Series Introduction: Tadhg and the Seven Dragons is a series of short stories built around an eleven-year-old boy named Tadhg (pronounced ‘Taig’), who was given the gift of a magical amulet one Halloween night. Little did he know the amulet housed the ancient spirit of a dragon named Greatwing. Tadhg must help Greatwing find the six other amulets and free the dragons within before the demonic ‘Others’ force open the portal between the worlds and destroy them all.
Thunder rumbled somewhere in the distance, and rain pelted down against the window pane, rattling the glass and making Tadhg open his eyes. He had been sitting on his bed for over an hour, turning a dragon-shaped pendant over and over in his hand.
Why won’t you speak to me? he thought for the hundredth time.
It was carved in the shape of a green dragon, with a Celtic symbol emblazoned on the wings. As Tadhg looked at it, the dragon’s eyes sparkled mischievously with a strange inner fire just as they had the first night when he received the amulet as a gift from Miriam, the lady at the end of his street. She had given him the amulet on Halloween night, when he and his friend had been bullied by his friend’s older brother. That night when Tadhg had whispered the dragon’s name, a torrent of wind had created a giant dragon out of air and leaves that had saved Tadhg and his friend from their tormentor, and then abruptly vanished. That had been almost a year ago. Although Tadhg had called the dragon’s name again and again, nothing happened.
As Tadhg looked out the window into the stormy night, lightning forked downward and with a thunderous crash his room lit up with a flash. He jumped backwards as a dark shape on the window sill was illuminated. His heart pounding, Tadhg realized there was a large black tabby cat perched on the edge of the window looking in at him.
The cat flattened its ears, clearly perturbed, and pointed a paw at the lock on the window. Tadhg quickly unlatched the window and raised it enough for the cat to jump down on his desk, the cold rain spattering across his unfinished homework.
“It is about time!” hissed the cat as it shook itself dry.
Tadhg whirled about, his mouth open, staring at the rather soggy feline.
“Of course I talk,” the cat muttered in an annoyed tone as he continued to groom himself.
“How else do you think my companion and I communicate?”
Tadhg had first met Dreyfus the night he had been given the amulet by Miriam, Dreyfus’ owner. He knew everyone in the neighborhood thought Miriam was ‘different’ and he noticed how she always kept to herself. But he had no idea her cat could talk!
“I thought you were never going to let me in,” said Dreyfus. “I’ve been on that windowsill getting drenched and freezing my tail off for twenty minutes!”
“I, um… I’m sorry…” fumbled Tadhg, still not sure if he was dreaming or not.
“Never mind,” said the cat as he sat on his haunches and curled his tail around his body. “What is important now is that you listen very carefully to what I have to say.”
Tadhg sat down on the edge of his bed, staring in disbelief at the large black cat.
“My mistress and I are leaving,” said Dreyfus as he used his front paws to smooth down his fur. “We have stayed far too long in this place, and we have to go now before the Others find us.”
“Wait, what?” asked Tadhg in shock. “What do you mean Miriam is leaving? Is she in trouble? Others? Who are the others?”
Dreyfus laid his ears flat and held up a paw to silence the boy.
“Quiet!” he snapped. “I do not have time to explain everything; simply understand this: It is now up to you to help the dragons.”
“Help the dragons? What dragons? You mean my amulet?” he asked as he held up the shimmering talisman.
“Yes,” sighed Dreyfus, clearly annoyed with the young man. “You will have learned by now your amulet contains the spirit of a dragon, an ancient and powerful creature whose kin once ruled the skies.”
“The dragon appeared that night when I whispered his name, but ever since then he won’t respond,” said Tadhg with a shrug of his shoulders. “I don’t understand – I’ve tried again and again by saying his name, but he never appears.”
“He will appear or speak to you whenever he is ready,” the cat chided. “Dragons are not to be rushed, young one.”
A flash of lightning lit up the room again and the entire house shook as thunder rumbled, closer than it had before. A loud pop sounded outside as an electrical transformer exploded, and the light on Tadhg’s desk went dark as the electricity went off. A few moments later the lamp flickered back to life, and Dreyfus was nowhere to be found. Tadhg jumped to the window and looked down towards the street below, but could see nothing in the pouring rain. Sitting back down by the desk, he stared at the amulet in his hand and wondered how he could talk to a dragon.
