Heart of Avalon

Heart of Avalon, Epilogue: Shocking Revelations Galore!

After that last boss battle, the Dark Sorceress returns to her brand spanking new, still under construction lair, which I hope ends up being a dungeon the party has to trudge through on their way to the Very Definitely Final Dungeon. Or maybe it’s the new Very Definitely Final Dungeon, and Avalon ends up being rather dull and uninteresting in comparison.

Anyway, the Dark Sorceress just got a new delivery at her new lair: cages full of invisible phantom wraiths shadow creatures. Yep, she’s definitely populating the dungeon with crazy powerful invisible (unless you cast, like, True Sight or something) magic-devouring creatures that would only show up in the final third of a video game just to hike the difficulty level way up. And it’s all Emily’s fault, because the weaving she made during the tutorial trap attracted them.

The Dark Sorceress then enters the lair proper, the main attraction of which is a silver throne because the Sorceress wants to rule over the Magic Web, blah blah blah. She reveals in her inner monologue that she escaped from the boss battle so the party would think they defeated her. In the original edition, the sorceress muses on the risks of leveling up:

Entering the room at the end of the hallway, she moved to the seeing pool set in the polished black floor. Reflections from the water sent patterns of light dancing across the walls.

The mages were powerful — Level Two now. But she knew better than anyone that the more magic that one used, the more one needed to fill the hole left inside. That could be used against them.

So now that the party has leveled up, they could become addicted to magic? Does this also explain why the Dark Sorceress desires magic? And will the party end up like her?

The new edition suggests something even more sinister:

She had accomplished what she had set out to do: help the healer become a Level Two mage. Each mage had to be Level Two; it was required for what was about to happen. The remaining crystals were incredibly powerful, made even more so by the twisted dark forces unleashed on that fateful day long ago.

That’s right: the Sorceress wanted the party to level up! And the Sorceress knows exactly what will happen to the party next, probably because she already attempted this quest before. And it turns out that some of the Power Crystals were tainted somehow. But what dark forces did the Dark Sorceress unleash, and where did they come from?

The Sorceress then enters one of the rooms in her new lair, at last revealing the fate of a certain absent mentor figure. Originally, the Sorceress uses the scrying pool mentioned in the excerpt above:

She had touched the redheaded healer’s mind and tested her abilities to weave magic, with astounding results. It shouldn’t have been a surprise. After all, the Spider Witch had once been a healer herself.

If Avalon truly existed, as the Fairimentals believed, then she would not risk that power falling into the Spider Witch’s web. And if these mages were destined to open the gates of Avalon, she had to get the rest of the crystals into their hands, and fast.

With a long claw, she swirled the pool’s dark water thoughtfully.

It was unexpected that one of the power crystals had turned into a living creature. Even a magic master like her could not predict what such concentrations of animal magic would do.

One thing she knew for certain. When the mages discovered the secrets of the remaining crystals, they were going to wish they had never gotten involved with magic. Only the wizard that designed them would know how to control their powers.

With a sweep of her arm, she conjured her dark magic. The seeing pool shimmered in colors as the air warped. Reaching into the dream state, she lashed out, taking control of the one who would serve her.

Across time and space, in another world, Henry Gardener awoke with a start, eyes blazing red. Shackled in his prison of black ice, the wizard rose to his feet. Every joint in his body ached from his spellbound slumber.

“It is time,” a cold voice sliced through his mind. “I have need of you, old friend.”

So all healer mages can weave magic? And the Dark Sorceress still wants to help the party open the Gates of Avalon? (Note that she still says if Avalon exists: remember, she failed the test at the Gates in the original edition.) And Henry Gardener is trapped somewhere (possibly the Otherworlds) and is now being mind-controlled by the Sorceress? And he created the Power Crystals? And he used to know the Dark Sorceress? Was he a member of the Original Party, then?

For even more fun, check out Gardener’s fate in the new edition:

The mages knew nothing of the true nature of the prophecy. The Fairimentals would never risk telling them.

With a sweep of her arm, she opened the iron door at the end of the hallway, almost giddy with excitement.

