"LAURA AND THE SECRET OF AVENTERRA"
Für alle, die ihre Englischkenntnisse testen möchten oder einfach nur Spaß haben an der englischen Sprache - hier die englisch-amerikanische Übersetzung der Leseprobe:
CHAPTER 7 - Secrets of The Night.
Deepest night had descended over Ravenstone. The waning moon's narrow sickle hung palely in the almost cloudless sky, and bathed the castle in a soft light. From the distant direction of Hangman's Wood, came the cry of an owl, before the deep chimes of the clock tower echoed through the silence.
It was midnight.
Laura Leander lay in her bed and slept. Her breathing was soft and steady. Gentle snoring emanated from Kaja's bed, and the alarm clock on her bedside table ticked away quietly. The moonlight peered through the curtain and cast ghostly shadows on the wall.
Suddenly a strange noise broke the tranquillity. It sounded like the howl of a wolf. Laura moaned quietly and turned over in her bed, as if the gruesome howl was disturbing her sleep. At the same moment, the latch on her door was depressed noiselessly. The door opened with a barely audible creak. A thin strand of light from the corridor fell across the room, before moving up the wall, against which Laura's bed stood. The light grew and grew until it illuminated Laura's face. There was a rustling of fabric.
Again the gruesome howling pierced the night, and Laura emerged from her slumber. She opened her eyes, sat up in bed, and leapt back in terror on seeing a dark figure before her.
Laura wanted to cry out loud, until she recognised her nighttime visitor. 'Miss Morgain?' Laura's face was creased with confusion.
The petite teacher was wrapped up in a long cape, and she stood her ground.
'Come with me!' she said without further explanation.
'But.' Laura tried to protest, and Mary Morgain interjected abruptly.
'Please Laura, come with me,' she whispered urgently, before turning on her heel and stepping out into the corridor.
Laura stared about for a short moment in distress. What can this mean? she thought to herself, but then found to her surprise that she threw the covers aside and got out of bed. Without actually wanting to, she stood up and pulled on her winter boots. She slipped her red anorak over her pyjamas, and edged her way dazed to the open door. A mysterious force seemed to guide her steps, without her being able to do the slightest thing about it. It was as though a strange power had seized her.
As Laura stepped into the hallway, Miss Mary had almost reached the stairs.
Something is wrong, Laura thought to herself. Then suddenly she noticed: whereas her own steps were clearly audible, albeit muffled, the teacher was moving without making a single noise. Laura inspected her more closely, and had the impression that Miss Mary wasn't moving her legs at all. It's true that the teacher's cape almost reached the floor, so that neither feet nor legs were visible, but even the cape's heavy material betrayed no sign of movement. There was no rippling of the folds, nothing. The petite teacher seemed to be hovering, and gliding soundlessly and weightlessly towards the stairs.
Bizarre, thought Laura, truly bizarre.
Only one miserable emergency light was switched on, and the pale moonlight, which now and again glimmered through the windows, was also inadequate to illuminate the long hallway sufficiently. Dark figures flitted in and out of the nooks and crannies of the corridor, like bloodthirsty companions, lying in wait. Although Laura knew it was nothing more than the old suits of armour which were displayed there, she was beset with a constricting sense of alarm. Goose bumps danced over her entire body.
Laura was relieved when she finally reached the top of the stairs, which led down to the hall. It was not that she could see any better, just that she had passed all the spooky hollow metal knights.
Miss Mary had almost reached the bottom of the stairs. The teacher did not even glance behind her. It was as if she knew that Laura was following.
The moonlight poured through the ornamental window above the front door, and shyly exposed the painting on the opposite wall. Involuntarily, Laura turned her gaze on the picture. What she saw gave her the most terrible fright. She stood rooted to the spot and held her breath. For a heartbeat, Laura did not know if she was really awake, or if she was dreaming. All that remained of the painting was the young woman in the white robe. She stared at Laura vacantly through endlessly sad eyes. The big black wolf, which usually lay at her feet, had disappeared without a trace.
