Emaleen.

“It’s a surprise,” replied Aunt Zeraida. “You’ll see later.”

“You know that I’m not good with surprises, right?” asserted Emaleen in a friendly tone.

“Yes, I know,” Aunt Zeraida said, shaking her head and chuckling. “We need to work on your patience soon.”

“Whatever you say,” said Emaleen with a wide, mischievous grin. Then she added, “Aunt Zeraida, I know we all have a lot to do, but could we find a park and go to a playground for a little while soon? Skye and I really need a break and some fun.”

“I think we can arrange that,” replied Aunt Zeraida. “But we have to be careful that we keep an eye out for any spies. And, it probably can't be today. Soon, though.” She smiled at the two girls as she contemplated how nice it would be for them to relax and play out their nervous energy.

“I'll go with you,” offered Mr. Earl. “And, I'll bring Shaolin so we can see trouble coming before it arrives.”

“We'll go, too,” said Angelina Stewart, with Jay Stewart nodding in agreement.

Aunt Zeraida, who was sitting next to Angelina, leaned toward the other woman and whispered something. Emaleen tried to listen although she pretended as if she wasn't. Despite her best efforts, she couldn't decipher the words. But she did notice Angelina smile and nod. Angelina whispered something to her husband, and he also nodded. Aunt Zeraida next started a conversation with Helen Caravagio, which Emaleen could hear but found uninteresting. She stopped listening and made conversation with the others in the group who were sitting near her.

“Skye?” whispered Emaleen as she leaned toward her friend.

“What?” asked Skye in a low voice.

“I’ve been thinking about something that I want to ask you about,” said Emaleen. Skye nodded and smiled at Emaleen as if to encourage her to speak further.

Emaleen continued, “About that seer who attacked us in Rome — why do you think she was able to sneak up on you without you or your parents sensing her first?”

Skye, with an expression that combined sadness with a hint of guilt, avoided eye contact with her friend. Her face turned red, and her eyes misted slightly.

“I’m sorry,” apologized Emaleen. “I didn’t mean to make you feel bad. I don’t think it’s your fault. It’s just that if we could figure out how the seer managed to hide from you, we could prevent it from happening again.”

“I know you didn’t mean anything against me,” assured Skye. “But it’s been bothering me since that day. Protecting you is my one role, and I feel like I failed you that day.”

“First, protecting me is not your ‘one role,’” said Emaleen with emphasis on the phrase Skye had used. “You have many other valuable roles too — one of which is to be an advisor and most of all — my friend. I couldn’t do any of this without the support you’ve given me.”

“Thank you,” said Skye gratefully. “I do want to do my best to protect you, though. So, I’ve asked my mom why none of us sensed the seer. She didn’t know. She’s never seen that happen before. But she also said that she hasn’t been in many situations like that before.”

Emaleen sighed, “So, I guess this may remain a mystery for a while then because I don’t think that seer is going to tell us how she did it.” Then she stopped for a moment and asked, “How is Pinky doing?”

“He’s fine,” answered Skye. “My mom and I went out to the pet store yesterday before we fought Maerdern. We bought Pinky a new house. It’s much better than the one that I had made for him on the island. It has tubes for him to crawl in and a wheel for him to run on. There’s also a little water bottle for him, and it’s got some soft bedding.”

“He must love that!” commented Emaleen.

“Yes, he does,” stated Skye. “First he ran and ran in the wheel. He did it so long I wondered if he would ever stop. When he did, he made himself a little nest in one of the tubes. We also got him a hamster ball, and he loves rolling around the room in that.”

“How cute!” said Emaleen. “He must really have had a lot of energy to burn off.”

“Yes, I wasn’t able to let him run around the hotel room before,” replied Skye. “I was afraid he might run off or get too curious exploring and forget how to come back.”

The girls grew quiet as their focus turned to their breakfasts. Emaleen, however, could hear some of the other conversations being had between the sounds of the crunching of her food. Overall, they were light and relaxed and did not include discussion of the events of the day before or the dangers yet to come. But Emaleen felt as if these worries hung in the air like an oppressive fog.

After finishing her food, Emaleen asked questions of the other group members. She learned that in addition to it being her first time in the Buffalo and Niagara Falls area, it was also a first for the Jaimesons, Caravagios, and Tristan.

