Seven years later, Ronan returned. Having fought in countless battles, he had seen too many good men and women die for what many considered a lost cause. Through all those years, only his faith and his promise to a lost goddess kept him going. Now that he had returned, he brought with him a handful of followers who still believed that Jhuntara would someday return. Among these followers was a young priestess named Auriana, his beloved bride. They gathered about in a circle before the unspoiled lake of shimmering water, with Auriana standing in the center to lead them in prayer.
The years had not been kind to Jhuntara. She was growing ever weaker, with only that spark kindled so long ago giving her the determination to stay alive. Now, as she slept, voices filtered down through the depths and into her thoughts.
Prayers. But from whom?
Suddenly, a familiar voice reached her senses and her heart leapt with joy. She slowly awoke as the prayers from her champion found their way to her ears. She rose invisibly from the depths, careful not to let her presence be known just yet. She watched, unseen, as a group of her followers knelt in prayer at the edge of the pond that marked her sanctuary. At the far end of the circle, she spotted Ronan, knelt in prayer with his sword, point down, held before him.
The surrounding forest seemed to suddenly come alive, awakened by her presence. The trees began whispering to her, telling her of the great tragedies that had befallen the realm. The Scaled Horde would have to be defeated, or they would become unstoppable and eventually destroy all other life in the realm. She knew she hadn't the strength alone to do the task that lay ahead. Even with her champion, it would be impossible without the help of an old friend...
She stretched out her mind to find Granimyre, sweeping across plains, oceans, and mountains to his secluded lair. Within the dark cave, a disheartened ancient dragon slept fitfully. From out of the darkness where Granimyre slept, came a soft voice.
"Granimyre," the familiar voice whispered. "Granimyre, my dear friend, wake up..."
That voice. I know that voice ...
He slowly opened his eyes, sleepily trying to focus them. As they finally focused, a soft light began to take shape before him. As the shape turned into an image of Jhuntara, Granimyre awoke with a start.
She smiled weakly at him, "I have found a champion to aid you, one who has returned to me that which I had lost. There is little time...Come to my sanctuary...Hurry..."
He watched as her image faded away, leaving him alone in the darkness of the cave. She had been alive all this time. How could he not have known? For a moment, he felt the pain of guilt return, but he tossed it aside. She had returned, and needed his help. This was his chance to repay her for the sacrifice she made so long ago, and a chance to find the peace of mind he has been denied since then.
With a renewed surge of strength, he climbed from out of his cave, and spread wide his powerful wings. He had stayed away for far too long, and allowed himself to wallow in self-pity and guilt. No more. He would go to the sanctuary, and meet this champion. Anyone who had the strength of spirit to revive the lost goddess deserved no less than his unwavering loyalty. He would not fail, for Jhuntara's sake, and the sake of all those she loved...
Jhuntara watched the prayer group in silence, and felt their payers fill her spirit with renewed energy. Now that she had her champion and her old friend, there was one last thing to do. She reached out and touched Auriana, making her presence known to the young priestess. Auriana was at first overwhelmed, but then allowed Jhuntara's comforting essence to fill her being.
As the others in the prayer group knelt in silence, Auriana's body suddenly went stiff, startling Ronan from his own prayers. He stared in silent amazement as her body radiated a white, ethereal light. Her eyes opened, aglow with the same soft light, and smiled at Ronan. "Welcome, my champion," she gleamed. "I have been waiting for you. It is because of you that I have endured, where I should have been lost to the ages. You have given me so much already, but now I must ask more of you."
For Ronan, there was no mistaking the one he had devoted his service to for so long. Without hesitation, he declared, "Anything, my lady! My life and my sword are yours to the end of my days."
"Your faith and courage is as unending as the power you have rekindled within me. Lend me your sword, that I may give you a gift just as precious..."
As the others stared in silent awe, Jhuntara motioned for Ronan's sword. He obediently gave it to her, and she held it before him. As he knelt, she touched the sword to his shoulder, and a surge of energy flowed through him. He felt his mind becoming clearer, his body becoming stronger, and a profound wisdom filled him. She had given him a part of herself, and it's power coursed through his veins.
Next, she raised the sword up in front of her, and declared to her audience, "All that I am, and all that I love goes with the bearer of this sword. None but the most noble and brave hearts may possess it. From this day forward, my light -- the Light of Hope -- shall shine within it for all Eternity..."
With those words, Jhuntara poured her essence from the priestess into the sword, infusing it with the last of her power. The priestess collapsed to the ground unconscious, still clutching the sword. Ronan rushed to her side, desperately making sure Auriana was unharmed. Her eyes fluttered open, and she sat up slowly in confusion. After a short time spent embracing his beloved, Ronan's gaze fell upon the sword. It seemed to call to him, and he slowly reached over to pick it up. The sword glowed with a soft, white light within his grip, and he felt its power rippling through his arm. It spoke to him in his mind, telling him what was to come. He understood what he must do, and that time would run out for all living things if he failed...