Laura shook her head in amazement. That is impossible. She must be imagining things. She blinked hard, and rubbed her eyes, but there was still no sign of the wolf. The space at the feet of the white woman was empty. Silva was standing in a meadow all alone, staring vacantly at Laura, as if there had never been a wolf there at all.
There could only be one explanation. Someone had painted over the wolf. But why? More to the point, was it even remotely possible in the short time, which had expired since supper? After all, when she had headed across the hallway after supper with Kaja, on the way to their room, the picture had still been unaltered.
Just then, Laura heard the howl of the wolf. It seemed to come from the Hangman's Wood behind the parkland. She was definitely right, because she heard it again. What if the wolf had come alive, right out of the painting...?
Absurd! Laura was mad at herself. Where would she get such a crass idea?
The creaking of the front door jolted her from her reverie. Laura barely saw Miss Mary glide out, so she hurried after her.
As soon as Laura reached the fresh air outside, she was greeted by the cold night. The more she sought comfort in the thick anorak, the more she froze. It occurred to her that she would have been better off in her jeans and a thick jumper, but she realised that it was too late for such regrets.
Mary Morgain had already reached the outside stairs, and Laura had to hurry just to keep up. She hurried down the steps, past the stone giant, which supported the canopy, and had almost reached the path, which led into the park. It did not occur to her to look around at the giant.
Instead, the giant looked at the young girl. He blinked, furrowed his brow in thought and did not let Laura out of his sight. He turned his big head to the side a little, so as not to lose Laura from his line of sight. Yet that which he saw did not seem to cheer him up. Not a bit of it: the stone giant seemed concerned.
The narrow path circled the main building of the castle. Laura's anorak shone like a red beacon in the night, while she followed the teacher, who swept on a good twenty metres in front of her. The gravel grated under Laura's boots, the cold damp night air played in her nostrils, smelling of - no, sadly not of snow. It had been Kastor Dietrich who had shown Laura how to detect the smell of snow. Come to think of it, the farmer had taught her quite a few things, like paying attention to the signs of nature, from which the well informed can discern a lot. Now, though, Laura smelt only rotting leaves and decaying wood.
At a window on the second floor of the castle, a curtain was pushed aside. It was the teacher's room. The room was dark. Nevertheless, the vague outlines of a shadowy figure, which seemed to be looking attentively down into the park, could be made out behind the glass.
Laura did not notice that she was being watched. Then suddenly, she thought she saw movement out of the corner of her eye. She turned her head and glanced over at the main building, but all she saw was the curtain swaying gently back and forth behind the window. The mysterious figure had already vanished.
When the young girl turned back to Miss Mary, the latter was just disappearing into a bank of fog, which was drifting across the park. Laura quickened her step. A few moments later, she too was engulfed by the gray mist. It hindered her sight. She could not make out Miss Mary any more, and otherwise not a soul could be seen. The fog thickened. The bushes and shrubs along the path flitted in and out of it like ghostly apparitions. In the distance, a fox barked, and two winged shadows swept noiselessly over Laura's head. The young girl started, but the shadows had already disappeared again. Laura convinced herself that they had probably been nothing but the couple of owls, which nested in the old oak tree behind the gymnasium, and she pressed on quickly.
When she reached a fork in the path, she didn't know which direction to take. She hadn't the vaguest idea whither Miss Mary wanted to lead her. There was no sign of the teacher, so the young girl dithered for a moment, before deciding to turn right. If Laura remembered correctly, the narrow path led to Professor Morgenstern's house, which was situated away from the main building in a quiet corner of the park. Maybe that is the destination of this little excursion, thought Laura timidly, before hurrying on.
The fog was now so thick she could barely see more than a few meters. The only thing she was able to make out was the gravel path in front of her. The park's bushes and shrubs were hidden behind a gray shroud. Yet the professor's house failed to appear, even though she was sure she must have reached it by now. The path seemed to have no end. It just kept on receding into the shimmering dimness. It soon became clear to Laura, that she had lost her orientation. She no longer knew where she was. Fear welled up inside her, and although she knew it made no sense, she kept running faster and faster.