Aunt Zeraida seemed, however, to know a lot about the area and suggested that they all go as a group over to the falls at night and view them from the Canadian side. According to Aunt Zeraida, this was a special time to see the Falls, and the Canadian side was the best place to view the Falls at night. Her suggested inspired a chorus of yes responses from the group.

“But we should see them on the American side before it gets dark,” suggested Uncle Morvin, who had just appeared at the table after filling his plate with sausages and scrambled eggs.

“Yes, that's a good idea,” agreed Aunt Zeraida. “We could go over to Goat Island and stand right next to the falls.”

“We should go over to Goat Island late this afternoon,” suggested Uncle Morvin.

“Then maybe we can go to dinner on the Canadian side while we wait for it to get dark,” added Aunt Zeraida. This suggestion was again met by ‘yes’ responses from the group.

“I know just the place we should go for dinner,” said Uncle Morvin. Then he glanced around at the others and said, “My wife and I will make the reservations unless anyone else has a different preference for dinner.”

No one seemed to object to Uncle Morvin's dinner suggestion, so he said, “Then, it's settled. I'll give you all the details later.”

“In the meantime,” announced Aunt Zeraida, “since Emaleen and I have finished our breakfast, we're going to head to the meeting room and make sure everything is ready.” She turned to Morvin and said to him, “We'll see you there when you are done eating. But don't hurry for us.”

Uncle Morvin nodded at his wife, who then said to the group, “Yes, I’ll meet you there just before ten.”

Aunt Zeraida motioned for her niece to follow her and then the two left. As they walked, Aunt Zeraida and Emaleen discussed in low tones how they would handle the meeting. When they finished, Emaleen felt better prepared to lead the meeting, but she had lingering doubts. It would be a new experience for her.

Chapter 3

All the alliance members had gathered in the hotel meeting room, except for Emaleen’s parents who were still on their mysterious errand. Emaleen stepped to the front. She was shaking slightly from nerves, but as she exerted control over herself, she kept the others from noticing.

This was the first time she would address them all together, and it felt different to her than it had when she met with the members in smaller, separate groups. Compounding matters was the insecurity she felt at knowing that she did not have a plan to present.

“First, I want to thank everyone for the assistance each of you gave to us in fighting Maerdern yesterday,” began Emaleen with a slight quiver in her voice that she hoped no one noticed. “What we did made us all safer, and we couldn’t have done it without the help of all of you in this room.”

Emaleen paused for a moment to survey the group, which included each of the seers who had participated in the fight, as well as the guardians who had assisted. As she did, she smiled and made eye contact with each person in the room. Emaleen could see that they appreciated the gratitude that she expressed. That increased her courage, causing her shaking to cease.

“Unfortunately, we all know that defeating Maerdern was just the first step in making our world safe,” continued Emaleen. “Now, we need to work together to fight his second-in-command, Lanus. Once he learns that Maerdern no longer has seer power, my family believes that he will move to take over the organization that Maerdern created. Lanus wants to rule over all the seers, and because he has more power than his boss did, he will be a more difficult enemy to defeat than Maerdern was. But our safety and freedom are at risk, so we have no choice but to stand together and fight him.”

She stopped again to review the reactions to her statements. She was pleased and relieved to see nodding. She needed that support.

Emaleen breathed in deeply and with concern in her voice stated, “We will need to have further meetings to determine the next steps to take. I’m hoping that I can count on each of you to participate in developing our strategy. We will hold a series of meetings, and I hope each of you will provide potential solutions. We will discuss each suggestion together. Please keep in mind that no idea is bad. All ideas have the potential to be great or to help us to think of other ones.”

As she glanced around the room, Emaleen could tell that the others appreciated her idea to allow everyone to participate in the discussions of the next steps. It would mean, she thought, that they would be more committed to helping the effort to fight Lanus and to remove his organization as a threat to the seer community. At least, that was what her uncle had told her about the benefits of including the alliance members in the discussions and decision-making.

Emaleen focused on her aunt, who nodded at her. Following the agreed upon approach, Emaleen said, “Would anyone like to offer any suggestions?”

