My sincere apologies for the lack of posting yesterday! I ended up with terrible back pain that demanded the taking of the Good Stuff. The Good Stuff tends to make me sleepy/loopy/whee so is not compatible with writing/posting. There won’t be any clay posting this week. Instead, here’s the first chapter of the serial that should have gone up yesterday!
There’s no time more beautiful than Spring on Fantastica. The flowers bloom in a rainbow of colors, and the air smells sweet and fresh. Not that I would know much about it. I normally spend most of my time in my favorite library. It’s called Magica Library, and it is part of the castle that is part of the capitol that is part of the Faerie Kingdom.
My name is Liena. As my dwelling within the Faerie Kingdom might imply, I am a faerie. If one wanted to be technical, I could even go so far as to admit that I’m the crown princess of the Faerie Kingdom and thusly in line to rule. Lucky me. Luckier me, I don’t need to worry about ruling for a few more centuries. My mother is still handling things just fine. At a thousand in age, she’s still pretty young by faerie standards. My father died in the last great war between the three kingdoms of Fantastica—that’s a hundred years ago for those playing at home—and Mother has been fine on her own in the time since.
Magica Library is the accepted badass of libraries on Fantastica. The ceilings are fifteen feet high and jam-packed with thousands of books. The higher shelves can be flown to if you have wings, but there are ladders for the vertically challenged as well. Tables and comfy chairs littered the floors and enticed people to spend a while. I actually have a special little cubby hidden where it can’t be found. Keeps me sane to have quiet, that’s for sure.
The spring that my entire world and life would change certainly didn’t start out with any signs that it would be life changing. I went to the Library, curled up in my cubby, and contentedly dug into my latest favorite book. I had plenty of sparkling tea to keep me going, and I had on my favorite fluffy froggie slippers. (Who says princesses need to wear dainty silk slippers, anyway?)
It didn’t take me long to get through the last of my book, and I discovered that I didn’t have any more on hand. I had an odd feeling that I didn’t want to leave my hidey hole, but I did it anyway. There were a handful of other people milling around the Library, and they either paid me no heed or just waved. Faeries are actually pretty casual sorts of people. It’s the humans and the elves that are kinda uptight about the whole ‘royalty treated like royalty’ thing. My best friend Fiona is princess of the Human Kingdom, and she gets rose petals thrown on her every time she enters a town. I just get high-fives—and I’m fine with that.
I was perusing the mystery section anew when I got this really strange feeling. Okay, you know how you feel when you just think something really stupid is about to happen? Take that and add to it that weird tingling feeling your foot gets after it’s been asleep, and you have an idea of how I felt. I just had this strong sensation that I was going to be forced to decide between laughing at someone or being polite.
My forehead hit the shelf with a thunk as I heard the strident laughter cutting through what had been a perfectly peaceful morning. Summoning up my best ‘I’m a princess and don’t have to deal with your crap’ smile, I swung around to discover a familiar faerie behind me. “Good morning to you too, Amazonia.”
She tried to look down her nose at me, but since I’m taller, she just kinda ended up cross-eyed. “Good morning, Liena. Study, study, study. Is that all you ever do?”
“Usually.” I lifted a brow as she blinked at me for a moment. If she wanted to insult me by saying my studying was a bad thing, then she had missed the mark. Then again . . . missing the mark was pretty much her motto. She considered us ‘rivals’ but I never really saw anything to our rivalry. She was always trying to prove she was better than me, and I was always kinda proving her wrong. Really, I did sort of like her. If she’d stop being such a pain in the ass, she’d be pretty nice. I’m all for the ‘try your best’ attitude, but after more than a century, just give up, okay? Find something else you can be your best at.
She huffed out a little breath and tossed back her hair. It was a pretty mossy color that made it easier for her to blend into foliage. I often wished she would spend more time doing that than bugging me. “Have you mastered any new spells?” she asked me.
“Meh. One or two.” I shrugged one shoulder. Truth is, I could master a spell within a fraction of the time it took others. I was already working my way through things I shouldn’t be learning until I was older than my mother. “Fission was my latest accomplishment.”
Her eyes slowly widened. “You mastered Fission?!” she blurted. “And you didn’t blow anything up?!”
“A garden gnome, but just an ugly one.” It wasn’t a real mishap as far as mishaps went. In case her reaction wasn’t a clue, Fission was a big deal. Let’s just say that if the faeries had had more mages with Fission mastered, the war wouldn’t have been a draw. I was lucky that all I had nuked was a relatively unpleasant cement gnome. (Actually, the gardeners thanked me. They had wanted an excuse to get rid of it. Go me?)
Amazonia huffed and puffed for a few moments until I wondered if she was trying to blow a house down. Finally she stomped a foot and demanded, “I won’t be beaten out by some prissy princess in frog slippers!”
“I resent the implication that I am prissy,” I retorted, “and my froggie slippers are way more comfortable than your stupid high heels anyway. At least I won’t worry that landing from a flight will break my ankle! Fission isn’t even your league, ‘zonia. Why don’t you just work on mastering the basic Fireball? I know you can do it if you try.” No sarcasm there. I really did think she had potential.