When the beast rose up in front of her out of the mist, Laura almost screamed out loud, until she realised what the mighty horse was: namely the larger than life statue of Reimar of Ravenstone, which stood in a little square in the middle of the park. Nevertheless, her heart was beating like a jackhammer, as her hesitant steps took her towards the stone monument.
The terrible knight had had the statue erected during his lifetime, shortly after his return in 1153 from a crusade, which had kept him in foreign lands for many years. He had probably sensed that after his death nobody would shed a tear for him, let alone erect a memorial. Therefore, he had taken it upon himself to ensure his image survived him, and had commissioned a local sculptor to carve a life like granite portrait of him on his favourite horse.
In the darkness, surrounded by sheets of mist, the statue appeared even more gruesome than usual. Laura gazed up timidly at the creepy knight, which bestrode its battle horse in full armour with a mighty sword at its side, looking off into the distance with a grim expression.
Reimar must have been a man of unspeakable ugliness, for even this face, its features softened by the sculptor's fear and the knight's vanity, still seemed repellent and grizzly. The eyes hid under the shade of the helmet. Yet that was not the reason why they appeared cold and evil. Reimar's eyes were cold and evil, and even in this stone manifestation, the knight could chill the heart of most of those looking upon him. Even the pigeons seemed to fear him, for they dared not land on his head, let alone sully him. At least that is what Albin Ellerking claimed over and over again.
And to be sure, no one had ever seen reason to contradict him.
Laura, who was otherwise anything but fearful by nature, experienced an uneasy feeling every time she cast her eyes on the stone knight. However, she found it difficult to look away. She stared transfixed at the statue, when it suddenly turned its head and stared back, straight into her eyes.
Laura screamed, retreated a few steps and bumped into someone. She screamed again and turned round to find Miss Mary looking at her quite worriedly. 'What's the matter Laura? Why did you scream?'
'Thethethethe.' was all that Laura could stammer.
'Who?' asked Mary calmly, 'whom do you mean?'
Laura looked at the memorial and realised she must have been imagining things again: Reimar of Ravenstone was staring bleakly off into the distance, as usual, as if he lived in another world. A combination of the mist and her own fear must have been playing tricks on her.
'Er.' said Laura awkwardly. 'It.it was nothing.'
The teacher took Laura by the hand. 'Soon you will understand, Laura,' she whispered and pulled Laura gently on. 'Now, come along, we are expected.'
Laura was happy, when she finally left the giant figure behind her, and turned left onto another path. The fog lifted a little, and now she could see that the gravel path wound its way through the lightly wooded area, behind which lay the ivy covered house of Professor Morgenstern.
It was at that moment that it happened. There was a low harsh grinding sound. The stone knight turned its head and looked back at the girl with the red anorak. He narrowed his eyes to the smallest of slits and observed Laura with an evil grimace. It was almost as if he would climb down from his horse and follow her.
The way through the pastoral lowlands seemed utterly endless to Morwena. She had been yearning for Hellunyat for the whole ride, and even though her Bihorn had been galloping almost constantly, she was sure the way was longer than usual. She simply could not wait to arrive. When she heard the roar of Thunder River in her ears, she kept hoping that the waters would appear before her at any moment, but a considerable time still passed, before she reached the mighty torrent.
The view of the new bridge compensated Morwena to an extent for the nervous longings of the past hours. Even in the darkness of night, the healer could discern from afar that the structure had been completed. Her hopes for a short cut were fulfilled. The wooden span gleamed in the light of the two moons like a promise kept. The bridge stretched across the raging waters proudly and boldly. Thanks to its solid columns and thick planks, it appeared more reliable than most hastily erected nerve janglers, which led travelers in other places to fear for their lives. It gave the impression of being built for eternity.
Morwena steered her bihorn impatiently towards the bridge. The water raged so loudly, when she reached the bank, that the howling of the wind and the chirping of the swoopies were drowned out, as were the creepy cries of the nightwhistlers in the lowlands nearby.
At the threshold of the bridge, Feenbraut pulled up. She neighed and pawed her hooves.
Morwena understood her steed. They had traveled the whole day and half the night, and Feenbraut was exhausted. A rest was long overdue. She caressed the bihorn's neck tenderly and whispered encouragement.