Which one would it be? The blazing star’s appetite for magic was nearly as strong as her own. But the warrior’s anger could easily twist into hate. She had tested the red-headed healer’s abilities with astounding results, but emotions made her weak.

It could be any of them. But one thing she knew for certain.

One mage would betray her friends at the Gates of Avalon.

That was the real prophecy.

Striding into the dark chamber, the air seemed to shimmer with color. She smiled at the one who would serve her — help her enter Avalon and complete what she had started.

Sprawled across the bed, Henry Gardener awoke with a start, eyes blazing red. Every joint in his body ached from his spellbound slumber.

“It is time to complete our quest, old friend.” The Dark Sorceress’s cold voice sliced through stagnant air. “The dark mage must arise.”

So the Fairimentals have been very dishonest with the party! And one of the party members — it could be anyone at this point — will become a dark mage and somehow eff up everything! And the Dark Sorceress actually wants to complete the Original Party’s quest, which involves turning a current party member into a dark mage! And she had Henry Gardener sleeping in a bedroom here all this time? (Ack, I don’t want to know what she did to him while he was sleeping!) The new edition still suggests that Gardener was friends with the Original Party, though, which I find to be a very interesting twist.

It looks like bad things await the party in this final stretch of the series….

Next time: But first, my first impressions on Avalon: The Warlock Diaries.

Heart of Avalon, Chapter 19: Unanswered Questions

(If you’re reading the original edition, this is Chapter 17.)

The Wave Fest is back on at Aquatania, and Marlin has a couple important announcements to make. First, Marlin swears to protect the merfolk’s magic. Emily is helping him out with this by using her Aura Sight to match merfolk with sea dragon eggs. Second, Marlin reveals that he’s a dragon rider, and introduces the merfolk to Niva. Together with their dragons, the merfolk will spread magic over Aldenmor, just like they used to.

Marina then shows up and has a very long conversation with the party about the Power Crystals, the Original Party, the Gates of Avalon, and a bunch of other stuff. This conversation is different depending on which edition you’re reading, though. Originally, Kara asks Marina about the other Power Crystals, and if they’re still tainted:

Kara stepped forward. “What about the other crystals in the Jewel Keep?”

“Are they tainted?” Lorren asked.

“When the heart was awakened, the other crystals were healed as well,” the Fairimental explained.

Well, that sure was convenient. And it also proves that all the Power Crystals were tainted by dark magic somehow. The original edition also has this long section that explains what happened to the Power Crystals before the series began:

“Did you take the power crystals from her?” Emily asked.

“No. Beings more powerful than us, the Guardians of Avalon, took the crystals to a hidden island.”

“So it was the sorceress’s magic?” Adriane asked.

Marina continued. “The Dark Sorceress and her allies stored strong magic in nine crystals. The crystals were taken before they could be turned against us. The Guardians allowed you to release that magic to save Aldenmor but the power crystals were wiped clean. They could be tuned either way, for good or evil.”

Emily nodded. “That’s how you became twisted. The sorceress planned it all along.”

“Do the sorceress and Spider Witch know of these Guardians?” Adriane asked.

“They have remained hidden, protecting places of magic along the web.”

“Like the forest sylph of Ravenswood,” Adriane mused.

Marina nodded. “The Guardians wait for you to return the crystals.”

Emily thought of Neerie, the water sylph, waiting for her to bring back the heart. If the Dark Sorceress and Spider Witch didn’t know about these Guardians, maybe the mages had a chance after all.

“Who made the power crystals?” Kara asked.

“That remains a mystery,” Marina said.

Okay … so originally, the Dark Sorceress and her allies (the Original Party?) stored magic in the Power Crystals, but she didn’t create them. And the magic Kara used to purify Aldenmor was actually from the Power Crystals, and not from Avalon. And Orenda was one of the Guardians of Avalon, if Adriane’s guess about her is right.

The old edition’s conversation then goes on to explain what happened to the Original Party when they tried to open the Gates of Avalon. This is the very first mention of the Gates in the original edition:

Marina flowed over the water. “We know that, long ago, the sorceress and her allies tried to open the gates to Avalon. We believe that hidden island is the same gateway. It falls upon you, mages, to succeed where they failed.”