She scoffed at me. “I’ve already mastered it.”
She swung up her hand and flames began to bubble over her fingers. That was my first clue that something was wrong; fire shouldn’t bubble. She brought the bubbly-fire up to her lips to blow on it—thus imbuing it with her magical breath—and she inhaled rather than exhale. She promptly started choking and coughing, and smoke came out her ears. I could only sigh. Classic, classic newbie mistake.
I lifted a hand in turn where water pooled and more appropriately bubbled. I blew magic into it and then grabbed Amazonia’s chin to lift it where I could pour the water down her throat. She sputtered but didn’t realize have a choice about drinking the water. The smoke ceased coming out of her ears, and she stopped coughing. On the downside, she started leaking. Water came out of her wings and the tattoos along her collarbones that indicated her heritage. She was soaked in moments.
She was also quite livid. She tried to stomp out in an indignant huff, but the stomping lacked impact when she made squishy noises with every step. She sounded like an angry sponge, really.
I managed to not laugh until she was out of sound. Leave it to her to find a way to mess up a spell that even baby faeries learn how to master first. I summoned up a breeze to erase the lingered mess and then went back to my perusal of the bookshelf. I’d had my drama for the day. It was time for some comedy.
I pulled out a book at random and found myself staring at a furry face set with whiskers and dragon eyes. My mood brightened. “Hey there, Ginger.”
This ball of fur and scales was my familiar slash sidekick slash resident smartass. She’s half-dragon and half-cat, and we still don’t want to know how that even worked out. The dragon half gave her full speech, wings, scales on her belly, the triangular dragon pupils, and fins for ears. She was effectively a cat as far as the rest of her features went, and a fluffy one at that! Her scales were a pretty creamy color, and her fur was striped with orange and yellow—hence her name. Oh, and she had paws for her front limbs, and her back limbs had gripping claws. She used it to her advantage to lug stuff around.
That particular morning, she was lugging around her usual mug of coffee. The mug was probably not much smaller than she was (that’s slightly bigger than average for a normal adult cat) but she never seemed to notice the weight. She fluttered along at my shoulder as I moved down the bookcase. “You set Amazonia on fire?” she asked.
“She set herself on fire and I put her out.”
“You should’ve let she stay on fire. It wouldn’t have hurt her.”
“No, but she would have smelled like burnt popcorn for a week, and since she doesn’t leave me alone, I opted to save my sense of smell.” I pursed my lips as I contemplated the back of a book. “I still say you ought to have picked her for a master. She needs the help more than I do.”
“You’ve earned a familiar and she hasn’t.” She landed on a shelf and dunked her head into her mug. “Mmmmm. Tivalian blend. Filtered through cherry blossoms!”
“You have expensive tastes, cat.”
“It’s technically yours so it doesn’t cost extra. You like that fluffy sparkling tea so your mother said I can have your coffee.”
Tivalian coffee was pretty damned expensive stuff. The beans only grew in one area at one time of year. Only the really rich people and royalty drank it commonly. Lower classes might have to save for a month to afford a single cup. Meh. It wasn’t my style. Sparkling tea suited me much better. Also, it didn’t give me a funny aftertaste if I was eating peppermints, and I ate those suckers a lot since they restored my mana.
I had just plucked my choice in novella off a shelf when I heard someone clear his throat. I glanced aside and found a familiar Royal Guard member standing beside me. He looked a bit on the uncomfortable side, and he fidgeted as he announced, “Princess Liena, your mother, Her Royal Highness Grace, Monarch and Liege of the Faerie Kingdom, has commanded your presence.”
“I know who my mother is,” I groused in return. “And tell her to command someone else. I’m busy.”
He looked around, cleared his throat, and then straightened his back. “I am under orders, princess.” He thusly grabbed me around my waist and lifted me off my feet as he began to head for the door past several surprised onlookers. “Your mother threatened to martial me if I didn’t make you appear as commanded.”
I propped my elbow on his shoulder as Ginger hastily followed in our wake. Strangely, I was more indignant than surprised by this turn of events. Mother just had to have her way, of course.
You had to give the guy credit. He carried me all the way to the drawing room where he dropped me on my slippered feet and beat a hasty retreat. Ginger watched him go and then remarked, “He’s almost as fast on his feet as with his wings.”
More agile too. Flying too fast was asking to smack into immovable objects like doors and walls. I stifled a sigh as I heard another door open, and I swung around with my hands on my hips to demand, “Was that really necessary?”
My mother merely lifted a brow in return. It was almost like looking in a mirror, really. Despite her age, she barely looked older than me, and we were enough alike in appearance to be almost mistaken for each other. She only showed her age in the small lines around her eyes. One line appeared for every century she lived. It would be another ten lines before they began to spread around her face. “Yes,” she told me, “because I knew you’d decline. Sit down. We need to talk.”
I obligingly sat down on the lounge. “Well, this sounds ominous.”
“It is.” She sat down across from me and sighed deeply. “There is trouble brewing in Fantastica. An evil sorceress has taken over the Wilderness Isle and amassing an army to conquer the world.”
It honestly took a few moments for that to sink in because it was so outlandish. “Let’s start this over,” I said warily. “I’m assuming you have more information than just that!”
