Sinead Alone

a photo of an empty beach

Sinead relaxed at last, curled up in her cloak in the warm cave to which Eileran had brought them. Moonsprite stood dozing peacefully, her beautiful white mane carefully combed out by another of the Sisters. Eileran had brought food and the two Sisters had withdrawn, urging them to rest.

After so many weeks of uncertainty, everything was falling into place, just as had been foretold in the Prophesy Book. There were only two final challenges to face, and they were now amongst friends. Moonsprite whinnied softly in her sleep as Sinead slipped into peaceful slumber.

Sinead awoke with a start. The Crystal was pulsating. She freed it from her jerkin as she leapt to her feet. Its light flooded the cave. Moonsprite had gone. Sinead hurried to the cave mouth and looked out. The pale pre-dawn light revealed nothing but an empty beach and dark waves lapping on the shore.


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The Sisterhood’s Welcome

figures in a dark landscape

Sinead felt the muscles in Moonsprite’s neck tense as she buried her fingers in her unicorn’s silvery mane. Her right hand was already clenched around the hilt of her sword. As the circle of torch-bearers closed in around them, Sinead felt the Crystal pulsate inside her jerkin.

A tall stately figure emerged from the circle, dark hair flowing to her waist. The woman stepped forward. Her eyes met Sinead’s, gazing into them steadily. Then she nodded and bowed her head.

The woman turned to the members of the circle, holding her torch aloft. ‘It is she!’ Her clear voice announced. Her eyes flashed in the torchlight.

Turning to Sinead, she spoke more softly. ‘I am Eileran. The Sisterhood welcomes you.’ She held out her hand. ‘Come, you must rest. When the sun rises again, we must summon the Dwarf of the Deep Mines. Without his skills all will be lost.’


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Torches in the Darkness

Two torches shining in the darkness with water in the backgrond

Moonsprite took off at a gallop, her silver hooves beating out the passage of time. The late afternoon shadows were lengthening more quickly than Sinead would have ever anticipated. Her unicorn sped on into the sunset’s orange glare. They were aware of nothing but the dazzling sunset and the need to complete their journey before the day ended.

Sinead tasted the tang of salt in the air and felt the freshening breeze on her face. Moonsprite’s pace was slower, her progress hampered by the deepening sand under her pounding hooves. Flecks of foam appeared her flanks as she desperately pressed on.

The flaming sky turned purple as the last lip of the sun disappeared below the horizon in a final orange flare. Moonsprite’s steps faltered in the soft sand and Sinead slid from her back.

Torches borne by shadowy figures flared around them, moving ever closer in the velvet darkness.


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Slaying the beast

an image of a sword with a silver hilt

Glancing back as she ran, Sinead saw the bull-headed monster about strike the Hound again. Her foot struck an object sending it skittering before her. She looked down. It was her sword; the Sword of Elshain! However it came to be here, now was her chance.

Sinead snatched it up and wheeled around. The battling beasts were still locked together. She thundered back down the passageway, then raised the blade above her head and plunged it into the back of the monster’s neck with all the might she could muster. The monster staggered and fell to the floor. She retrieved the weapon ready to strike again, but the Sword of Elshain had done its work and the monster breathed no more.

The Hound was splayed on the ground, bloodied and panting, but still alive. Sinead knelt down and stroked his head. He’d saved her, but at what cost to him?


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The Minotaur of Mandoran

A bull's head or minotaur

Hound’s eyes glowed red. Growling savagely, he bared his teeth and launched himself at Sinead. But the Hound leapt over her. Sinead spun around.

A hideous bull headed creature filled the passageway behind her.

Jaws snapping, the snarling Hound crashed into the horned monster. The creature grasped the Hound in its great meaty paws, crushing his rib-cage.

Sinead gasped. The monster had been almost upon her and now the Hound was fighting to protect her. She longed for her sword; without it she was powerless to assist.

The Hound fought back, jaws tearing into the creature’s shoulder, but the great beast was stronger, hurling him away. The Hound hit the ground hard; his head snapped backwards. The creature moved in, but the Hound was up again. He leapt into the air and the creature charged, horns gleaming savagely.

Sinead turned away. All she could do was run for her life.


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The First of the Final Challenges

A photo of an old silver chalice

Sinead stared up at the depiction of the Maze in which she was trapped. A dark shape was moving near the outer edge. The Hound?

His bark had been a relief. If she’d realised why he’d not touched his food sooner, she might not be imprisoned now. But wasn’t this her challenge from the Prophesy Book? Destiny could not be avoided.

Her eyes searched the images on the ceiling. A silver object glimmered in a small chamber nearby. A silver chalice. She recognised it immediately. It was the Chalice of Earthly Liberation. The fourth sacred artifact.

Sinead took a step backwards and found herself in the passageway. The wall behind her had vanished. She spun around. Moments later she had the Chalice in her hand. Sinead pounded through the Maze, certain of the way out. Finally, thankfully, the archway she remembered loomed ahead.

The Hound awaited her, poised to spring.


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The Maze of Mandoran

Maze Garden by Victor Garcia

Sinead awoke shivering in the darkness. She reached for her cloak but it was gone. Panic rising, she felt for the Sword of Elshain, but it was gone too. Then she remembered. She’d either been drugged or enchanted.

The room grew brighter. Stone walls encased her in a small chamber. No window. No door.

Not all is as it seems. Was this an illusion?

She looked up. A picture was forming on the ceiling as if painted by an invisible hand. It was a depiction of a maze. In the centre was a tiny figure enclosed within a solid wall. Sinead rose to her feet, not taking her eyes off the ceiling. The tiny figure moved too.

This must be the Maze of Mandoran; the first of the four final challenges.

She heard a dog barking. The Hound was calling to her! All she had to do now was escape.



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Unto Slumber

pic shows a young woman asleep

Tarron laid a hand on Moonsprite’s neck. ‘She will come with me.’

Sinead began to protest, but the elderly elf spoke: ‘The challenge is for you alone. Fear not, she will be safe.’ Tarron whispered in Moonsprite’s ear and the unicorn whinnied softly.

‘The Hound will accompany you.’ Tarron removed the great beast’s leach. The Hound stood up and shook himself.

‘The Prophesy Book!’ Sinead reached for Moonsprite’s saddlebag.

‘It will be of no help to you in the Great Maze,’ said Tarron. ‘Now go.’

The Hound at her side, Sinead stepped through the archway. The chamber lit up before them. People were feasting, there was music and laughter. Someone led her to a table and gave her meat and bread; people nodded and smiled. The Hound was given food too. Sinead ate with relish but the Hound didn’t touch his bowl. As she slipped into unconsciousness, she realised why.


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