The room was silent for several moments until Tristan spoke. “We need to collect information about the organization before we can form a plan. I can tell you what I know from the time I was a member. But there may have been changes since I left.”

“That’s a good idea,” replied Emaleen. “Could you provide us with a summary?” Emaleen sat down and motioned for Tristan to stand.

Tristan nodded, rose from his chair, and described all that he knew about Maerdern’s organization. He also shared his knowledge about Lanus. While he spoke, all the alliance members intently focused on Tristan, causing him to feel slightly uncomfortable as evidenced by his voice shaking slightly.

Once Tristan had finished his summary, he sat back down. As he did, he glanced at Emaleen who gave him a smile and mouthed the words ‘thank you’ to him.

Emaleen stood and asked, “Anyone else have any comments or questions?”

Helen Caravagio spoke bluntly but politely, “My husband and I came here to fight Maerdern. We’ve done that, and now he is no longer a threat. We don’t believe his organization is a threat, either. So, I do not see why we need to stay and do anything further.”

“You do know that Maerdern is missing, right?” asked Emaleen politely.

“Yes,” admitted Helen, “but we stripped his powers from him, so it really doesn’t matter where he is.”

Emaleen made eye contact with her aunt. As she did so, she raised her eyebrows and widened her eyes. Her aunt smiled and nodded. Emaleen took a deep breath and focused on calming her nerves as they were threatening to overtake her. She also felt annoyance building within her, and she knew that she needed to control it. It was hard to believe, after all they had been through, that one of their alliance members was expressing an objection to continuing to help.

“We’re all still at risk,” replied Emaleen, turning her attention back to the group. “Tristan just explained to us about Lanus. He is likely more dangerous than Maerdern. He’s got more power, common sense, and general intelligence. And, although Maerdern has disappeared, he has his memory. Maybe he’ll figure out a way to regain his powers.”

“I’m sure that’s impossible!” insisted Helen while staring intently at Aunt Zeraida.

“I don’t know how he could regain his powers,” admitted Aunt Zeraida, “but — I don’t know for sure that it’s impossible. Some seers, such as his family members, may have sympathy for him. While I don’t think any other seer knows the magic to cure him, I have no way to know for sure. There’s also Lanus to be concerned about, too. He’s very dangerous.”

“But how do we know that Lanus has any intention of taking over Maerdern’s plan to rule over all the seers or that he would even be successful?” asked Helen. “His organization could disband after Maerdern has been away for a while.”

“The organization could disband,” said Emaleen, “but we know Lanus wants to take it over and he leads it while Maerdern is away.”

“Ummm . . .,” replied Helen Caravagio, her voice trailing off as if she was drifting off into a deep deliberation. “Eamos?”

“Would you be willing to stay around for at least a little while, Mr. Caravagio?” asked Emaleen. “It would be very helpful if you would.”

“We’ll stay for a few days, at least,” replied Eamos Caravagio, a thirty-eight-year-old blond man with gray eyes. “That should give enough time for us all to figure out what Lanus plans to do.”

“I don’t know if it will be enough time,” asserted Emaleen, “but I’ll take what I can get because we really need your help. We couldn’t have defeated Maerdern without you two.”

“That’s all that we can promise you,” stated Helen with a touch of regret in her voice.

“Anyone else have any questions or comments?” asked Emaleen as her eyes darted around to each person.

Mr. Earl stood and said, “I respect all of my fellow seers here and each person’s right to choose for him or herself what he or she will do. I really worry, though, that there are forces out there that would love nothing more than to take those rights away from us.”

The silence in the room at Mr. Earl’s comments hung in the air, creating a feeling of suspense. Mr. Earl glanced around the room, making eye contact with each seer, one by one.

Mr. Earl continued, saying, “The longer we wait to address this potential threat, the harder it will be to defeat it. It will get progressively worse as Lanus recruits more members to strengthen his organization. So, we can’t afford to delay preparing our alliance to act against him.”

Helen stated, “You may be right, Mr. Earl. But we really would like some time to think about this before we decide what to do. It’s a big commitment.”

Emaleen asked, “Are there any more questions or comments?” Her words were met with silence. There was no point in pushing this any further, she considered.