'I know, Feenbraut. I, too, would rather rest, but we must press on. Elysion needs my help, and they are waiting for us impatiently at Hellunyat.' Then, she clicked her tongue, hoping to coax the bihorn forward.
But, Feenbraut would not move. She just snorted stubbornly. The two ivory horns on her forehead gleamed in the moonlight.
Morwena was surprised. She was not accustomed to such obstinate behavior from her trusty companion. She was wondering whether Feenbraut sensed some sort of danger, when it occurred to her that it must be the new bridge, which was unnerving the bihorn.
'Its all right, Feenbraut.' Morwena stroked the bihorn's neck reassuringly. 'Have no fear. Even though the bridge is new to us, I am sure that it will support us safely.'
The bihorn neighed again, and shook her head, without moving from the spot.
Morwena was beginning to lose her patience. 'Come now, Feenbraut, enough!' There was agitation in her voice. 'We have no time for this. Every second counts.'
Just then, movement on the other riverbank caught Morwena's eye. A dark figure was approaching the bridge. The healer strained her eyes to see better. Judging by her clothes, it was an old peasant woman. She bore a basket on her back. The burden was obviously considerable, for she was bent over and dragging herself with great effort to the bridge.
Morwena felt pity in her heart for the old woman, who found no rest, even at night.
When the peasant woman reached the bridge, she clasped onto the handrail to support herself, as she crept towards the healer and her steed with tiny steps.
'See, there's no reason to be afraid,' whispered Morwena to the bihorn.
Feenbraut snorted and looked at the old woman, who approached with such difficulty. The sight of her seemed to calm the bihorn, and she stepped forward onto the bridge.
The healer was relieved. At last, she thought, at last Feenbraut has come to her senses.
The Bihorn trotted carefully over the bridge, the sturdy planks barking under her hooves. The waters of Thunder River tore by, the foam of the waves illuminated by the pale light of the moons.
The old woman appeared not to notice the Bihorn and her rider. She struggled forwards under the weight of her basket. Even when she was but a short distance away, and must have been able to hear the sound of the hooves, she did not look up.
The poor old woman must be deaf, Morwena was thinking, just as the bridge underneath them suddenly dissolved into nothingness.
Morwena and Feenbraut were pitched into the deep, affording the healer no time to acknowledge to herself that she had fallen prey to a devilish act of illusion by the powers of darkness. She had so fervently wished for the bridge to be in place, that it had been easy to trick her with an imaginary one.
The torrents of Thunder River crashed over Morwena, and the icy cold gripped her body like deadly agony, as the terrible current carried her away.
The healer fought her way to the surface with all her strength. She puffed and spit and gasped for air. When Feenbraut's head emerged from the water close to her, she felt a sense of relief. She stretched her neck out over the foaming waves, looking for the old peasant woman, but saw only the basket tossing about in the unforgiving waters.
At that moment, Morwena heard piercing laughter from above. It was the laughter of a woman. The healer lifted her gaze, and saw a huge winged creature, hovering over Thunder River, then flying high into the night sky with powerful flaps of its mighty wings. Before she could make out exactly what it was, Morwena was tossed against a rock, which jutted out of the water. As her head smashed against it, she heard a loud crack. Then, everything went blank, and she lost consciousness.
CHAPTER 8: A Fateful Task.
Laura was astonished when she walked into Professor Morgenstern's living room. It was enormous. What is more, from the outside, the house looked hardly bigger than a garden outhouse. So how could this room, which measured at least ten by twenty metres, possibly fit into it?
A big fire was burning in the hearth. It brightened part of the room, and cast flickering shadows over the walls. Long logs glowed in the furnace, giving off the pungent smell of dry resin. Almost immediately, Laura's eyes became accustomed to the semi-dark. The room was simply and sparsely furnished. Plain wooden cupboards stood against the walls next to plain wooden commodes and shelves, and that was almost all. In the middle of the room stood a round table of perhaps two and a half meters diameter. In its center was a plain stone fire bowl, in which a strange flame burned. It was no bigger than a hand, but shone so brightly that Laura had to screw here eyes together to look at it.