“Tadhg! Tadhg, wake up! You’ll be late for school!” came the sound of his mother’s muffled voice through his bedroom door. Groaning, he rolled over and looked at the clock, which was still flashing the wrong time after last night’s power outage. He jumped out of bed and threw on his jeans from the day before; grabbing a shirt he found lying next to the bed, he stumbled out the door while pulling on his shoes. He ran downstairs and out the back door, grabbing his backpack as he ran and yelling goodbye to his mother. By the time the door slammed shut, he was already halfway down the block.
Tadhg skidded to a halt and looked around, searching for the source of the deep, sonorous voice that had echoed around him.
“You can stop searching, youngling, I am right here.”
A chill ran down Tadhg’s spine as he realized the voice was coming from inside his head!
“That’s right, young Master Tadhg, I can speak to you in your thoughts – when I choose to do so.”
“G-g-g-greatwing?” stammered the boy aloud, as he looked around to make certain no one was watching him. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the amulet. It was warm to the touch, and as Tadhg watched, the bejeweled eye of the dragon winked at him.
“You can talk!” shouted Tadhg, so excited he almost dropped the amulet.
“Lower your voice! Of course I can talk!” snapped the dragon.
“But, where have you been? Why haven’t you answered me before now?” Tadhg asked, becoming irritated at the thought of how long he had been trying to contact the dragon.
“I was not ready,” said the dragon. “And for that matter, neither were you. You are still little more than a hatchling – I have no idea what that silly sorceress was thinking when she gave you my amulet. ”
“Hatchling? I’m almost eleven!”
The dragon laughed, a deep baritone chuckle echoing through Tadhg’s mind. “Almost eleven? Youngling, I am over three thousand years old. Eleven years is but a blink of an eye for me; eleven years is little more than a catnap for a dragon.”
Angered by the dragon’s laughter, Tadhg threw the amulet as hard as he could. Glittering in the sunlight, the amulet sparkled brightly as a sudden gust of wind blew it back towards him, hitting him squarely in the chest with so much force he stumbled backwards.
“Never do that again, youngling,” rumbled Greatwing, sounding annoyed as his voice echoed deeply in Tadhg’s mind. “I shall not be cast aside so easily as that!”
“Fine,” said Tadhg as he shoved the amulet back into his pocket and began walking towards his school.
“Where are you going?”
“To school,” snapped Tadhg. “It’s what we hatchlings do every day!”
“Not this day, young one,” rumbled Greatwing.
Before the dragon’s voice had stopped echoing through Tadhg’s mind, the sky darkened as clouds appeared out of nowhere. A fierce wind howled down the lane, so strong it made Tadhg stumble. As he covered his eyes with his arm, a sudden gust of wind knocked him backwards. Before he could hit the ground however, he was lifted skyward as leaves and sticks swirled about him.
“AAAIGH!” he screamed, although he instantly regretted it as his mouth suddenly filled with debris being blown about by the wind that carried him aloft.
“Calm down!” roared the dragon in his mind.
Tadhg opened his eyes and saw his house below him receding quickly as he soared higher into the sky. His stomach plunged and his heart raced as he tried not to scream again.
“What is happening??” he thought desperately.
“You should feel honored, youngling,” chortled Greatwing, “for you are flying with a dragon!”
“BUT I DON’T WANT TO FLY!” Tadhg screamed inside his head. He could no longer see the ground now, as puffy white clouds floated gently beneath him like a field of cotton balls.
“Bah!” snorted Greatwing in disgust. “You humans are such fragile creatures. Do not worry, little one, for our destination is not far.”
The whirlwind around Tadhg roared in his ears as they suddenly banked left. Angling downward, Tadhg gasped as they punched through the clouds and dove towards the ground below. The city was gone, and below them were the snow-capped peaks of the Scottish Highlands. They continued downward and Tadhg scrunched up his eyes as the ground rushed up at him. At the last possible moment, the wind changed direction and he slowed abruptly, landing in a large patch of heather.
“UGH!” he grunted as he tumbled across the ground and finally came to a stop lying on his back in the grass. For several moments he did not move, just lying on his back gasping for breath, his eyes wide with fear.
“You must toughen up, little one, if you are to fly with dragons!”
“I ALMOST DIED!” screamed Tadhg, his voice echoing across the field.
