Oriana… Oriana…

Eliza Jones awoke in her bed in spite of herself looking round fervently, her green eyes finally focusing on the window. No one was there. All she could see was the scene of her small village in the Vorclaen countryside, and the sun rising in the East. She shivered. Once again she'd been floating in the sea in (which she'd only seen once) when a voice had called her name. Eliza lay back down under the threadbare blanket, trying to calm herself down. It was only a dream and meant nothing, yet why did it scare her? And why did they call her by her former name? Sunlight streamed across her face and Eliza knew it was time to get out of the cottage bed and go to help her eldest sister with her tirade of children. She rubbed her eyes and toddled blearily down the short hall to the dining room. It wasn't long until a little burr of brown curls latched around her waist.

"Mornin' 'Liza!" It said. Eliza realised it was her niece, Mari. She had to teach that girl the joys of elocution. Eliza had been working as a young lady's companion in a noble family since she was quite young and had picked up good speech.

"Good morning Mari," She mumbled, slightly tried by all this. She longed to be back in her old job as the Lady Heloria lady's companion, who was daughter of the Duke of Relin's Peak. That was until her country, Vorclaea, had been taken over by awful barbarians from Fortisei who overthrew the Emperor and Empress. Eliza had been lucky enough to once catch a glimpse of them once when visiting her Master. She went to the fireplace and began to cook the breakfast, which consisted of porridge.

"Good morning Eliza," Her sister Ceana replied. Finally, someone with proper elocution. "Are you going to the fair today?" Eliza grinned. The annual village fair.

"Yes," Eliza replied. "I'm willing to go."

"Will you be meeting Caen?" Her sister asked sweetly.

"'Allo bairns," Her brother in law, Aidan, boomed. "'Allo my luvley." He gave Ceana a kiss on the cheek.

"Not that he would want to meet with me," Eliza said in answer to her sister's question.

"I'll be hearing none of that," Ceana snapped. "Many say you're the prettiest lass in the village." Eliza laughed.

"I doubt that," She giggled. "The porridge is ready. I'll serve it." Eliza did so, serving each person and herself a serving of porridge.

"Ah yer a good lass," Aidan complimented. "This 'ere porridge is a fine brew."

"Thank you," Eliza said courteously.

"Da's righ' 'Liza," Faeran, her eldest nephew agreed. "Th' porridge is great." Eliza nodded satisfactorily as she daintily put a spoon in her porridge. Everyone at the small cottage table looked at her.

"You don't have to eat like a lady any more," Ceana reminded her. Eliza nodded.

"Sorry. I can't help it I'm afraid," Eliza replied and smiled wryly. Once again she wished she were back at the Relin's Peak estate or in their huge villa in town helping Lady Heloria with her embroidery.

"We'll help ye get better used to county lil 'Liza," Aidan told her. Eliza covered her disgust with a forced smile.

"Well," Eliza began. "I'd better leave for the village fair."

She took her basket, put a few coins in her pocket and headed toward the centre of the village, swinging her basket merrily. The fair's friendly banter was familiar and comforting to Eliza as she headed toward the bright colours of the stalls.

"Eliza!" Her friend, Aislinn, called.

"Hello Aislinn!" Eliza called back, pleased. When the Duke of Relin's Peak and his kinsman the Earl of Berlei came to the village to look for companions for their two daughters, the Earl chose Aislinn and the Duke chose Eliza. Both girls became good friends, to their mistress' delight. Aislinn had come back to the village after the revolution to take care of her ailing parents. It was good to see her again. The two girls embraced and walked down toward the village.

"It's odd to return here," Aislinn remarked. Eliza nodded.

"I agree," She replied. "The fief of Relin's Peak hadn't the fairs." Aislinn giggled.

"Of course," Aislinn said happily. "I here that a certain young man called Caen is asking after your affections."

"Are you sure?" Eliza tittered and Aislinn grinned.

"Speak of the devil," She said. "He comes this way."

"Good morning ladies," He addressed them. Eliza noticed he had Aislinn's sweetheart, Flynn Forkroth, in tow. Eliza grinned.

"We won't keep the happy couple," She teased grinning. Aislinn's face turned a lovely crimson colour.