Around the table stood four chairs. Percy Valiant was sitting on one of them, and Miss Mary had taken a seat beside him. Professor Aurelius Morgenstern sat on the third chair. He was wrapped up in an old fashioned coat, and appeared exhausted. His otherwise so imposing frame seemed to have fallen in on itself. His gray hair was disheveled and his venerable old face with its shining blue eyes hid behind a pale mask of tiredness.
Laura was worried, and wanted to ask about his health, but Morgenstern signaled to her to keep quiet. There followed a brief moment of silence, before the Professor forced a smile, and ushered her to the empty chair.
As he rose to speak, it became clear to Laura that he was ill, exceedingly ill, for his voice sounded broken.
'Please be seated, Laura,' he rasped.
Laura did as she was asked. Then she looked around curiously at the others at the table. Why had Miss Mary fetched her out of bed in the middle of the night? What did these three want from her?
The expressions of the teachers gave nothing away. Neither Percy Valiant, nor Miss Mary, and certainly not Professor Aurelius Morgenstern betrayed in their faces any hint of the purpose of this mysterious meeting.
As if he had read her thoughts, Morgenstern turned to Laura. 'Do you know why I have summoned you?'
Laura shook her head.
The old man seemed a little confused. At least, Laura thought she detected surprise in his face.
'But surely your father told you, did he not, Laura?'
'What. Excuse me, but what do you mean?'
'He told you that from today on, you are to be one of us, a Guardian fighting on the side of the light, or didn't he?'
'Oh, yes, of course,' answered Laura hastily. At the same moment she was overcome with a thought, which suddenly brought her great hope. Full of expectation, she looked at Morgenstern. 'Do you mean that Papa is still alive and that he really did visit me at my bedside last night, and that I wasn't dreaming?'
Professor Morgenstern nodded. 'Yes,' he answered softly.
'And, where is he now? Why hasn't he been in touch for so long, and why doesn't he come back to us? I don't understand.'
'That is exactly why you are here,' said Aurelius with a weary smile. 'The time has come for you to learn about the great mystery, which holds the inside of our very Earth together. Then you will be able to understand much of that which is so puzzling to you now. So, listen carefully, Laura, and commit everything to memory, for time is short, and my powers are dwindling, so that I am able to tell you only that, which is most important.'
Laura stared wide-eyed at the professor. She hardly dared to breathe. She could feel her heart beating faster, and the blood pulsing through her veins.
'Only the smallest number of people know,' began Aurelius Morgenstern in a whisper, 'that since the beginning of time, another world has existed parallel to ours. It is much older than our planet, and is named Aventerra. Out of this mysterious world of myths, which exists beyond the powers of human understanding, both Good and Evil found their way to our Earth. On Aventerra, you see, the warriors of the Light and the powers of darkness are locked in an eternal battle for supremacy.
The powers of good are commanded by Elysion, the Keeper of the Light. The armies of darkness do battle for the Black Prince Borboron, who leads his countless soldiers relentlessly and with constant fury. His legions of dark warriors never tire in their battle with the protectors of the Light. From the beginning of time, the Black Prince has had but one aim, to kill the Keeper of the Light, and thus to lead his dark forces to ultimate victory. That would signify the beginning of eternal night, and Aventerra would be destroyed, as would our earth.'
'No,' cried Laura, 'that's terrible, we can never allow it, never!'
'Exactly,' was Professor Morgenstern's grim reply, 'and yet the danger that precisely that could happen, has never been greater than now.'
Laura gulped; she looked at Percy Valiant, who returned her gaze with a troubled face. Miss Mary Morgain's features were also creased with great worry. Laura understood that Aurelius was not exaggerating in the slightest.
'What has happened?', she asked softly.
'Two days ago, the Black Prince succeeded in wounding the Keeper of the Light with his sword, Pestilence. Wounds, inflicted by this sword, never heal. The sorcery, which dwells in it, eats away at the very lifeblood of its victim. Elysion will perish, unless he receives the antidote soon.'
'There is an antidote?' Laura was surprised.