“Seems like there is no more to discuss for now,” Emaleen said, “I guess we should end this meeting. However, I’d like us to meet tomorrow morning.” There was a series of affirmative responses as the seers filed out of the room.

Emaleen, Aunt Zeraida, and Uncle Morvin were the last to leave the meeting room. Before they left, Uncle Morvin promised to speak with Eamos Caravagio to discover his plans about remaining in the alliance. If Eamos agreed, he might be able to convince Helen to stay as well, suggested Uncle Morvin. Emaleen and Aunt Zeraida both agreed that Uncle Morvin’s suggestion was a good one.

When Aunt Zeraida and Emaleen arrived back at the room, they each sat in one of the two chairs by the window. Emaleen parted the curtains and peeked out the window. She smiled as she observed the sunny scene outside. The grass rippled, and the leaves in the trees fluttered gently. She could feel the warmth of the sun on her face. Her eyes then caught something causing her to draw in her breath.

“What do you see?” asked Aunt Zeraida.

“You're not going to believe this,” said Emaleen in a quiet voice, almost a whisper. “But the red robin with the white marking on its wing is in a tree just outside this window.”

“Really?” asked Aunt Zeraida with a blank, yet strange expression on her face that Emaleen had difficulty interpreting.

“Yes,” said Emaleen. “I wouldn't make this up.”

“Right,” replied Aunt Zeraida. “Don't make any sudden moves. Do your best to pretend that you don't notice the bird. But keep an eye on it. We're going to need Belenus to help us with this.” Emaleen nodded and sat still, watching the bird out of the corner of her eye.

“What are we going to do?” whispered Emaleen. “This must mean that someone is watching us.”

“We’re going to wait for your uncle to come back and help us,” said Aunt Zeraida quietly. “Just keep an eye on the bird.”

Emaleen kept watch as instructed but she wondered what she would do if the bird flew away before her uncle returned. If that happened, they would lose an opportunity to catch the bird, and it might continue to send information back to whoever was spying.

Chapter 4

Emaleen was still watching the bird when Uncle Morvin returned. The bird had remained in the same tree with his eyes focused on the window of the Barsan hotel room.

When she saw her uncle, Emaleen motioned him over to her, signaling with her hand low to the ground, below the window line. She whispered to him, “Uncle Morvin, the bird with the white spot on his wing is right outside our window.”

“He’s spying on us,” replied Uncle Morvin. “We need to stop him.”

“Aunt Zeraida suggested that we have Belenus help us,” said Emaleen. “Wouldn’t he hurt the bird, though?”

“He can be gentle,” said Aunt Zeraida. “We can have him capture the bird without hurting it.”

“Where will we keep it?” asked Emaleen. “If it’s here, won't he overhear us? Won't it be dangerous to have him around?”

“Robins can't hear, so even if the seer had animal hearing the seer wouldn't be able to hear us with a robin,” answered Aunt Zeraida. “We can put it in a cage and cover the cage so that the bird can't see anything.”

“Okay, I'll tell Belenus,” agreed Emaleen.

Emaleen closed her eyes and concentrated, sending her message to Belenus. In response, he looked up at her and meowed softly.

“All right, we're ready,” said Emaleen. “What can we put him in?” She glanced around the room, searching for an object they could make into a cage.”

Uncle Morvin, interrupted Emaleen's search, saying, “I'll ask Mr. Earl. I'm sure he has something we can use.”

Before he left, he said, “Please keep an eye on the bird. I’ll be right back.”

Emaleen kept watch, as instructed. When her uncle returned with a cage, the three of them and Belenus left the room. They exited the hotel and made their way to the tree where the bird sat. When she saw the bird, Emaleen concentrated and sent more instructions to Belenus. She then walked away from her cat and pretended that she was getting something out of their car, which was in the parking area near the tree. Moments later, she heard a loud screech sound and knew instantly that Belenus had trapped the bird.

When Emaleen exited the car and turned, Belenus was walking toward her with the bird's tail in his mouth. The bird flapped his wings rapidly and violently as if he was trying to strike the cat.

Uncle Morvin, who had his hands behind his back previously, brought them to the front, revealing the bird cage he had hidden. He opened the cage door and placed the cage on the ground.