“Unfortunately, I don’t. All we know is that her name is Veronica, and she is a faerie. She was the best and brightest in school many centuries ago, and she evolved from a basic mage into a sorceress without any difficulties.”
“Considering many sorceresses started out as the ‘best and the brightest’, it’s not surprising.”
“You would know, dear.”
Yeah, she was implying what you think she was implying. I indeed had the potential to become a sorceress myself. It basically meant I would be opening myself up to the full magical output of the world and effectively be a filter for raw arcane forces. Sorceresses could use all elements—rather than the normal one or two most mages were limited too—and their capacity was damn near infinite.
Problem was . . . well, that ‘opening up’ part was littered, literally, with the blood and body parts of those who had attempted and failed. And succeeding didn’t always mean sunshine and roses, either. Nearly all sorceresses would be driven mad by getting to see the innards of the world, and most ended up trying to do bad stuff. Usually it was curses and hexes and razing towns. Low-key stuff that any plucky hero could handle.
Honestly, I was not at all worried about losing my mind or blowing myself up. I just didn’t really have any desire to possess raw arcane forces. Why have it if I didn’t want it? I was doing just fine on my own.
“Anything else?” I asked. “What about this army?”
“She’s planted a toehold on the Elf Kingdom. An outlying shell city has been taken over by evil fog. Anyone of a certain strength is mind wiped and brought back to be in the army. The rest are left as lifeless drones in the city.”
A shell city was a city at the edges of the country. Our countries were carried upon the backs of massive tortoises that flew through the skies. Those were the arcane forces sorceresses got privy to knowing. Effectively, they got to walk inside the heads of the four Beasts of Fantastica. It was probably not very pleasant. Veronica had probably spent too much time inside the brains of the Happy Turtle Team. “And she’s expected to take more cities with the intent of conquering the kingdoms, and so on?”
“That is what we believe. We can’t let it happen. I have activated the Alliance of Three.”
It was my turn to eye her. “What is the Alliance of Three?”
She groaned. “Damn it, Liena! Just once you really should pay attention to the politics you so disdain! The Alliance was born at the end of the last great war. It keeps the three countries in harmony, and it gives us our equal command over the Wilderness Isle where we can each maintain an equal number of small towns. The Alliance also has the provision that if any force were to threaten our world as a whole, a delegate from the royal family of each kingdom will be chosen to join together to remove the threat.”
Ginger fell off the side table with a thump. “You want Liena to go out and save the world from an evil sorceress?!”
“Well, who better?” Mother demanded. “Liena is my only child, and our family is small anyway. She is also by far the most powerful mage on Fantastica. We must match Veronica’s power, and this is the only way.”
“Don’t I have a say in this?” I complained.
“No.” She shoved a scroll into my hands. “You’ll need to travel to the Human Kingdom and then the Elf Kingdom in order to pick up their delegates. I have already sent word ahead to expect you. If you find others along the way to help you, all the better.”
“I don’t want to save the world!” I scowled at the scroll. “I’m not cut out to be a hero!”
“Well, since you don’t want to be what you are cut out for, this will have to do,” she retorted. “Guards!” She beamed as two Royal Guard members walked into the room. “Escort the princess out of the castle. She has a quest to embark upon, and she is not to be allowed to return.”
“Are you kidding?” I demanded.
No, she wasn’t kidding. The guards caught my arms and hoisted me off my feet as they marched me toward the exit. Ginger flew along quickly in our wake, and I kicked my feet as hard as I could while my wings tried to get air so I could fly. I could use magic, but the guards didn’t deserve a nuking. “You can’t just throw me out and tell me to save the world!” I nearly wailed. “I don’t have any weapons, or supplies, or money! I’m wearing frog slippers!”
The guards dropped me unceremoniously outside the castle, and the gates slammed closed behind them. “Come on!” I shouted. “You’re out of your mind!”
“I’m also the queen!” came Mother’s voice. “You can’t come home until you take care of the problem!”
“With what? A caffeine-addled cat and a prayer?”
“Very funny,” Ginger muttered.
A few items were chucked over the side of the gate and made distinct thuds as they hit the ground. One was a small pouch I could carry on my belt. It was called a Bottomless Bag, and it did what it said it did. It carried literally anything and everything I might want to stuff inside it. Another item was a sword from the royal treasury and its matching bow and quiver of arrows. Whee, weaponry! The final item was a sack of gold coins.
“Have fun!” called Mother.
I and Ginger exchanged a long look before I finally groaned and gave up. I attached the Bag to my belt and dropped the money inside. The quiver went on one hip while the sword went on the other. My bow hooked over my shoulder. “How do I look?” I asked Ginger.
“Uhm. Okay, I guess. Maybe we should get you some boots. And a cloak. Maybe pants instead of your dress?”
I stalked down the road toward the area of town that had shops in it. “Leave it to my Mother to find a way to get me out of the Library in the most ridiculous way possible,” I muttered.
“You can write your own book when this is done,” Ginger intoned gravely.
Yeah, right. How to Save the World with Froggie Slippers. It would be the next bestseller for sure.