'Naturally, for Evil cannot exist without Good, and vice versa - because opposing forces are mutually dependent. Just as there is no plus without minus, no life without death, in the same way there can be no Good without Evil. They are two sides of the same coin. They can never come together, yet they are inseparable.'
Laura's head was spinning. She wasn't following everything, which the professor was saying. She did not understand what all this had to do with her father, let alone with her. She was, after all, the last person who would be in a position to help this so-called Keeper of the Light. She looked at Aurelius Morgenstern in amazement. 'What is the antidote?'
'It is the Water of Life,' came the reply. 'If one treats the wound with no more than a drop, it starts to heal on the spot, and the afflicted person regains health in a very short time.'
'Where can this Water of Life be found?'
'Therein lies the problem,' answered the professor, 'the Water of Life is in the Chalice of Inspiration, which is kept, as it has always been, in the Labyrinth of Hellunyat. The Keeper of Light resides with his followers in the mighty castle, which gives Hellunyat its name.'
'Then I don't quite understand, how .' Laura interrupted, only for Morgenstern to continue.
'The Black Prince succeeded, some time ago, in removing the Chalice of Inspiration from the Labyrinth, and bringing it here to our Earth,' he explained. 'Regretfully, its new hiding place has not been found to this day.'
Laura was confused. 'I. I don't understand. How could the Chalice be brought here, to our Earth?'
An understanding smile appeared on the professor's face. 'Through the magic portals, which connect our world with Aventerra. Through them, one can pass from one world to the other.'
'The magic portals?' It was clear from the tone of Laura's voice that she couldn't make sense of all of this.
'Yes, I am sure you know about the four festivals of the sun, which occur every year.'
Laura nodded, and thought silently about Rudolf 'Genghis' Wagner, her general knowledge teacher, who had recently been tormenting her with a vast array of calendar styles and time-keeping techniques from various epochs and civilizations.
'You mean Jul, Ostara, Midsummer, and Winternight?'
'Exactly.' Morgenstern smiled with satisfaction. 'The sun dictates life on Aventerra, just as it does here, and the laws of nature in both worlds are more important and more powerful than the laws of man. On Aventerra, this truth is ever more present, and is regarded as sacrosanct. On our Earth, over time, it has largely been forgotten. That's why virtually nobody knows the particular significance of these Festivals of the Sun any more. On those days, since ancient times, these secret gateways between our worlds open up, and can be traversed by people and objects alike. That is how the Chalice of Inspiration found its way to our Earth. The Black Prince's warriors brought it here and hid it in the castle or somewhere close by. That is what we have been able to find out.'
Laura was astonished. 'Really?'
Aurelius Morgenstern nodded.
'And when did that happen?'
'Last year - on the day of the last turn of the winter sun, which as I am sure you know, is another name for the festival of Jul, and takes place on the twenty-first of December.'
Laura furrowed her brow. 'Are you sure?'
'Quite sure,' Aurelius Morgenstern nodded. 'Our research makes it very clear.'
'And Papa? What does he have.?'
'We assume that he must have surprised the Black Knights in their evil deed. They probably took him prisoner and abducted him to Aventerra.'
'Oh no!' Laura gulped. That's terrible, she thought. At the same time, she felt a sense of relief, that her father was evidently still alive. Fantastic, she thought in wonderment, this whole thing is simply fantastic!
I can't wait to see Lukas' and Kaja's faces, when I tell them. They probably won't believe a word of it. It wouldn't surprise me. The whole thing sounds so unbelievable.
Full of skepticism, she studied the professor. 'And. how do you know all of this?' Her voice was laced with doubt.
'I know that it all seems incredible to you,' answered the professor. 'I know that I found it so, when I was first made aware of the great secret.'
'When was that?'
'On my thirteenth birthday, when I became as old as you are now. That is the day, on which a very few people are entrusted with knowledge of the great secret, which lies hidden behind that which seems to be, and yet defines the life of all mankind.'
'And these very few people, are they the Guardians?'