Emaleen instructed Belenus to release the bird as she placed her hands under his mouth. As he did so, Emaleen grasped the bird in her hands gently, placed it inside, and closed the door.

The bird jumped up to a perch inside the cage. Emaleen peered in and examined the robin. It chirped at her with short, sharp tones. It didn't appear to be injured, Emaleen thought. Instead, it appeared angry.

Emaleen said quietly to her aunt and uncle, “I think we should take this bird back to our room and make sure he is not injured.”

Aunt Zeraida and Uncle Morvin nodded, and the three walked back to their room with Belenus next to them. Once inside, Emaleen pulled out her wand and pointed it in the direction of the bird. As she closed her eyes and concentrated, the end of her wand glowed with a soft blue light that increased in its brightness and range the longer she concentrated.

Moments later, the blue light surrounded the bird and shortly afterward, the bird sang a pretty tune. Emaleen ceased her concentration, and the blue light disappeared. The bird, which was now more active than it was when it was first placed in the cage, appeared to Emaleen to be healed and in good spirits. It hopped around, flitting from the sides of the cage to a perch and back. Emaleen smiled.

Aunt Zeraida leaned down and placed a towel from the bathroom over the cage. Instantly, the chirping bird ceased its song and was quiet.

Emaleen then asked, “Who do you think this bird belongs to?”

“I don't know,” admitted Aunt Zeraida.

“We need to figure it out,” insisted Emaleen. “We also need to know why the bird was watching me.”

“Yes,” said Aunt Zeraida, “but I don’t know how to figure how to identify who is controlling an animal.”

“Right,” said Uncle Morvin. “Now, that’s done, let's head out on our special excursion. There’s no time to waste.”

“Can Belenus come?” asked Emaleen.

“Unfortunately, no,” said Aunt Zeraida. “He’ll be much safer here.”

“Okay,” said Emaleen in a disappointed tone. She turned to Belenus and said to him, “I have to go out for a while. I’m sorry that I can’t take you with us.” Belenus let out a sad, “Meow.”

Emaleen added, “While we’re gone, we’re leaving this bird here. Please leave him alone, okay?”

Belenus looked up and meowed his agreement. He rubbed against her legs. He wished she wasn't leaving, he thought. She reached down to pet him before she turned and exited the room. He mewed after her.

Moments later, Emaleen and her aunt and uncle were seated in a car, traveling away from the hotel. Emaleen asked her aunt, “Please tell me where we’re going.”

Aunt Zeraida said with a smile, “I’ll tell you more in a bit. For now, I can tell you we’re going to two different locations today. Both of them have historic significance for our family. We’re hoping that visiting them will help us in our fight against Lanus somehow.”

“Shouldn't you explain some of the background before we get there?” suggested Uncle Morvin. “It’ll save some time.”

“I suppose you're right,” said Aunt Zeraida. She sighed and turned to glance at Emaleen. Where to start, she wondered?

Aunt Zeraida took a deep breath and said, “Emaleen, there’s something that I need to share with you. It would help if you just listen and don't ask too many questions — at least not until I’m finished.”

Emaleen nodded, and Aunt Zeraida continued while observing her niece's face, “This may come as a big surprise to you. Your uncle and I have very strong suspicions that you aren't a normal, average seer. We believe that you have the potential to have powers that far exceed what seers usually have.”

Aunt Zeraida paused for a moment after she noted her niece's eyebrows rising slightly and then she continued, “We believe you may be a 'peerless seer.'”

“What's a peerless seer?” asked Emaleen before she clamped her right hand over her mouth.

“The word ‘peerless’ means a person who is so unique that he or she has no equal. A peerless seer is a seer who is more powerful than all other seers,” replied Aunt Zeraida. “Sometimes, there is only one such seer, and sometimes, although it’s rare, there’s more than one.”

Uncle Morvin jumped in and added, “A peerless seer can come from any seer family, but it has happened more frequently in the most powerful families. Your aunt's family, the Andarsans, have had several peerless seers in their family tree over many centuries.”

“Yes, but our family has not had a peerless seer in over one hundred years,” continued Aunt Zeraida.

“Okay, I have to ask . . .,” said Emaleen, pausing for a moment to see if anyone would stop her, “what makes you think I‘m one?” After a pause, she said, “One second before you answer —. Let me get ready.”

