Chapter One

In a distant place, in a distant time, in the far depths of the mind of the Writer, there is a land known as Kaliria. It is inhabited by many different races and beings: humans, Fae, dragons, and many, many others. The people go about their lives every day in the Kalirian Forest, or in Drachenea, the city to the east. All they have seen are their forest, their city, the caves to the north, the sea to the west, and the mountains to the south. All they know are the ordinary days in their mostly ordinary lives. This tale concerns itself with one of these people, a teenage girl whose life will never be ordinary again.
In the Kalirian forest, there was a small cabin, with only two bedrooms and a kitchen. The kitchen was fairly ordinary-looking; it had a table, a washbasin, and a cabinet. The only unusual things about this cabin were its occupants. One of them was a human girl, or so she appeared. The other could have been mistaken for a child, were it not for her amber-gold wings. However, the girl, named Raven, was not entirely human; and the faerie, who was called Willow, was her guardian. On that night, as they ate their evening meal, Raven sensed that something was amiss.

* * *

"Willow? Is something the matter?" Raven leaned across table to get a better look at the faerie who was her guardian.
"Hm?" Willow mumbled as she looked up. "No, I'm fine. Just a little tired, that's all. I had a hard day."
"Oh." Raven didn't believe her, but she let the matter drop- for the moment. It was only when Willow's eyelids began to droop that she brought the matter up again. "Are you sure you're all right?" Raven asked, concerned. "If you're tired, you can go to bed early. I'll deal with this mess." She indicated the dishes that cluttered the table.
"Thank you, Raven. I think I will." Willow brushed her long brown hair out of her eyes, fluttered down for her chair, and slowly trudged off to her bedroom, her amber wings drooping slightly.
Raven waited until Willow had gone, then turned her attention to the dishes. As she mechanically scrubbed and dried each plate, she thought. Willow was acting very differently than usual. She had raised Raven from a baby, ever since Raven's parents had died in the fire that had destroyed their old cabin fifteen years ago. Willow had even taught Raven to use the magic abilities she'd inherited from her mother's family. They had lived together for nearly fourteen years. Through all of it, Willow had never once complained of illness or injury; none that Raven could remember, that is. Indeed, she doubted that Willow had ever been sick a day in her life. Raven doubted that something as trivial as one difficult day would have this effect on her guardian. Even Raven, an almost-ordinary human, wouldn't have taken one day's fatigue this badly. At dinner, Willow had looked as though she might have fallen over at any moment. A short while later, Raven had put away the last dishes and walked to her room. It was a fairly small room, and contained only her bed, a wooden chest which held all of her belongings, and the mirror. As she stepped past the threshold, she stopped in front of the tall mirror that stood opposite her bedroom door. Raven examined her reflection carefully. Willow and her sisters, Lily and Hazel, always told Raven that she greatly resembled her mother. Raven's frame was tall and slender; her hair was long and dark, her skin fair. Her face was ovular and slender; small nose, thin lips. Her eyes were almost round and appeared to be just a little too big for her face. Raven would have appeared almost ordinary if it weren't for her eyes; in addition to their size, they were different colors. Her left eye was a luminous green, the right one a deep blue. According to Willow, her blue eye was the only trait she had inherited from her father. Raven couldn't remember what her parents had looked like; she only knew these things because Willow had told her. As she dropped off to sleep, a small, slightly taunting voice in the back of her mind kept saying, And what of Willow? What if she's sick? What if something's wrong? Raven chose to ignore it. Willow would be fine in the morning.