“Hmph!” snorted Greatwing. “You did nothing of the sort! I delivered you safe and sound, without a scratch – you should never doubt a dragon!”
Tadhg rolled over in the tall grass and pushed himself upward, swaying slightly as he adjusted to being back on the ground. He shivered in spite of the bright sun overhead, as a cold wind whipped the heather around him.
“Where are we?”
“We are in Scotland. It is time we began the search, little one,” replied Greatwing.
“Search? Search for what?”
“My kin. Now that the Others are on the move, we must find my six cousins, for the time has come for us to be freed from this retched curse.”
“I don’t understand,” said Tadhg with a frown. “You mean there are more dragons like you? And what do you mean a curse?”
“It is a long story, little one,” sighed the dragon. “Head for that mountainside to your right and I will tell you the story as you walk.”
Tadhg looked to his right and could see the cold gray stone of a mountainside rising in the distance. He pulled his jacket more closely about himself and started walking as Greatwing’s voice rumbled in his head.
“Almost a thousand years ago, I and six of my cousins made a pact with a wizard. That was our first mistake; never trust a wizard, for they are a disreputable lot.”
“Why were there seven dragons?”
“The seven of us represented the seven different races of dragon-kind that roamed the Earth. You see, at that time the realm was at war. The wizards had, in their foolish quest for power, unlocked the door between this world and another, and the dark creatures that poured forth were called the ‘Others’.”
“Others?” asked Tadhg as he shivered in the wind. “Were they monsters or something?”
“Of a sort, yes,” said Greatwing. “They are no match for a dragon, of course, but for a human…”
“The Others find the soul of a human to be quite… refreshing. They feed upon your life essence, leaving your body a dried and brittle husk when they are finished.”
“That’s awful!” snapped Tadhg, a chill running down his spine that had nothing to do with the wind.
“Yes, the wizards seemed to think the same as you,” the dragon chuckled. “After fighting against the Others for nearly a year, the wizards became desperate and sought our help. Most of our kind had already departed, having left this dimension for one more interesting, but I and six of my kin remained as caretakers. We helped that meddling Merlin to seal the void, but in the chaos that ensued after the portal was closed, we were double-crossed.”
“Merlin?! You mean Merlin the wizard from King Arthur’s court? What happened?”
“Yes, THAT Merlin,” snorted the dragon in disgust. “Your story books have been far to kind to his memory. He was a second-rate wizard and an underhanded cheat. When the portal between the dimensions collapsed, he harnessed the energy that was released and placed a curse on us, trapping the seven dragons that had risked their lives to help him. Never trust a wizard, young one.”
“You mean that’s why you are trapped in an amulet?”
“Correct. We were each trapped in an amulet or similar talisman, which the conniving magician then scattered to the four corners of the Earth. Miriam found me in Ireland, and has been researching the whereabouts of my brothers and sisters ever since.”
“But what happened to the Others?”
“Most of them were sucked back across the dimensions and banished into their own realm when the portal collapsed.”
Tadhg stopped walking as a thought struck him out of nowhere. “Wait… Most of them?”
“Yes, young one. Most, but not all. A few found a way to stay in this realm, where they have managed to survive by terrorizing those of your race. Now they have found a way to crack open the portal, which is why we are here.”
“You mean to find another dragon?”
“We must find and free my kin, so we may seal the void once and for all. If we fail, it will only be a matter of time before the Others can open it wide enough to allow the rest of their race to pour forth once again.”
“So that is what Dreyfus meant when he said the Others were on the move?” asked Tadhg with a gulp, the thought of his life essence being devoured causing him to feel sick.
“Yes, young one, but I’m afraid it is worse this time.”
“Worse?” asked Tadhg, his eyebrows arching high in surprise as he started walking again, this time faster. He was beginning to feel exposed out in the open, and was wishing for a tree or a large rock to hide behind.
“There are those of your race who have made a pact with the Others. They allow them to feed on their essence, but only a little bit, in exchange for control over dark magic that humans should not meddle with.”
“They feed on them??”
“Like a parasite. You see most people cannot see the Others, as they are spirits whose forms shift and move, and avoid the light. But if you are observant, you can spot a human host.”
“How?” asked Tadhg, the icy fingers of fear crawling upward from his stomach.