Emily and Marlin exchanged a startled glance. Had they really been at the gateway to Avalon?

“We’ll find the other crystals,” Tasha exclaimed, proudly displaying her magic meter.

Okay, that wasn’t quite as descriptive as I thought. Anyway, here’s how that same conversation goes in the new edition:

“The prophecy has foretold that three mages will find the home of all magic. Many have tried to find Avalon but none have succeeded.”

Adriane’s wolf stone flashed silver. “What makes us so different?”

“Even without a mentor, you have all learned what it means to be a mage.” Marina flowed over the water. “You must use nine power crystals to open the Gates of Avalon and reweave the web with Avalon’s magic.”

“What if we can’t?” Kara asked worriedly.

“The web is almost gone. You are the last hope, the last mages.”

Emily, Kara, and Adriane exchanged a startled glance.

“So it’s all up to us,” Emily said softly.

“What about the crystal that you-know-who,” Adriane nodded at the blazing star, “lost?”

Kara glared at the warrior. “I’ll find a way to get another one.”

Tasha stepped in. “I’m working on some ideas.”

So the party is the Magic Web’s last great hope for salvation. And at least Tasha’s thinking about how to replace that broken Power Crystal.

Afterwards, Cribby approaches the party and reveals that he bonded with a sea dragon pup of his very own. Kara now wants a dragon, too, so Emily decides to let her help distribute eggs to the merfolk. Jaaran and Kee-Lyn then show up, thank Marlin for saving the dragons, and pledge their allegiance to him.

Emily then notices that Adriane is standing off on her own. Adriane tells her that Zach ran off to ask Moonshadow some questions about his parents. She also seems to notice that Kara’s been acting differently. Oh, and she’s still pissed that Kara amplified Zach’s spells during the last boss battle. In the new edition, Adriane has even more stuff to be pissed about, like why the Fairimentals didn’t tell the party about the Original Party. She is now very suspicious of the Fairimentals because they haven’t been completely honest.

Meanwhile, Kara and Ozzie prove to be sucktastic at dispersing eggs, so Emily decides to ask Adriane to help them out. Adriane refuses and decides to go running with Dreamer instead. Emily casts Aura Sight, and notices that Adriane’s and Dreamer’s auras are the same. She also sees that Kara has a very sparkly aura. Suddenly, Emily starts to share the same concerns as Adriane.

But Emily did learn something today — it’s just different depending on what edition you’re reading. Originally:

And what about her own healing magic? Being a Level Two mage seemed to only offer more questions than answers. What did it really mean to weave magic? Was she really as powerful as the Spider Witch?

She thought of the mermaid’s dark predictions. The healer had experienced a darker side of her powers, just as Kara and Adriane had in the past. Maybe the mermaids had only sensed Emily’s fear — or maybe they were right.

One thing was certain: They had all been changed by the magic. Each of the mages was stronger than she’d ever been before. But using stronger magic meant greater risks, for all of them.

How much would they change in their quest for magic? Could the mages stand strong, together, to face the challenges ahead? Or would they be pulled apart?

Question: when did Adriane ever experience a darker side to her powers? I recall that Kara was confronted with a vision of a Bad Future where she used her powers for evil, and Emily just went through that tutorial trap in this book. Could someone answer this for me, please? Continuing on:

She smiled. Indi could never be a real animal. But, in the end, by choosing to be his true self, he had only become stronger. And in so doing, he had helped Emily choose to accept the truth about her magic.

She was a healer.

And if it hurt to love so much, that was the price she had to pay.

Here’s what Emily learns in the new edition:

The mages had to work together, now more than ever. But instead of bringing them closer, it seemed as if the magic was driving them apart.

[…]

Every animal she had ever touched shone from her heart jewel, reflecting from its gleaming rainbow facets.

Emily was a healer. She would have to deal with pain.

But her magic had the power to transform pain into something far stronger: love.

And where there was love, there was hope. No matter what might happen, she had found the true heart of Avalon.