* * *

When Raven woke the next morning, it was past noon. This was very strange, because Willow almost never let her sleep in. The only explanation would be that Willow was still asleep. Raven suddenly remembered that Willow had been feeling ill the previous night. She carefully got out of bed and walked out to the kitchen; the only sounds to be heard were the soft drumbeat of Raven's feet on the wood floor. She decided that it was much too quiet, and hoped that the small voice in her mind had been wrong. Raven walked across the kitchen and opened the door to Willow's bedroom just far enough to peek inside. Sure enough, Willow was still fast asleep. Raven slowly walked to the bedside and shook Willow slightly, hoping it would wake her. It didn't. "Willow! Wake up!" Still, the faerie slept. Raven checked Willow's pulse, and found it to be steady. She felt the faeries' forehead- it seemed a bit warm. Raven became worried. What had happened to Willow? Why wouldn't she wake up? Her mind was reeling; she didn't know what to do. The voice that she'd heard the previous night gave her the answer. Go to Lily, it said. The voice spoke with a hint of urgency this time. As an afterthought, it added, Stupid. Raven slapped herself in the forehead. Why hadn't she though of Lily in the first place? Willow's sister Lily was an expert in the realm of healing magic; if anyone could figure this out, it would be her. Raven carefully slid Willow out of bed and into her arms. She walked out of the cabin, shut the door, and began the walk along the shaded path beneath the trees of the Kalirian Forest, a path that she'd taken many times before; only this time her journey was not to be a pleasant one.

* * *

The walk to Lily and Hazel's cottage was not long, but for some reason it seemed to take much longer this time. The moment that the cottage was within her sight, she ran to it as fast as she dared to while carrying Willow, and knocked sharply on the door. She hoped, more than she ever had before, that Lily and Hazel were home. "Who is it?" said a voice from the other side.
Raven breathed a sigh of relief. "Lily, it's me, Raven; please, let me in-" The door opened, revealing a slender blonde fairy with sky-blue wings. "Raven, what do think you're- aaaah!" When she saw Raven with Willow unconscious in her arms, Lily let out a panic-stricken cry. "What happened to Willow?"
"She won't wake up."
Lily's blue eyes widened. "Come in. Put Willow in my room."
The inside of Hazel and Lily's cottage was a bit larger than Willow's cabin. It had a kitchen and two bedrooms; but in addition to being polar opposites, Hazel and Lily each had a substantial collection of things that interested them. For this reason, they each had fashioned another room to suit their own taste. Lily had made hers into a library; Hazel's was an armory of sorts. As soon as Lily had put Willow to bed, she, Raven and Hazel had set to work looking in every book on her library's vast shelves, in hopes that they would find a cure for Willow's illness; or even a hint as to what the illness was. About half an hour into their search, Lily came across something useful
"I've found something!" the faerie exclaimed from atop the stool where she was perched.
"What is it?" Hazel had been hovering near the top of the shelves, and flew down in a blur of red to see what Lily had discovered. Raven followed. Lily was reading from a very old and dirty book with a brown cloth cover, her eyes focused on the page and her lips pressed into a thin line.
"It says in here that some forest sprites will curse a fruit-bearing tree or plant for their own amusement , and anyone who's unlucky enough to eat off it will have. problems. From what I can see here, Willow's eaten something with a sleeping spell on it."
"Well, that's good, isn't it?" Raven said hopefully. "It could have been poisoned."
"It may as well have been," Lily said grimly. "Depending on how powerful the spell was, it could result in anything from an indefinitely long sleep to death."
"Oh." Raven paused. "Is there any way to know exactly what kind of spell it was?"
"I'm afraid not." There was a pause. Hazel broke it. "Well, at least now we know what it is." She sighed, and then became serious. "We need to narrow our searching a bit. Look mainly for books on curses." She gave Raven and Lily a commanding stare, then flew back up to the top shelves, searching for books.
Raven began to browse through the shelves that she hadn't yet looked at, and one particularly thick book caught her eye. Its black leather spine was covered with a thick coat of dust. Raven took it off the shelf and wiped the dust off of the spine. She moved to wipe the cover, only to find that there wasn't any. The book smelled old, but looked as if it had never been opened; the pages were yellowed around the edges, but were otherwise flawless. The title was stamped on the cover in the spidery, runic alphabet of the Fae, a language that Raven had a limited knowledge of. With some difficulty, she found a chapter on curse reversal. One page in particular caught her attention- an intricate ink drawing of a maze surrounded by fire, water, and wind, with a green crystal in the center. She couldn't read what was written on the opposite page.
"Hazel! Lily! I think I've found something!"