Why me, Emaleen wondered? She shook slightly. A mix of feelings had hit her all at once. There were so many emotions that she couldn't separate them out. It was overwhelming. She took a deep breath and tried to center and focus herself. She would just have to face it the best she could.

“I’m ready,” said Emaleen.

“There are certain signs, and you have all of them,” answered Aunt Zeraida.

“What are the signs?” asked Emaleen.

“It's not important right now, but I'll tell you some day,” replied Aunt Zeraida. “Right now, I have other important information to cover, and quickly.”

“Now,” continued Aunt Zeraida, “we’re going to two locations today. The first one is a hidden house that has been passed down from generation to generation in our family. According to family lore, the Garvan family line included a peerless seer, and he lived at this house. It’s been held by our family in secret in case another peerless seer is born.”

“We originally wanted to wait to show you the house, Emaleen,” said Uncle Morvin. “But we decided to show you now because there might be information there that could help you fight Lanus.”

“I'm sure you realize this, too,” said Aunt Zeraida, “but you must tell no one about the house. It’s a secret.”

“I won't,” promised Emaleen. “But how can the house be secret? Don’t people see it?”

“It’s hidden by magic,” said Aunt Zeraida.

“How do we get there?” asked Emaleen with a curious expression.

Aunt Zeraida replied, “We have a map that shows us the location of the house. We also have instructions for getting past the magic that hides the house. Both of these have been handed down through the family, to be used at the right time.”

“I don’t understand. How did the Garvan family have land here in the United States?” asked Emaleen. “Didn't you and my mother grow up in England? Also, wouldn't the land have been passed down to an American Garvan instead of to you?”

“Yes, we did grow up in England,” confirmed Aunt Zeraida. “Some of the Garvan family, however, moved to the United States long ago. The land was passed down to males in the American Garvan line for generations until it was inherited by your mother and me through our family line. Our father was the last Garvan anywhere. He inherited and passed it down to us.”

Emaleen was silent as she considered her aunt's explanation. Then she asked, “What does this land have to do with peerless seers?”

“As I mentioned before, one of the American Garvans was a peerless seer,” explained Aunt Zeraida. “He used a cave on the property as his secret magic room. It’s believed that some of his books and other items are still in that cave. If we find them, they probably will have magic in them that none of us currently knows about.”

“Why would our family leave them there?” asked Emaleen. “Wouldn't the family want to know the magic and then use it to be more powerful?”

“I don't know,” admitted Aunt Zeraida. “But I believe that only a peerless seer can use a peerless seer's magic. Peerless seers have certain powers and abilities that other seers do not have. It might be dangerous for a seer to even try magic that can only be done by a peerless seer.”

Uncle Morvin, who had been concentrating on his driving and trying to follow the map that he held in his hand, said, “We're stopping here to pick up the Stewarts and Mr. Earl. We had them take a different route in case anyone was following us.”

A few moments later, Uncle Morvin pulled into a parking lot and parked the car. The Stewarts were there waiting.

Skye opened the car door and slid in beside Emaleen. Angelina and Jay Stewart followed behind her and took seats in the last row. Mr. Earl, standing outside the vehicle, held up a medium size cage that he was carrying. Uncle Morvin opened the back of the vehicle. After placing the cage in the back, Mr. Earl climbed in and sat with the Stewarts, who slid over to make room for him.

“I'm glad you’re here, Skye,” Emaleen told her friend. Skye smiled and hugged her friend before buckling her seat belt.

Once everyone was settled and buckled, Uncle Morvin resumed the trip. It was quiet as the vehicle sped along down a winding road in what seemed to Emaleen like the middle of nowhere. All that she could see along the way was a row of trees lining the sides of the road. There were no houses here, she noticed.

Fifteen minutes into the drive, Uncle Morvin said, “We're here.”

Uncle Morvin pulled the vehicle onto the grass and then turned right to enter an opening between the trees. The opening was just wide enough for the car to fit through. As they passed through the gap, it seemed to Emaleen as if the trees formed a tunnel with their tops meeting just over the car.

As Uncle Morvin drove the car slowly down the grass pathway, it bounced slightly from side to side. It seemed to Emaleen that the space for the vehicle was tighter and tighter the farther her uncle drove.