'Yes, Laura. As I explained, Good and Evil came to our world from Aventerra. It was at a time, when not only the forces of The Light, but also the powers of Evil sent their envoys here, so that they could establish their presence on our Earth. Since then, we have played host to the eternal battle between Good and Evil, although not in the clear and indisputable form, which it takes on Aventerra. On this Earth, the struggle is mostly hidden, and mankind is often unable to see what is at stake. For this reason, it is important that there are a few, who are ever watchful, with their eyes open. That is the foremost responsibility of us Guardians, to remain alert and to be on guard against evil. Only when we recognize the intentions of our enemies, before it is too late, will we be able to overcome them.'
That seems to make sense, thought Laura, even if it doesn't explain everything.
'But why am I, of all people, to be a Guardian? And you, and Percy, and Mary too? That is, if they are. Are they?'
Professor Morgenstern grinned. 'We are all direct descendants of those warriors of the Light, who came to our world, an eternity ago, with the mission to fight for Good. This special calling has been passed on from generation to generation since that time.'
'Oh,' said Laura surprised, 'then Lukas will be a Guardian next year, won't he?'
Aurelius shook his head. 'No, male warriors pass the responsibility to their first-born daughters, and they to their first-born son, and so on.'
'What if someone doesn't have any children?' Laura thought aloud.
'Then the chain is broken, and one more light is extinguished,' sighed Morgenstern. 'That is also the reason, why there are fewer and fewer Guardians in the World, and we should consider ourselves lucky that the evil ones do not take the upper hand. They have outnumbered us heavily for far too long now.'
Laura was overwhelmed. All manner of notions were going through her head, and she still had countless questions, but above all, she wanted to know more about her father. 'If Papa really is on Aventerra, how can we help him? And how was it possible for him to visit me last night? And.'
'Slow down, Laura,' the professor interjected. 'Please believe me that we can help him - but that is all I can tell you now. Percy, Miss Mary and I will explain everything to you in good time.' He looked at the two teachers, who nodded gravely. Morgenstern looked back at the girl. 'Now you must learn of the great task, which fate has in store for you.'
Laura felt a little dizzy. She held her breath. What could the professor mean? And why her, of all people?
'What. task?' she asked timidly.
For the first time, Percy spoke up. 'It is your duty to find ze Shalice of Inspiration, Laura, in order to prevent ze Keepeur of ze Light from losing 'is life.' 'You are the only one, who can do it,' added Mary Morgain, when she noticed the girl's astonished expression. 'You were born on the sign of thirteen, which means you possess very special powers.'
'But. That's. Impossible,' stuttered Laura. 'I am nothing but an ordinary little girl.'
Morgenstern shook his head. 'That is not true, and you know it,' he said softly. 'Otherwise, you would not have seen the signs.'
'Signs? What signs?'
Then, suddenly, it occurred to her. Yes, of course, Professor Morgenstern was right: the crows, and the ghostly black horseman, the mysterious appearance of her father and her mother, who smiled at her from the photograph, and even spoke to her. Suddenly all these strange happenings began to make sense, in a weird way. If this was all true, then all those other phenomena must have a special meaning: the otherworldly barking of the dogs, the stone giant blinking, and the disappearance of the black wolf from the painting. Laura, yearning for help, looked at the professor with a pitiful expression.
'How. How shall I find the chalice?' She asked. 'I mean, if nobody has managed it up to now, why should I be able to do it?'
'You will prevail, Laura!' Morgenstern was certain. 'After all, you are in possession of the Wheel of Time. It will help you a great deal in the search.'
Laura turned pale. 'Do you mean the charm on my necklace?'
The professor nodded. 'Exactly, Laura. Guardians, who were born on the sign of thirteen, have passed it down from generation to generation. Now, it is in your hands.'
Laura gulped. Her head dropped, and she looked shamefully at the tabletop.
'What's the matter?' Aurelius Morgenstern sounded suspicious. 'Is something wrong?'
The young girl did not answer.
'Please, look me in the eyes, Laura.' She lifted her head, and stared at the professor. 'Did something happen? Perhaps.' He was wide-eyed with horror and clapped his hand over his mouth. 'Please tell me that it is not true.'
White as a sheet, Laura nodded. 'I'm afraid so,' she whispered, almost under her breath. 'The necklace . is lost.'