Next time: We finally find out where Henry Gardener has been for the entire series.

Heart of Avalon, Chapter 18: Nice Job Almost Breaking It, Emily

(If you’re reading the original edition, this is Chapter 16.)

Suddenly, Emily finds herself back on that stupid island! Was this entire book a Trippy Dream Sequence? Or was she magically teleported there?

Anyway, Emily senses Indi hiding nearby, but he doesn’t want to come out because he thinks he’s ugly. Emily manages to coax him out, and discovers that Indi now looks like a crystal-animal-blob thing.

Suddenly, someone tells Emily and Indi that she brought them back to the island. A woman made out of water then emerges from the ocean and introduces herself as Neerie, a Guardian of Avalon. Neerie has been waiting for the Heart of Avalon, the most powerful of the nine Power Crystals. Indi is apparently this Heart of Avalon, but he chose to become a unicorn and bond with Emily. The Heart of Avalon needed pure magic in order to shapeshift, and it got that magic by bonding with Emily.

Unfortunately, Indi can’t stay with Emily because he was designed to strengthen all the other power crystals. Emily realizes then that Indi learned something today: pure magic must be given freely, not taken by force.

Indi really wants to stay with Emily, but Emily urges him to become the Heart of Avalon again. So Indi reverts back to his true shape … except he’s now a broken gray heart-shaped rock. (Apparently the Heart of Avalon broke because Indi thought Emily didn’t love him in the original edition). Nice job breaking a Power Crystal, Emily.

Emily is determined to heal the Heart of Avalon; all she has to do is look inside her own heart. This is expanded on in the new edition:

She could live her life trapped with pain and fear, or she could transform, like Indi, and let her heart guide her.

So she weaves her magic with Indi’s, and brings both halves of the heart together. Hooray, Emily restored the Heart of Avalon … but now she’s all sad because she lost her bonded animal. But not to worry: the Heart of Avalon takes the form of a grown male unicorn, and becomes Emily’s paladin. And Emily also gets a Rainbow Jewel +2 to boot! (The Rainbow Jewel +2 is heart-shaped only in the new edition.)

Neerie then explains something very important about healer-type mages. Healers can’t bond with a magical animal, but the reason for that is different between editions. Originally:

“You’ve taught the heart the true meaning of magic — the love between mage and bonded. Your gift is to strengthen that bond between all humans and animals. The way you have bonded with Indi.”

So … Emily amplifies any magic created between mage and bonded animal? That’s kinda lame. Besides, we already have Kara around as an amplifier. This is what Emily’s power is in the new edition:

“Your gift is to bond with all animals.”

Gazing at her paladin, the healer finally understood. It didn’t matter what kind of animal she was working with; she had always been able to heal them, to make magic with every new friend she met. And they were all with her, the colors of their auras swirling brightly in her rainbow jewel.

Neerie smiled. “Let your magic flow and make the bond between all humans and animals as strong as your bond with Indi.”

So Emily can basically use any magical animal she wants because she’s bonded to all of them. That’d come in handy if this was an RPG: you could recruit animals for the party, and just give whatever one you want to Emily.

Now that she knows what her character class does, Emily figures out what to do with the dragon eggs.

Before leaving, Neerie tells Emily how to get to the Very Definitely Final Dungeon: the party has to take all the Power Crystals to this island, which just happens to be the Gates of Avalon (in the new edition). The Heart of Avalon will remain at the Gates so the party can locate them. Indi then creates a portal so that Emily can rejoin the party.

Status Update!
Emily levels up!
Emily learns: Summon Indigo!
Emily bonds with: Indi (paladin version)!
Emily obtains: Rainbow Jewel +2!

Obvious Jewel Riders References:
Tamara’s Heart Stone breaks after Shadowsong sacrifices himself to save the other Jewel Riders. When the two of them bond immediately afterwards, the Heart Stone is restored. Also, in another episode, Gwenevere is transported to a mysterious island in the Wild Magic, where she meets the Lady of the Lake / Spirit of Avalon and obtains the Staff of Avalon. Oh, and Emily now has a Heart Stone of her own.