“There are two ways,” said Greatwing in a matter-of-fact tone as if he were teaching a class. “First, the human host will not cast a shadow, for the Other that is feeding on him obscures it and bends the light around him. Secondly, the host’s eyes are entirely black with no white and no color – like two black stones that can see into your soul.”
Tadhg looked around as he walked, a feeling of dread washing over him as he scanned the horizon, hoping no one was following them. The knee-high grass had given way to sparse evergreens as he approached the side of the mountain. The dark face of the granite cliff loomed high above him like a skyscraper, but down the middle he now saw a dark scar on the side of the mountain he had not noticed before.
“You have guessed correctly, youngling,” rumbled Greatwing. “The cave is where we should find Stoneclaw.”
“Stoneclaw?” gulped Tadhg.
“He is an Earth dragon, or ‘Terra Draconis’ for he does not have wings like me. He loved to tunnel deep into the mountains. He was named ‘Stoneclaw’ by the humans for his talons, which are as hard as granite and can gouge a hole in a mountain.”
Tadhg paused as he finally reached the mouth of the cavern. The crack in the mountainside was actually a deep cavernous opening, the entrance to which was easily big enough to drive a train through.
“Go, young one,” prodded Greatwing. “We do not have much time.”
“But it’s dark!” Tadhg protested. “How am I supposed to see?”
“Just cast a light charm,” snorted the dragon, his voice dripping with impatience.
“What?” asked Tadhg incredulously? “How do I cast a charm? I’m not a magician!”
“Are you so certain, young one?” asked Greatwing. “Miriam chose you for a reason, you know. Try holding my pendant and concentrate, then say the word ‘Solas.’”
His heart beating with excitement, Tadhg clasped the pendant tightly and spoke the charm.
With a flash, a bright orb of light flared into existence, hovering just ahead of and slightly above Tadhg’s head. The pale white light illuminated the cavern’s entrance, casting eerie shadows around the boy.
“OH MY GOSH I JUST DID MAGIC!” Tadhg shouted excitedly, and immediately regretted it as his voice reverberated off of the cavern walls.
“Well, there certainly won’t be any need to announce ourselves, will there?” rumbled Greatwing dryly.
Tadhg could feel the heat rising in his cheeks and he swallowed hard as he walked deeper into the cave, ignoring the dragon in his head. As he trudged deeper into the cavern, the ball of light followed, hovering just a few feet above his head. Looking around, Tadhg could see the smooth gray walls of the cave on either side, but the ceiling was lost in the darkness high above. After several minutes, the path finally ended at an archway carved into the stone of the mountain. As he approached, fiery runes scrawled across the sealed doorway and as Tadhg watched, letters appeared in the stone.
“Whoa!” said Tadhg without thinking, as he watched the spidery writing crawling across the stone. “What is that?”
“It’s that meddlesome Merlin,” sighed the dragon. “He has sealed the door with a locking charm that will only open if you answer the two riddles correctly.
Tadhg leaned in and examined the glowing letters on the rough stone surface, as he read the first riddle aloud.
“If you look at the numbers on my face, you won’t find thirteen anyplace,” he muttered. “What does it mean Greatwing?”
Tadhg’s question was greeted with silence. Puzzled, he slipped his hand beneath his shirt and felt the dragon pendant, lying against his chest. The metal was slightly warm and pulsed with a life of its own, almost like a heartbeat, but the dragon did not answer.
“Greatwing?” he asked, his voice echoing slightly in the cavern. “Greatwing? Why won’t you answer me?”
Stupid dragon, thought Tadhg. Fine! I’ll solve it myself.
As he stared at the glowing letters of the riddle, Tadhg tried to think of what the riddle could mean. If something did not have a thirteen, that must mean the numbers stop at twelve. But what has a ‘face’ with numbers on it? Tadhg smiled as he thought of his recent visit to London when he got to see Big Ben and hear the chimes.
No sooner did he finish speaking than a deep rumbling sound shook the cavern, as stone ground against stone. The letters of the first riddle went dark, and Tadhg could hear a loud clicking sound as if a giant tumber was sliding into place.
The letters of the second riddle flared brightly, as if to remind Tadhg they were there, waiting for his answer.
“If you have me, you want to share me. If you share me, you haven’t got me,” he said as he traced the words with his index finger.
He waited just a moment, but there was still no response from the petulant dragon. As he stared at the letters, Tadhg suddenly became aware of a new sound in the cavern; the steady, rhythmic sound of a ticking clock. He swallowed hard and tried to ignore the noise as he focused on the riddle in front of him.