"I'll take your leave," Aislinn replied and she and Flynn walked off arm in arm. Once they were out of earshot Caen turned to her grinning.

"Now Miss 'Liza," He said. "Let's explore this fair."

"I saw a good crystal stall as I passed through the village," Eliza said testily. Not all villagers were kind to people who dabbled in the arts of crystal trinkets. A look of horror flashed across Caen's face before it was replaced with mild bemusement.

"You follow the religion of stones?" He asked. Eliza shook her head.

"They're interesting," She replied warily. "I wouldn't say I followed the 'religion of stones' as you put it."

"Good," Caen said. "Tis folly." Eliza shrugged and managed to drag him over to the crystal stall anyway. An old woman that she knew not was sitting at the counter smiling up at her.

"Good morning," She greeted. Eliza noticed she had a cadent and pure accent, unusual for a fair stall owner. She was carving a crystal figure with a special knife.

"And good morning to you too," Eliza said in return giving her a warm smile.

"Good morn' Crone," Caen muttered. Eliza kicked him and then went on to review what the vendor had on offer. She tested her senses across the stones feeling their energy, feeling which one she was drawn to the most. She heard a cry coming from the old woman. Eliza looked up. The old woman's knife had slipped.

"Oh dear," Eliza exclaimed and took her kerchief off her head and wrapped it around the old woman's finger. "You'll need to see a healer, but it should be ok."

"Thank you young lady," The old woman said with gratitude giving her a warmer and bigger smile than before. "You have a kind heart." Eliza flushed.

"You… you are t-too kind," She stammered.

"I doubt I am," The old woman said. "What is your name child?"

"Eliza," She replied.

"Eliza…" The old woman repeated. "A pretty name. But…" The old woman trailed off.

"But what?" Eliza wanted to know. This old woman was beginning to prove intriguing.

"Not of any importance," The old woman said, dismissing the matter. Eliza tried to cover her disappointment but let it go.

"I must be off," Eliza began. "But I will get the lapis lazuli. I've been looking for one for aeons." Eliza handed over a gold coin to the old woman.

"I'll add this one in for your kindness," The old woman said, picking up a large clear stone that seemed to shimmer and switch to different colours when it hit the light. It was of exceptional quality and made the lapis lazuli Eliza held in her hand look like a piece of clay. It was moulded into a perfect egg-like shape, hung on a silver chain, and Eliza instantly fell in love with it.

"Thank you," Eliza murmured, overcome with emotion.

"No, thank you," The old woman replied. "Treat yourself with care Eliza."

"Same to you," She replied.

"Come Eliza let us go explore the fair," Caen urged.

"Go on," the old woman said. "Go have fun at the fair with your sweetheart."

"But-but h-h-he's… never mind. Goodbye," Eliza finally managed to spit out.

"Goodbye to you too. Gods all bless," She said and they took leave of one another. When Eliza looked behind her later, the stall didn't seem to be there. It was if it had never been there before. Eliza then thought of something.

She hadn't gotten the old woman's name.

A young woman walked the Great Forest floor. The Great Forest… She had to review that name. The Great Deserted Forest more like. A red sparrow flitted across her path, tilting its head at her. Unusual. Sparrows weren't red. She narrowed her eyes as thesparrow looked at her with almost human eyes. Then, suddenly, she laughed, realising who it was.

"Quelaen! You stupid idiot," She giggled. "You stick out like a sore thumb." Thesparrow shook, suddenly growing taller into a human form.

"Oh and you didn't in that old woman get-up Virana?" Quelaen muttered. "Do you realise how stupid you were in giving her the ever changing gem?"

"Care to walk with me?" Virana asked sweetly.

"Do I have a choice?" Quelean muttered.

"You don't have to be so up-in-a-tree about my mingling with mortals," Virana retorted. "Calm down Quelean, relax. You've been frustrated for over two millennia now. Do I detect thatyou'restillsexually frustrated over that slutty mermaid?"

"She wasn't slutty!" Quelaen roared. "She was beautiful, kind, sweet, talented-"

"And she didn't want to give herself to a fire god," Virana interrupted. "Very wise."

"Then why were you meddling in the affairs of mortals, sister? If your husband saw…" Quelaen trailed off.

