It was late afternoon in the busy little French town of Patrie and the air was filled with the vibrant smells of families cooking their evening meals.
"How was school today, my darlings?" asked Mrs Valmont as her son, Olivier, and daughter, Aveline, dumped their heavy schoolbags under the dining table.
"Just another ordinary day, Mother," Aveline replied. "Nothing new."
"Surely you must have learnt something. You should enjoy your school days. There's so much for you to discover."
"Perhaps," Olivier replied, "but where's the fun if you're only learning about things you already know?"
"Learning French history is so terribly boring," Aveline added.
Their mother gazed at them, stunned. "You find it boring to learn the history of your home country?"
"Yes, we do," Olivier replied, pulling out his notes for the six-page essay that their history teacher had given them. "It would be so much more interesting to learn the histories of other countries."
Mrs Valmont began to add some chopped onions to the curry she was making. "I really do think you two should show more interest in what's happening in your homeland. Events in other countries are no business to a Frenchman."
An hour later, the children were sitting at the dining table, enjoying a wonderful home-made curry.
"Why are you two so interested in the events of other countries?" their mother asked. "Is France not a marvelous nation?"
"Of course it is, Mother," Olivier replied. "There could be no higher honour than to be a Frenchman, but we nothing of the world outside France."
Aveline swallowed a spoonful of curry. "He's right, Mother, we need more stimulation. Many people may not agree, but we believe it's rather important to know what's happening beyond French shores."
"Important for the Government to know, yes, but not for you. At this time in your lives, your knowledge of the world need not extend beyond our land. It's best you stay out of things that don't concern you."
The Valmonts lived in a small two-bedroom house. As darkness approached, Olivier and Aveline changed into their night-clothes, enjoyed cups of warm milk, said goodnight to their mother then made a beeline for their beds.
"Goodnight, Olivier," said Aveline, as she climbed into bed and turned off her lamp.
"Good morning, Olivier. Good morning, Aveline." Mrs Valmont placed bowls of hot porridge on the table.
"Good morning, Mother." The children sat down to eat the breakfasts then filled up their bags and left for school.
To get to school, they had to cross a stream with a little wooden bridge and it was here that they found something rather unusual: a tall stone archway. It shone with gentle pink, blue and green lights.
"I don't remember this archway being here yesterday," said Olivier, investigating the archway.
"Probably because it wasn't here yesterday," Aveline replied, peering at the strange pale orange hologram-type thing that filled the inside of the archway. "I wonder what it's here for."
"Maybe the Government are going to build a church here," Olivier answered. He stepped through the archway, but, to Aveline's horror, he didn't appear on the other side.
Suddenly, Olivier's head re-appeared in the centre of the archway. He had an enormous grin on his face.
"Oh, Aveline! This archway is a magic portal! There's a most extraordinary world on the other side! Do come and see!"
Aveline hesitated for a moment, then dropped her schoolbag on the grass beside Olivier's and jumped through the portal.
On the other side of the portal, the children found themselves in a magnificent palace courtyard. Bench seats made from white marble were dotted here and there and the courtyard was filled with bunches of pretty red, white and yellow tulips.
"Where are we, Olivier?" Aveline asked, looking all around.
"Welcome to Conterra, my friends," said a voice. A girl had suddenly appeared in the courtyard. She had pale blue skin and her black hair shimmered with streaks of gold. However, she had no legs. Instead, she had a long glittering pink snake-tail.
"Hello," said Olivier, cautiously. "Who are you? Where did you say we were?"
"You are in the palace of King Alaric in the land of Conterra," the girl replied. "My name's Princess Patala. I'm a Serpencauda."
Olivier and Aveline felt very confused.
"I'm so happy you've finally come," Patala told them. "We've been waiting so long for you."
"What do you mean?" Aveline asked.
Princess Patala led them inside the palace. "Six months ago a terrible man by the name of Lord Lorcan arrived in Conterra. He brought with him a vast army of goons and proceeded to take control of Conterra, one world at a time."
"So Conterra's made up of lots of separate worlds, is it?" Olivier asked.
"That's correct," Princess Patala replied. "Fourteen in all."
"What does this man want?"
"Total world domination. He believe he is the true King of Conterra."
They had arrived in a massive Throne Room. Seven Serpencauda were sitting on beautiful marble thrones decorated with sparkling gold.
"My father, King Alaric, my mother, Queen Levana, and my sisters, Xantha, Hariti, Murasaki, Kadambi and Azura."
King Alaric slid off his throne and slithered over. "Welcome, friends. Do tell me, what are your names?"
"My name's Olivier, Your Majesty. This is my sister, Aveline."
"Welcome to Conterra. We've waited so long for your arrival."
Aveline was confused. "We don't understand, Your Majesty. Why do you need our help?"
"Our worlds were once happy and peaceful places until the day Lord Lorcan arrived. He turned our dragons into ice statues because they refused to aid him in his evil ways."
"Marni was able to retrieve the bag of Activation Gems that Lorcan stole," said Princess Patala, indicating the small pixie hovering by her shoulder. "The only way to reverse Lorcan's spell is to return each gem to its cavity."