What do I have that I want to share?
Before he could think of an answer, there was a loud grinding sound in the passageway behind him. He whirled around just in time to see a stone slab sliding across the tunnel and sealing him inside the chamber. His heart began pounding and he tried not to panic, but the strange ticking sound was louder now, and he felt like he was inside of some giant clockwork. Tadhg knew it must be his imagination, but it seemed like the ticking sound was growing louder. As he stared in vain at the glowing letters before him, they began to change color, shifting to a dark red. Icy cold fingers of panic began creeping up his torso as his mind raced, trying to solve the riddle in front of him.
I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know! he thought frantically, as he started to panic.
Without warning, the ticking suddenly stopped with a final resounding “TOCK!” and the floor beneath his feet vanished, plunging him into darkness below.
“Ow! My head!” groaned Tadhg as he rubbed the back of his head with his hands. As his eyes adjusted to the dim light, he struggled into a sitting position on the rough stone floor. He looked around but could see very little in the dim light. A pale wisp floated high above, providing just enough light for Tadhg to see that he was in some sort of pit, the light from the wisp forming a rectangle high above him.
“You hit your head pretty hard when you landed,” came a soft, timid voice from somewhere in the darkness.
Tadhg looked around and could just make out a dim silhouette across the room. It was huddled in the corner, the light too faint for him to make out any details.
“W-w-who are y-y-you?” he asked, as he tried to ignore the stabbing pains in the back of his head and struggle to a standing position.
“My name is Duana,” said the quiet little voice. “The answer is ‘secret,’” she said softly, her voice little more than a whisper that Tadhg could barely hear.
“What? What is a secret?” he asked in a puzzled tone.
“That was the answer to the riddle,” she said. “If you have a secret, you want to share it, but if you share it, then you no longer have it.”
“But if you knew the answer, why are you down here?”
“I didn’t know it at first,” she said with a sniffle. “I figured it out over time.”
As Tadhg moved closer he could see her shoulders shaking, and he could hear soft sobs as she started to cry.
“What’s wrong?” he asked as he forgot his fear and crouched down next to her. Sitting on her knees, Duana appeared to be about his age with straight, jet black hair that fell down past her shoulders. He could see in the dim light she was wearing jeans and a dark sweater, as she cried softly into her sleeve.
“I tried…” she sobbed. “I tried to tell you the answer but you couldn’t hear me. I knew when I heard the ticking sound you were going to be trapped down here just like me!”
“You tried to help me?”
“The floor above us is see-through,” she said as she sniffled again and wiped her nose. “I could see you standing at the wall, and I could tell you didn’t know the answer.”
Tadhg stood up and reached down, taking her by the arm to help her stand. Her pale skin glowed in the dim light and he could see streaks from the tears running down her face.
“I’m Tadhg,” he said. “Thanks for trying to help me.”
She smiled at him as she wiped her eyes. “I just wish it had worked. Now you’re trapped down here too.”
“There has to be a way out,” he said, frustration rising in his voice as he looked around their tiny prison.
“There is only one way out,” Duana said in a flat matter-of-fact tone. “There is a final riddle carved into the rock on that wall.”
She snapped her fingers as she spoke, and a bright wisp flared to life, illuminating the far wall.
“Whoa!” gasped Tadhg, as he backed away from the girl. “You can do magic?”
“Of course I can do magic,” she said as she cocked her head to one side, looking at him as if he had just asked her why she had two eyes. “Can’t you?”
“Well… Um… Sure,” he stammered, not sure what to think.
Duana walked past him and began running her fingers along the words etched into the wall. As Tadhg watched, the characters sprang to life with an inner fire and began to glow brightly.
To lie at your feet,
All day I follow
No matter how fast you run,
Yet I nearly perish
In the midday sun.
Tadhg read the riddle and closed his eyes, trying to discern its meaning.
What do I see at my feet in the morning? Shoes? No that can’t be it…
He thought harder, his brow furrowed in concentration as he tried to picture what the riddle meant.
No matter how fast I run it follows me… but it disappears… in the midday sun!
Tadhg’s eyes snapped open and a grin spread from ear to ear as he realized he knew the answer.
“SHADOW!” he shouted as he raced over to the wall.
