In a remote part of the Verulean Highlands lies a large pond that should attract Water dragons but doesn't. It is an ancient artificial pond with water enriched by running through magical crystal caves. Old Master Tolson had told Rudna about it when she was an apprentice. He had found a medieval manuscript in the Veroia library telling of a Lady Ami'Lya who would someday come to the pond and call forth a leader in time of need, and that the Water dragons were saving the pond for her.
He and Rudna had found local Greeks who told a tale of a Lady Amica who would come from the water with a magician, and a Macedonian version in which a magician foretold that a Lady Amilica would someday come to the pond bringing magical creatures.
When Rudna told the other wizards she was taking the children to the pond the next weekend, Bixby objected. “PonytailGirl really wants to go,” she answered. “I promised the children a long time ago. It's the last of the excursions we planned when we started hunting the shrines.”
“But not at a time like this!” he cried. “We need your help reading that calendar stone. You're our expert on ancient writing.”
“European writing,” she answered, “not Mayan. Anyway, I don't think you need to worry about it.”
“I'm not the only one who's worried,” he argued. “Tim thinks there's a link with the mythic volcano Garita. That calendar comes to the end on December 21. The Maya knew something would happen!”
“They didn't know anything of the sort. Their calendar rolls over like an odometer.”
“The calendar comes to an end, the world comes to an end,” said Tim. “Garita goes off, BOOM!”
“And Apocalypse dragons?” asked Lewis. “They appeared when Garita erupted before. Will they come again?”
“They look just like Mayan carvings,” said Olivine. “There must be a connection.”
“I'm going to go watch it,” Tim decided.
“Rudna is right,” said Mohs, “and Garita is extinct. It won't erupt again.”
“Well, now,” mused Dalfgan, “maybe I'll go with you to see the volcano, Tim. I'll bring my astrolabe and we can take a peek at the old eruption even if it doesn't go off again.”
“Not that thing!” exclaimed Rudna. “It'd better not turn out that you're the one who set it off!”
“No, no, of course not.” Dalfgan soothed. “Maybe I”ll bring it when we visit the pond.”
The children were excited for the visit. “Do you think we'll see Lady Ami'Lya come?” asked PonytailGirl.
“Why can't we just bring dragon eggs and stock the pond ourselves?” asked BlazeDragon.
“You can ask Master Tolson about it,” Rudna answered. “He's coming too.”
“Your old master? He's coming?” asked Spiderdog.
“Is he older than Mohs?” asked Bending Chalice.
“About,” conceded Rudna. “Don't you all get him too tired. He's coming to see if you are ready to be apprentices.”
“Apprentices!” Spiderdog jumped. “Like Jedi apprentices?”
“No, like wizard apprentices. You mind what I say.” After that the children could not rest at all.
“I didn't know we could be apprentices. Do you tell us what element we are?” BlazeDragon wondered.
“Do we have to live here?” Bending Chalice asked.
“No, no,” Rudna answered. “You'll just take lessons. People usually don't become apprentices until they are sixteen. You children are extra young. And no one tells you your element. You have it naturally. You just have to figure out what you are good at.”
The Ami'Lya pond was a beautiful marble-lined pond lying in a meadow, some distance from a stream that ran across the small plateau and dropped off the far side in a cataract. The children brought their families and had a picnic. Dickinson and Tessa showed them fish and frogs in the stream, though there were no animals in the pond; dragons or anything else. Master Tolson talked a little with the four candidates and then told the parents that if they were willing, the children could be made apprentices when Dickinson was made a master, at the DragonVale grand opening.
“There is a wizard school in the United States,” he told them. “You could work with their teachers, or go on with the DragonVale staff until the children turn sixteen. They have said they would be willing to do that.”
Bixby and Lewis tried to break up the party to go work on the Mayan calendar problem, but Dalfgan set up his astrolabe and began to take sightings with it. “We're at the pond today,” he ruled. “Let's study it. Don't keep dragging that calender up. It's not a danger. Well... I don't think we can watch Lady Amica come. The astrolabe can't show anything that hasn't happened yet. I'll try to get a sighting on whatever started these stories about the pond.”
“Try to see who built it,” suggested PonytailGirl. “It's funny there's a marble pond out in the middle of nowhere. I like these water lilies. They are different from the ones Kroll has; I bet he'd like one.” She and Spiderdog waded in to dig one up for him. Spiderdog got wet trying to find all the roots, and found himself being pushed out of the water.
“Wait!” he shouted. “I haven't gotten it all yet. LADY!” Sure enough it was Lady, who showed up once again to help when she thought they needed her. “Well hi, you! You are really our friend, aren't you?”
“Friend?” Dalfgan began. “Amica is-”
“He's soaked,” said Olivine. “We really do need to go back now.”
“We have to stay here!” PonytailGirl objected. Lady nudged her forward.
“Children don't understand,” said Olivine.
“Please, Master Olivine” said PonytailGirl. “It's important! I know it!”
“We're wasting our time,” said Bixby.
“Why do you think Lady is here?” PonytailGirl persisted.
“Amica is Latin for Friend, and Lady is the-”
“Let's go, Bixby,” Lewis interrupted Dalfgan.
Suddenly the astrolabe began to spark and emit streams of smoke. The water sloshed and PonytailGirl and Spiderdog were carried up in a giant wave. When it came down again, the children found they were being held together by someone else, and all three of them were being pushed out of the water by Lady. “Oh! Aah! Who are you?” PonytailGirl sputtered as a strange man set her and Spiderdog down on the edge of the pond. The sparks and smoke began to clear.
“TORBIN!” Dalfgan and Lewis exclaimed together.
“Torbin!” Dickinson came running through the crowd and grabbed him by the shoulders. “Torbin! What's going on! Where've you been?”
When all the shouting and exclamations died down, Torbin explained that the Python statue had picked up his portal experiment with the fused crystals and sucked him into the Greek world. He had despaired of ever getting back home until he thought of doing something that would attract the attention of his friends and get them to trigger a return. “I made a wall carving at the Delphi shrine,” he said, “but I didn't know if it would survive, so I built the magical pond and spread stories about it.”
“Did you start the one about Thornbark?” asked PonytailGirl.
“No,” he laughed. “That one pretty well started itself. “A lot of people saw me appear and watched the dragons on the other side of the rift.”
“And as for Lady Amica,” Dalfgan finally got to say, “Amica is Latin for Friend. Lady is the Friendly Monster from Cyprus and certainly qualifies in my book for being our Lady Friend. Or Lady Amica.”
“So is Lady the new leader?” asked Bending Chalice.
“She isn't the leader, she calls for a leader,” answered BlazeDragon.
“Then is it Torbin?” asked Spiderdog.
“Well,” said Dalfgan. “I think it's more likely to be PonytailGirl. We'll let her work her way up to master and then we'll see.”
On December 21 the wizards assembled to watch for any disasters that might happen in connection with the end of the calendar. One group went to the the Mayan lands in Mexico. They had a quiet day. The other group went to the Garita caldera in Colorado. They started a small earthquake and accidentally brought an Apocalypse dragon up from the past, but things could have been worse. Fortunately Mohs had been on the watch and brought a flock of Earth dragons to quiet things down. They really are very calm dragons.