Glancing out the front window, Emaleen couldn't see very far down the path. In fact, it seemed that they would collide with trees in front of them that were blocking any further progress forward. However, as the car made it to those trees, the path would mysteriously clear, and the vehicle passed through without difficulty.

The appearance of trees in front of them and their clearing repeated multiple times. Emaleen started to wonder whether they would ever arrive at the end of this path or if they were stuck in an endless loop.

Stranger to her still, when she turned to glance out the back window, she couldn't see where they had already traveled. All she saw was a wall of trees that had seemed to close back around the car.

This is the strangest drive I've ever been on, she mused. It also seemed to her that it would go on forever. But they couldn't turn back. There was very little space on either side of the car. Thus, there was no room in which to make a turn.

After what seemed to Emaleen like an eternity driving forward, the path became entirely clear. Only a few hundred feet away was the end of the trees. Through the opening, she could see the green of a lush lawn of grass. When the vehicle passed through the last of the trees, Uncle Morvin finally brought it to a stop on the grass.

“I think this is as far as we take the car,” commented Uncle Morvin as he unbuckled himself and then opened the door.

Emaleen, too, unbuckled and exited the car. As she stood, she noticed that across the grass, several hundred feet away, there was a large white wooden house that was so tall it appeared to Emaleen to be at least three stories high. All around the house was a large span of tall green grass filled with wildflowers of numerous colors. Beyond that were trees that formed a circular boundary around the land. Emaleen started to walk toward the house without giving it any thought and with motions that seemed to her almost automatic.

“It's not the house that we’re here for,” Aunt Zeraida called out after Emaleen. “We're looking for the cave.”

Emaleen yelled back, “We should also explore the house. There might be something useful to in there.”

Uncle Morvin commented to his wife, “We should follow Emaleen's lead on anything she does here. She is the peerless seer. I think she’ll probably know what to do, instinctively.” Zeraida nodded.

Emaleen had now reached the front door. It was made of wood and had many different figures carved into it.

One carving stood out to Emaleen. It was the head of a moose. Seeing it made her pause for a moment in surprise. She stared at it for several moments wondering about the significance of the moose carving on the door. She concluded that she should move on, and that staring at it wouldn't provide the answers that she sought.

She placed her hand on the knob, and turned it, expecting to meet with resistance. To Emaleen's surprise, the door was unlocked. It opened inward, creaking slightly. She stepped inside and then moved farther inside to make room for Skye and the others to join her. However, only her aunt and uncle entered the house.

Angelina Stewart called out from the porch, “We'll keep watch outside for any danger.”

“Shaolin and I will keep an eye out, too,” said Mr. Earl, who had remained in the yard.

“There shouldn't be any trouble,” called back Aunt Zeraida. “No one should have been able to follow us here. Also, I don't think anyone besides us knows about this house and its connection to our family.”

“That's probably true,” replied Jay Stewart. “But we heard this morning that Maerdern is missing, so we'll stay out here and keep watch — just in case. We'll send Skye in, though.”

“Thanks, Mom,” said Skye as she bounded through the door to join her friend.

Chapter 5

Inside the entry to the house, Emaleen found herself in a foyer with a marble floor that was covered with rugs. Woven into the rugs were the familiar Celtic knots of her family.

The walls were covered with yellow flowered wallpaper. There were also old-style lamps affixed to the walls. They appeared to Emaleen to be golden in color but faded by age.

Although the lamps were not turned on, the rays from the sun shone through the windows on either side of the entrance door. There was sufficient light for Emaleen to see. However, she found a light switch on the wall. To her surprise, when she flipped the switch on, the lights illuminated. Emaleen gasped.

“The house has electricity,” said Aunt Zeraida in response to her niece's amazement. “My grandparents came over here and had it installed in the late ‘30s. It is billed to our family trust, but the electricity use is very low since no one is ever here.”

“What’s the story with this house?” asked Skye. “Why are we here?”

“It's a house that has been in our family for a long time,” replied Emaleen. “One of my ancestors, who was a very powerful seer, lived here long ago. We are here to find a cave that is reported to be near here. It would also be helpful to find any books that may have been left behind. They could prove useful.”

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