No sooner had he yelled the word than there was a blinding flash of light, and the sound of stone grinding on stone as the floor of their chamber began rising. As they slowly reached the surface, he realized the original wall that had blocked the cavern was now gone, and an illuminated path led downward into the mountain. The grinding sound slowly stopped, and they quickly ran forward to get away from their stone prison. Stopping just a few yards down the path, Tadhg looked over at Duana and realized something.
“Why are you here?” he asked, as he suddenly felt a tingling sensation under his shirt from the pendant hanging around his neck and wondered why Greatwing had stopped speaking to him.
“The same reason you are,” she said as she looked up at him. “I came to find the dragon.”
“You… you came for the dragon?” stammered Tadhg, not sure what to say. The pendant hanging against his skin sparked as it gave him a mild shock.
“Be careful young one! Do not be too quick to trust her!”
“Greatwing! Where have you been? Why would you not answer me?!” Tadhg thought angrily.
“I could not, young one. It was that meddlesome wizard Merlin – he cursed the doorway to prevent me from helping you. You did well, young Tadhg; Miriam has chosen well.”
“Tadhg?” ask Duana as she tugged at his sleeve. “Are you alright? You were just staring into space.”
“Oh, um, sorry… yeah,” he stuttered.
“You were talking to your dragon, weren’t you?” she asked, as a knowing smile slowly crept across her face.
“Oh come on,” she said. “How else could you get to this place in the middle of nowhere? You must be a keeper.”
“One who has been chosen to carry a dragon amulet,” she said with a roll of her eyes. “Honestly! And I thought you were clever after you solved that riddle.”
Tadhg watched as she reached under her sweater and pulled a shimmering amulet out from underneath the woolen garment. The amulet was similar to Tadhg’s, but frosty white in color with silver glyphs, and two sapphires for the dragon’s eyes.
“This is Frostbite,” said Duana proudly. “She is a Frigis Draconis, or ice dragon. She says I should be careful, but that I should be able to trust you because you are a Keeper too.”
“Cool!” whispered Tadhg as he admired the amulet in her hand. He pulled the string hanging around his neck and lifted his amulet from beneath his shirt. “This is Greatwing,” he said proudly.
“Your dragon,” she said quietly as she studied Tadhg’s amulet. “He is a storm or wind dragon!”
“She has been schooled by someone very knowledgeable of my kind, young one. Do not be too trusting.”
But she has a dragon too, Tadhg snapped, irritated with Greatwing’s mistrust of his new friend. Tucking the amulet back under his shirt, he looked at the dimly lit passageway in front of them.
“We should probably go,” he said as he started trudging down the slight incline.
Without a word, Duana quietly followed behind him, the sound of their footsteps echoing off the walls. After what seemed like an eternity, the floor of the cavern leveled out and they came to an archway. Tadhg slowly edged toward the opening and looked into the room beyond. The walls on the inside of the room curved off into the distance, making the room look impossibly large. Flickering red wisps floated at intervals along the wall, casting an odd fiery pallor across everything. In the center of the room a set of steps led up to a stone pedestal, illuminated by what looked like a shaft of sunlight coming from somewhere high above. The pedestal was covered in thick green moss, and at the center a flint gray amulet spun quietly in the light.
“Stoneclaw!” Greatwing’s voice rumbled through Tadhg’s mind, its power causing his temples to pound. “Quickly, young one, we must grab my brother’s amulet and flee before we are discovered!”
Tadhg ran quickly to the center of the room and bounded up the steps. Without thinking, he reached into the shaft of light and took the amulet. Carved from stone, it was covered in shimmering black runes and felt rough and warm in his hands. As he turned it over and over in his hands, the shaft of sunlight widened, encompassing the entire platform.
“Terra Draconis!” said Duana excitedly as she marveled at the amulet in his hands.
In his haste, Tadhg had almost forgotten she was there. Before he could stop her, she darted forward and grabbed the stone amulet, a spark jolting through Tadhg’s hands as they brushed against hers. The shock of electricity left his arms tingling, and he stared at her in surprise. As she looked at him and smiled, his blood went cold as he saw her for the first time in the light. Another bolt of electricity shot from her fingertips and knocked him backwards, and the last thing he remembered seeing before he lost consciousness were her big, dark, completely black eyes staring at him, like two black stones peering into his soul.