"I had my husband's permission," Virana taunted. "Besides, have you seen how she wields those gems of hers? She has extraordinary innate power."

"Even with mortals of extraordinary inordinate power, the ever changing gem must be passed on to one with immortal blood running through their veins," Quelaen pointed out. "You heir, to be exact." Virana straightened up.

"Well, she is our kinsman," Virana replied curtly. "My granddaughter, to be precise." Virana was rewarded with Quelaen almost dissolving into a blue flame.

"Then in the glorious name of the One WHAT IS SHE DOING WITH MORTALS?!" Quelaen spluttered.

"Why don't you ask Maitireze from the underworld to give back my daughter's soul and ask her?" Virana's voice then cracked, crystal tears running down her cheeks. Quelaen awkwardly patted her on the back.

"There… there," He mumbled. Being a fire god, empathy wasn't his strong point.

"She was such a good godlet!" Virana sobbed. "Could roast her good old father at the age of just 500! And then she met Maitireze's son 19,500 years later! HIS SON! The prince of darkness!" Virana's sobs increased and Quelaen becameeven more awkward. "They had a child and to disguise it, she went off with a mortal. A MORTAL!"

"It'll be… ok?" Quelaen supplied awkwardly.

"Yes Quelaen," Virana murmured. "It will be ok. We are going to train her to fulfilling her true heritage!"

"Virana my I point out we're already planning to train the exiled prince of Vorclaea, we haven't the resources to-"

"I know that Quelaen," Virana interrupted. "Let her join the classes and we shall leave it at that." Quelaen sighed with frustration. "Which reminds me, go pull a few strings, or should we say bars, to get Prince Shelk out of there."

"Please call him Selluail Heydren Eli Lithril Kossier," Quelaen pleaded. "Shelk's areallyvulgar word."

"And be there for eternity by saying his name at breakfast?" Virana shot back. "Hello Selluail Heydren Eli Lithril Kossier… sit down Selluail Heydren Eli Lithril Kossier... please eat some crumpetsSelluail Heydren Eli Lithril Kossier…"

"Your point's been made Virana," Quelaen demurred. "If you must call him Shelk, make sure you see if you may call him Selluail or Heydren or Eli or Lithril, or something else, anything else."

"I prefer Shelk," Virana said dryly. "Now Quelaen. I give you leave to collect Selluail without setting his behind on fire, if you please. And if you could stop by Oriana's village and collect her too, please do so."

"Anything else?" Quelaen said, sounding really pissed off.

"Don't turn intoa neon red coloured sparrow again," Virana added scathingly. "You don't look natural." Quelaen sighed and turned into a whitebutterfly. A voice asked in her mind if it was better. "Yes, that's definitely better Quelaen. Now, be off!" The little butterfly flew away into oblivion, and Virana, the Queen of the Gods, was alone once more.

Eliza lay in her bed that night, very perturbed. She had been looking at the gem the woman had given her constantly for a week now. Eliza liked how it never stayed the same colour and how rainbows seemed to be trapped inside. It made her feel calm and collected. Sometimes, an image of a boy with dark hair and elusive violet eyes appeared within it and Eliza wondered who on earth he was. He was better looking than Caen by a long shot and had an unearthly air about him. Eliza looked at the roof and made a wish to be free from everything. Free from her sister's family, free from her poor life, free from routine… it just seemed so ordinary, this world. She'd probably grow up into a peasant's wife too and have ten children to feed. While Caen was good looking, Eliza knew then that he wasn't rich. He'd grow up to be peasant just like the generations of his family. Eliza turned over feeling sick. Everyone was so blissfully ignorant, so inside their heads… She wanted more from life than to be the wife of a peasant. She wanted to make something of it, to make herself known. A butterfly flew in through her window. Suddenly her room was shrouded in light and the butterfly became a man with shoulder length, light orange hair.

"Oriana," Murmured the man softly. "Come toward the light. I am Quelaen, God of fire. I have come to guide you."

"Is this a dream?" Eliza asked stupidly, clutching on to the stone. Quelaen shook his head.

"No it isn't," He replied. "Come, Oriana, take my hand." Eliza obeyed and took his hand unwittingly moving into the light.