Next time: Dragons for everyone!

Heart of Avalon, Chapter 17: Hail, Hydra!

(If you’re reading the original edition, this is Chapter 15.)

Every time is a good time for boss time!

Boss: Water Fairimental Hydra
This is what happens when you use a tainted Power Crystal to control a fairimental. Just don’t try to cut a head off. That ain’t a good thing.
Attacks: Consume Magic

So the party decides to start the battle by firing Magic Missiles at the hydra, cutting off two of its heads. Unfortunately, none of the characters have studied Greek mythology, read a comic book, or watched Captain America. I’ll let Red Skull do the explaining:

Sadly, Adriane doesn’t take Red Skull’s advice, and just keeps cutting off more heads with Magic Missiles. This causes the hydra to grow even more heads. As the hydra continues to consume the eggs’ magic, Emily tries to reach Marina, but discovers that the water fairimental has been completely corrupted.

Meanwhile, Lorren runs off to save Tasha from the Sorceress, and Marlin, Ozzie, Cribby, and Emily try to move the eggs out of harm’s way. Kara, Adriane, and Zach cast Shield on the eggs so the hydra can’t attack them. Unfortunately, the hydra decides to attack the shield instead.

So the party decides to focus on the Sorceress instead. Adriane stuns the Sorceress with a few well-placed Magic Missiles, making her drop Tasha’s phone. Dreamer then attacks the Sorceress, and shifts to his mist form to dodge some Magic Missiles. By this time, all the eggs have been moved under the shield.

Emily reasons that she can’t heal the water sickness unless she cures Marina first. Adriane finally realizes that the free Power Crystal she got at the end of the last book was filled with dark magic, which is probably why the Sorceress was able to gain control of Marina. In the original edition, the party even figures out that there may have been something wrong with all the Power Crystals:

“I bet it was tainted.”

“They all could have been tainted,” Ozzie said. “She claims they were her crystals to begin with.”

Emily can’t use the crystal’s power, anyway, because using such strong magic will make the eggs hatch. And we all know what happens when dragon eggs hatch: the dragons will imprint on the first thing they see.

Unfortunately, all the magic from the boss battle is making the eggs hatch anyway. Kara and Adriane want to summon Starfire and Stormbringer, but Emily stops them because the paladins would make all the eggs hatch. However, the party realizes that Zach can control time: he could cast some sort of spell to slow down the Sorceress and the hydra. So Zach casts Slow, but Kara thinks that Slow isn’t good enough, so she grabs Zach’s Dragon Stone and amplifies his spell.

The good news is that Zach cast Time Stop, temporarily freezing the hydra and the Sorceress. The bad news is that the entire party gets pissed at Kara for taking control of Zach’s magic without his permission. And while all this party infighting is going on, Lorren and Tasha suddenly rejoin the party.

Tasha reveals that she crashed downriver after the tutorial trap, and then got mind raped to forget everything that happened between then and entering the caves. Dreamer then shows up to return Tasha’s phone.

And while all that is going on, one of the dragon eggs hatch, and the dragon imprints on Marlin.

Anyway, Emily realizes that she has to weave the magic of all the aquatic creatures on Aldenmor so she can heal Marina. She needs the party’s help, but Kara and Adriane are convinced that their opposing magic frequencies will mess everything up. But not to worry: Tasha has an app for that, and Indi can help the girls balance their magic. So Emily reaches out to every aquatic creature on Aldenmor, weaves their magic together, and uses all that power to cast Empathic Transfer on the hydra. This causes the water sickness to transfer to Emily — but only for an instant, because it suddenly disappears.

And the boss is defeated, and the Sorceress has apparently escaped. Yay!

But of course there are severe consequences for the party’s victory. Indi ended up absorbing the water sickness, which is now consuming him. Emily casts Aura Sight, and discovers that Indi isn’t actually a unicorn. The new edition makes it clear that the water sickness isn’t corrupting Indi’s aura:

At first she thought it was the virus twisting his magic. But when she looked closer, his magical aura didn’t fit the pattern of a unicorn.