Percy and Miss Mary exchanged terrified looks. 'Quel Malheur!' The sport teacher gasped.
Mary Morgain stammered: 'I. I. don't believe it. It cannot be.'
Professor Morgenstern pulled himself together first. 'How did it happen?' He tried to remain calm.
'I. I don't know. I remember Papa had it in his hands, before he vanished, and the next morning, I couldn't find it anywhere.'
Percy and Mary groaned, and Professor Morgenstern turned even paler. He fought for air.
When he had gathered himself again, he thought carefully for a moment. 'Well, that doesn't make it any easier,' he concluded, 'but have no fear, Laura.' He smiled encouragement. 'You will still find the chalice, even without the necklace.' He turned to the young teachers. 'Don't you think?'
'But of course!' Percy answered a fraction too quickly, and he too smiled at Laura. 'You must simply believe in yourself!'
'In yourself, and in the power of the light,' added Miss Mary. 'Then you are sure to succeed.'
Laura's pretty young face was still furrowed with doubt.
'We shall stand beside you, Laura,' explained Professor Morgenstern reassuringly. 'We shall teach you to exercise all of the skills, which our forefathers brought with them from Aventerra all that time ago.'
'Dream travel,' said Percy.
'Mind reading,' suggested Miss Mary.
'And don't forget telekinesis.' The professor added.
Laura gulped again. Telekinesis, what on earth was that? Dream travel? She had never heard of such a thing. She felt dizzy again, and her mind was beset with crazy thoughts.
Find the Chalice of Inspiration! With the Water of Life! Me! A normal thirteen year old girl!
The merry-go-round in her head started spinning faster and faster, more and more jarringly, until it was suddenly brought to a halt, by one simple conclusion.
Impossible! Utterly impossible!
But, wait a minute! Had not her father said that she was one of the Guardians? If there was one person, on whom she could rely, and whom she could trust implicitly, it was Papa. She was certain that he had never lied to her. What's more, why would he choose to lie to her on this important matter?
Never! Marius would never do such a thing. What Morgenstern, Percy and Miss Mary were telling her, simply must be true. Even if it all sounded like pure fantasy, there was no doubt in her mind that it was real, utterly real.
Professor Morgenstern kept looking at Laura. It was as though he could read her mind, and had no desire to interrupt her thoughts, until they had led her to a decision. Finally, he spoke to her again.
'Well, Laura,' he said, and his voice had a celebratory ring to it. 'Will you accept your task and join us in our battle against the Powers of Evil?'
Laura had already made her decision. 'I. I would like to try!'
The tension evaporated from the faces of the two young teachers, and the professor's face was illuminated by a contented smile.
'So be it, Laura! We wish to bring you into the circle, which binds everything together: Earth and Aventerra, beginning and end, light and darkness, Good and Evil.' With these words, the Professor arose.
Percy Valiant and Mary Morgain stood up as well, and Laura followed the example of the grown-ups. The four of them stretched out their arms, joined hands, and formed a circle around the table. Laura noticed for the first time, that delicate carvings in the tabletop depicted a wheel with eight spokes, which looked exactly like the lost talisman.
What could that mean? Laura was asking herself, but Professor Morgenstern had already noticed her attentiveness. He began to sing an unusual sounding chant. His voice, so flat earlier, now sounded strong and clear again. The song spread through the room imploringly. Laura did not understand the verses, which were in a foreign language, which she had never heard before. Nevertheless, a curious strength emanated from them. Laura was gripped by a strange calm and she suddenly felt a deep strength, unlike anything, which she had sensed before. She knew now, that all would be well.
The flame in the fire bowl grew. It became brighter and brighter, until it shone almost supernaturally. With fascination, Laura stared at the light, so intense now, that it almost hurt, just to look at it. And yet, she could not avert her eyes.
Brighter and brighter it became, bigger and bigger, until it seemed to fill almost the entire room. Laura could see nothing else: not Percy Valiant, nor Mary Morgain, nor Professor Aurelius Morgenstern. Around her was a glowing tornado of light, which seemed to suck her into its heart. Laura surrendered herself. Without fear, and without resistance, she felt herself becoming one with the light.