And what a plan Immerald mused to herself, her mind on the centuries that had passed since that council meeting as she soared over forests and rivers far, far below her.  The plan she, Jakkor, and the last of the elder Druids had come up with seemed ridiculous and impossible, but there seemed no other way and at the last it was done.

All the creatures that followed the old ways were to converge on one spot with the last of the Druidic orders.  The combined magics of creatures and humans would be used to create an alternate world, a New World, a haven for those who were hunted in the Old World.  But such an undertaking undoubtedly would have its price.

Several Elders did not survive to see the New World, including Moonstar and Thunderstorm.  The last of the practicing druids were decimated, leaving only a score surviving, and to this day Immerald believed they had gotten off easy.

The creatures exacted their own price from the two druids as well, fearful of being betrayed by members of the race that were driving them from their homes at a time when they would be most vulnerable.  Jakkor and Immerald’s souls were ultimately bound forever to the land they helped to create.  Any harm coming to the land they would feel, and likewise was the ancient dragon Azmodaus bound, for it was his magic that was pivotal to allowing the New World to be created.

So long as Azmodaus’ soul lived, so too would the land survive.  But as no creature could live forever, they took out Azmodaus’ heart and placed it in a jeweled case so that when his time came, the body and mind of the great dragon could pass on, but his soul would remain, protecting the land he created in life.

As for Immerald and Jakkor, their bodies lived and died in the normal lifespan of a human, but their souls were continually reborn will all their accumulated knowledge, a gift from the elders so that they could live to care for the land they helped to create.  Now the two druids cared for the New World and kept the Old World from discovering the New until they could join the two and create One World.

But now the unthinkable was happening.  Azmodeus’ heart, the keystone to the existence of the New World, was dying, and it was calling out to the Caretakers, Jakkor and Immerald.  And they answered.  Soaring over mountains and valleys, the two druids-turned-raptors headed to the First Door, the place where it all began, where the New World was created, and forever joined with the old.

The creatures were understandably hesitant to cut themselves off from the only home they had ever known, so in the beginning there was a myriad of these doors, but as time went by and humanity forgot what was once true, the doors were used less and less, until all but the First were finally closed forever.

By the time the druids had reached the cliff face that held the First Door, they had flown miles across the world, to a desert that lay cold and dark under a full moon and clear sky.  It was on an ochre red ledge that the two falcons landed, and two humans stepped forward towards the seemingly smooth cliff wall.  But with a wave of Immerald’s hand, the veil that hid the Door shimmered and disappeared, revealing a deep, dark tunnel burrowing deep into the cliff.  With only a glance to one another, the pair stepped forward into darkness from the clear night-

-and came out onto another ledge in the bright sunshine of noonday.  The land they came upon was beautiful.  Mountains stretched as far as the eye could see to their left and right, while in between lay miles of fields and forests, meadows and glades, rivers and streams in every shade of green, blue, aqua, and turquoise.

Immerald stepped forward towards the edge, tilted her head back and opened her arms wide, basking in the warmth of the sun.

“We’re home,” she whispered.

Jakkor stood silent, watching the sun turn her hair into molten honey that swayed gently in the breeze.  He heart swelled as he watched her.  This was the usual greeting she gave the New World, but never had her words held so much passion.  Jakkor knew that soon, one way or another, their role as Caretakers would be over.  They were fighting a losing battle, and soon the New World would be totally inaccessible.  He knew that on that day, he and Immerald would finally be able to rest, to spend their lives together as Jakkor had been longing to for centuries.  But so long as they were Caretakers, they could be nothing more between them

Shaking himself from his reverie, Jakkor stepped next to her.  Lowering her arms to her sides, Immerald turned and smiled at him.  Jakkor smiled back.

“We’d best see that’s going on,” he said.

“And we’re here to take you there,” replied a voice beside them.  Turning, they saw two unicorns standing on the trail leading down to the valley.

“Greeting Caretakers,” said one stepping forward.  Immereld saw that the unicorn was an elderly stallion, and his companion was a young mare.  “My name is Daystar, and this is my daughter Morningstar.”

“Greetings to you both, Daystar and Morningstar, children of Moonstar,” Immerald bowed to the pair.  “You honor us, your ancestor died to help create this world.  Your bloodline is a proud and noble one.”

“Thank you Caretaker,” said Daystar, and Immerald could see both him and young Morningstar swell a little with pride at those words.  “But it is you who honor us.  Many stories are told of your dedication to our world, and I hope they are not over estimated.” Daystar’s voice had taken on a gloomy tone.

“What exactly happened Daystar?” asked Jakkor stepping forward.  “Why is the Heart dying?”

“We cannot discuss it here,” said Morningstar in a soft whispery voice. “It is better if you see for yourself.”

“Come,” Daystar said, presenting his flank to the pair. “We will take you.”

Immerald and Jakkor climbed onto the backs of the unicorns and they set off down into the valley.  As the unicorn raced across the valley floor, Immerald reveled in the sensations around her.  The roiling of Daystar’s muscles beneath her as he ran, the wind rushing past and whipping her hair about her face, the blur of greens and flashes of blue as the landscape sped by.

Soon they came to a cave that had been carved into the cliffs.  Jakkor and Immerald dismounted and faced the unicorns.

“We go no further,” said Daystar.  “Enter the cave and continue until you meet Thunderfist.  He will tell you all you need to know.”

Immerald bowed again.  “Thank you for your assistance unicorns,” she said.  “Your generosity will not be forgotten.”  It was not often one got to ride a unicorn, and it was not an event to be taken lightly.

The unicorns bowed in turn to the humans and left them at the cave mouth.  Reading the symbols carved along the sides of the cave, Immerald spoke a Word and the veil of magic that guarded the entrance fell away in a shimmer of light.  With racing heart Immerals started forward, but was stopped by Jakkor’s hand on her elbow.  Looking back at him, they were able to read the fear in each other’s eyes.

Smiling softly, Jakkor stepped beside her and slid his hand down her arm, twining their fingers together and clasping their hands tight.  Immerald smiled weakly back at him, and looking forward they took the first step that would change the rest of their lives.

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