Tasha’s phone detects a Power Crystal in the room … and discovers that Indi is the Power Crystal.

And then Indi disintegrates.

Status Update!
Zach learned: Slow and Time Stop!
Emily learned: Empathic Transfer!

Next time: Emily returns to the island.

Heart of Avalon, Chapter 16: Why Is Everything a Trap in This Book?

(If you’re reading the original edition, this is Chapter 14.)

So yeah … the party found dragon eggs. Good for them.

The good news is that a) the eggs are healthy, and b) they’re curing Marlin’s water sickness. Also, they’re sea dragon eggs, so I guess all the sea dragon riders can finally get dragons of their very own. The bad news is that Emily may need to use the eggs’ magic to cure the water sickness, but she doesn’t want to do that because killing unborn dragons is a Bad Thing.

However, someone else thinks that killing unborn dragons and taking their magic is a Good Thing. And by “someone else”, I mean Miranda, the new party member that just appeared out of nowhere. You see, Miranda mind raped everyone into forgetting that she was still a party member, and then followed the party into the Crystal Caves to get the eggs. Also, she has Tasha’s phone, which she obtained when she captured Tasha. Oh, and look — Tasha is with Miranda, too! How convenient.

Kara demands that Miranda let Tasha go, but Miranda decides to use Tasha as a human (goblin?) shield instead. Adriane fires a Magic Missile near Miranda, but this has the unintended effect of making one of the eggs crack! Turns out that sea dragon eggs are super sensitive to magic, and will hatch when they detect strong sources of magic.

Miranda then drops a major reveal on the party: she’s the Dark Sorceress, and she was once a member of a party similar to our heroes’ party. Okay, that’s not a major reveal if you’re reading the new edition, but this was hella shocking when I was reading the original edition. She claims that her friends betrayed her, and the Fairimentals left her with nothing. So she taught herself magic, and now takes whatever magic she wants. Also, she and the Original Party created the Power Crystals by collecting magic, but the Fairimentals hid the Power Crystals so that the current party would be the only ones who could find them.

Zach wonders what happened to the rest of the Original Party. This prompts the Dark Sorceress to drop yet another bombshell: Zach’s parents used to practice the dark arts! This really pisses off Zach.

The Sorceress then admits that she nearly turned Aldenmor into a magical nuclear wasteland because she tried to regain the magic the Fairimentals “stole” from her. In the new edition, she also challenges the party’s knowledge of magic:

“You think you know what using magic is about? Magic will change you and everything you touch. The only way forward is through darkness. But you know that, don’t you, healer?”

Emily flinched. One will see in darkness.

The Sorceress tries to convince the party that having the Spider Witch reweave the Magic Web is bad news for everyone, and then tells Emily that her magic weaving powers may be stronger than the Spider Witch’s.

Suddenly, water rushes into the cave! It turns out that the Sorceress used the tutorial trap to obtain enough magic to complete her own plan! The water then turns into a massive hydra. The Sorceress explains that she needed the Fairimentals to obtain three Power Crystals, and whatever magic Emily gathered, to control Marina, turn her into the water hydra, and corrupt the water elemental magic.

And then the hydra starts smashing eggs and absorbing magic.

Next time: Yep, you guessed it … boss time.

Heart of Avalon, Chapter 15: A Very Uneventful Dungeon

(If you’re reading the original edition, this is Chapter 13.)

The party disembarks from the ex-Fearless Flyer and enters the Crystal Caves. There isn’t much inside other than a small lake, which is kinda disappointing. However, Emily and Dreamer detect magic on the far side of the cave, so they head over in that direction.

On the way over, Marlin starts to feel sick. Emily realizes that Marlin is suffering from the same water sickness as the other magical aquatic creatures.

Dreamer finds a glowing passage in the back of the cave, so the party enters it and discovers another room. This one has waterfalls flowing behind crystal walls, and it’s full of jewels. Except they’re not jewels … they’re dragon eggs.

This may be the last time you hear from me for a while, due to the hurricane. I hope that all my readers on the US East Coast are safe.

Next time: It’s a trap!