"The Oracle told us we must seek the help of six human children to become Dragon-Rangers," said Queen Levana. "This is why we allowed one of our magic portals to appear in your world. Will you help us and become the first of Conterra's Dragon-Rangers?"
"Of course we'll help," Olivier replied.
"Thank you." Queen Levana called to one of her maids. "Devaki! Bring the Activation Gems here at once!"
"Yes, Your Majesty!" Devaki slithered out of the Throne Room. A few minutes later she returned with two large cloth bags.
"There are one hundred and forty Activation Gems, one for each dragon, but before you begin your journey, you must pledge loyalty to us so we will know we can trust you."
King Alaric gave them a small piece of paper. There were two short sentences on it.
"I pledge myself to King Alaric and his people. I turn my back on evil and join the fight to protect Conterra's dragons."
As soon as they repeated the verse, their clothes began to glow. Within seconds, they found themselves dressed in their new Dragon-Ranger uniforms, one in metallic blue and the other in shimmering pink.
"Your journey has begun. Good luck."
Princess Patala and her sisters escorted Olivier and Aveline to the front entrance.
"Good luck, however, beware," Princess Hariti told them. "You'll meet many of Lorcan's goons as you go through the multiple worlds. The charms 'Ignis' and 'Frigidus' may be useful."
"There are ten dragons in each world," Princess Xantha added. "You must free all ten dragons before moving on to the next world."
Leaving the palace, Olivier and Aveline stepped into a beautiful world. There was a bright blue sky filled with fluffy white clouds. The green fields were dotted with colourful flowers and little yellow butterflies.
On a silver platform beside a lake they found their first dragon, but as they approached, two fat and very ugly little goons appeared. They grunted loudly and waved heavy wooden bats in the air.
A stream of misty vapour erupted from the dragon symbol on the front of Olivier's suit. When it cleared, they saw that one of the goons was encased in ice. The other was running around in panic.
A blast of flame shot out of Aveline's dragon symbol. It hit the goon and he vanished in a shower of white sparks.
Running to the dragon, Olivier pulled an Activation Gem from his bag and fitted it into the socket on the front of the dragon's platform. There was violent shaking as a brilliant brown dragon with bronze-coloured wings, burst free of its ice prison. As it did, the name 'Sun-Streak' appeared on the front of the platform.
"Si mi duulo! Vinxa!"
As the dragon flew away, Patala's pixie friend, Marni, appeared, fluttering beside Aveline's shoulder.
"Congratulations! You've freed your first dragon! Now Sun-Streak can return to his normal life."
"Where should we go next?" Olivier asked.
Marni pointed to a series of caves. "We call them the Diamond Caves because their walls sparkle with gleaming stones. You're likely to find dragons inside."
"Thanks, Marni," said Aveline.
"I'm here to offer assistance and guidance whenever required." In a flash of red light, Marni vanished.
As they ran across the fields toward the caves, they passed two portals. One led to a world called Sekenyochi and the other to a place called Maalima.
Upon reaching the caves, Aveline asked, "Which cave should we try first?"
"That one," said Olivier, pointing. "The one on the left."
Entering the cave, they soon encountered another pair of Lord Lorcan's goons. Once again they carried weapons, but instead of wooden bats, they had swords and metal shields.
Aveline tried to hit the goons, but her freezing charm bounced harmlessly off their shields.
"There must be another charm we can use!" Olivier called, dodging a goon's sword. "These ones aren't working!"
As if answering a question, a piece of paper appeared on the ground beside Olivier's foot. As he picked it up, he saw a single word written on it.
There was a bang and one of the goons exploded. The other dropped his sword and shield and ran from the cave, screaming loudly.
"Another dragon freed!" said Aveline happily, fitting an Activation Gem in the socket on the platform. Another brown dragon emerged and the name 'Moon-Racer' was displayed on the platform in shiny gold letters.
"Si mi duulo! Vinxa!"
The dragon spread his enormous wings and soared out of the cave.
"That's two dragons released!" Olivier's voice was full of excitement. "Now it's on to the next cave!"
There were no goons in the other caves, so the children had no problems releasing two more dragons, 'Shadow-Wing' and 'Zu'.
As they left the caves, Aveline spied a golden ladder draped over the side of a cliff. "Ooooh, look, Olivier! Let's climb that ladder and see what we find!"
Scrambling up the ladder, they found more bright green fields, but what really amazed them were the dragons, six in all, dotted here and there around the fields. There was a pair of portals, too.
Olivier and Aveline went about their business and soon six magnificent dragons were free.
There was a sudden flash of light and Marni appeared.
"Wonderful! All the dragons are free! Now you must go to Sekenyochi. There are more dragons to free and amulets to collect."
Marni waved her tiny wand. A large silver coin adorned with a picture of a Scarab beetle dropped into Aveline's hand. It was followed by a folded piece of paper.
"Each world is home to a Sacred Family. When you have freed all the dragons in each world, you'll be rewarded with a new amulet."
Olivier took his sister's hand and smiled. "Next stop, Sekenyochi!"