ACT THE FIRST

"No, no, no, and NO! How many times do I have to tell you that I am NOT eager to go, I am NOT going to be patient, and I am most definitely NOT going to wear THAT!"

Myalin had lost her patience a long time ago, with her handmaiden, with her father, with the mass of fabric commonly known as a "dress". Her magic was reacting to her mood and was quickly wearing away at her control. Abruptly, she made her choice and said, "Go away. Get out of here, and take that… thing with you!" Myalin's voice was as flat and unyielding as an old inkstone, and the handmaiden actually showed some intelligence when she left without further argument.

No matter what happened, Myalin couldn't have another breakdown. Not after last time, anyway. Then a proverbial firecracker went off as Myalin got a brilliant idea. She could store her magic until after those blithering idiot suitors left! "Oh, why didn't I think of this before?" Myalin exclaimed out loud. Hurriedly, she slipped into her usual outfit of silk pants and a wrap tunic: comfortable, efficient, and loose enough to provide for easy movement. Soon she slid effortlessly over the rail on her balcony, landed lightly on her feet, and was off like a shot, heading for the far corner of the Palace grounds.

Myalin was getting increasingly uncomfortable; the magical tension was so great. She expended some of it in a spell to turn away the eyes of others, and more to guide her feet until she came to a stop next to a small bridge. It spanned a small water-lily garden, and a miniature waterfall added a gentle undertone. With a thought, Myalin extinguished the spell on the bridge, and walked across it, not once looking back over her shoulder. It was unfortunate that she didn't, because if she had, she would have seen a dark figure lurking in the shadows, watching her avidly.

Soon. Myalin thought as she crouched down next to a stand of cattails. As soon as I store this excess energy, I can go back to the palace and not fear for my life. I might even be able to faced those blasted suitors…She reached deep into the tall grass and pulled out her focus – a beautiful crystal half-embedded in granite. Already, Myalin could feel her magic surging in response to the stone, but as soon as she Touched it, it flared painfully in her hands and her world went dark.

If a perceptive bystander had been near the far corner of the Palace grounds, they would have seen a curious flash of lightning – but not the princess's body disappearing (she was hidden behind the reeds) – and possibly a dark figure vanishing as well. But there were no perceptive bystanders in the far corner of the Palace grounds, or any bystanders at all. After all, no one even knew that there was a far corner of the Palace grounds.


ACT THE SECOND

No one knew what went on in the woman's farm. If one asked, they would say,

"She comes into town at dawn from that direction, sells her weaving, and leaves when it's gone. She appeared in the town over a year ago with her wares, and no knows anything else about her."

The woman always wore a long hooded cloak, and led a beautiful bay mare loaded down with the finest weaving anyone had ever seen. Every morning she had a full load, and every afternoon she left with a full purse. And ever since the woman showed up, strange coincidences had begun to occur: people in need found anonymous money on their doorsteps, and lost animals were returned. Very mysterious.

Master Om was considered benignly crazy by a good bulk of the town, himself included. He sat on one side of the village marketplace, and did nothing all day. But he watched everything with a twinkle in his eyes. He watched the sun rise, the birds awake, and the merchants arrive. He watched the children play, the mothers gossip, and the lovers blush. And he watched the woman appear quietly in the square, set up her blanket and wares, and wait. Always, she was unnoticed for the first few minutes, then mobbed. The woman's selling techniques were unusual – she never spoke more than three words in a row, and she never haggled. She knew the quality of her work, and if they didn't, it was their loss.

One day, an adventurous boy followed the woman home and came back with fantastic tales of a magic loom that never stopped, how eagles and bears came to her call, and how she disappeared in the blink of an eye. Once the villagers had boiled it down a bit (for even though the boy was a ridiculous storyteller, the woman was strange, and that couldn't be dismissed), they came up with something a bit more believable.

The woman did ride her well-bred horse, but only for the last stretch home. She took off the halter, and her mare walked into the pasture as she entered the house. And immediately was surrounded by forest animals; rabbits, birds and squirrels among others. The woman sat down at her loom (the centerpiece of the room) and started working on a tapestry depicting a complex story the boy couldn't decipher. All without saying a word.

Two hours later, with no apparent cause, the woman got up and left the farmhouse, leaving the loom as if she was about to come back at any second. She crossed a small field to the woods on the other side, pausing next to her mare on the way. She held an obvious conversation with the animal – though no words were spoken – then continued on her way as the mare trotted in the opposite direction. The boy followed and watched as the woman stopped at seemingly random spots to pick a flower or a pretty leaf. Then she disappeared.

The boy was frantic about it, ranting that she had bent down, then just vanished. The townspeople decided he was making things up and put it out of their minds. But the woman didn't return the next day, or the day after that. On the third day, the villagers tried to go to the woman's farmhouse to investigate, but it wasn't there. They found the field, and the woods, but the house was gone. Nothing was left but the well-weathered remains of a burned foundation bordering the forest's edge. When they returned, Master Om had a small mysterious smile on his face as he stared fixedly at the woman's usual spot. There, at the place where her blanket usually lay, was an old-fashioned loom bearing a half-finished, faded tapestry depicting a complex story none could decipher.

Except maybe Master Om. But no one knew if he understood anything these days – he never made any sense.


ACT THE THIRD

The beetles swept the clearing between the grasses with their mole-hair brooms, murmuring in their breathy voices expectantly. The musicians rehearsed one last time before dispersing into the apricot trees to change and prepare, with the double motive of fleeing the conductor as he tried to stop himself from snapping his baton in the face of the orchestra's hopelessness. The cook-mice and the tailor-moles worked feverishly to finish their respective jobs in time.

In the kitchens, amidst the pots and pans rattling, the fires hissing, and the steam boiling up off the food, the cooks shouted gossip at each other as the apprentices toiled to belay their weight and move quickly.

"Have you seen the Duchess of Buttercups' dress? All yellow and gold and my friend Mrs. Brownbush sewed the whole thing!"

"You think that's grand? Then you have no taste in clothes whatsoever! Now the Countess of Lilies, her dress is beautiful! It's white gold, ivory silk, and gray lace so fine it's like a puff of mist. That I would wear to a ball of this magnitude. And my friend Miss Hankermound can out-sew your Mrs. Brownbush any day!"

"Both of you are wrong! The Queen of Roses has the best dress ever. She has a new one for every occasion, and a new seamstress too! Boy, this year it's a looker! It's all the colors of any flower imagined, and the colors change whenever she moves. It's so lovely, it's like she's wearing a rainbow of flowers!"

Everyone in the room sighed, wishing for the upmillionth time that they had the queen's dress. While the cook mice cooked, the dust beetles cleaned and the tailor moles sewed. Finally, the last dessert was cooked, the last corner dusted, and the last buttonhole sewed. The assistants cleaned like lightning – forgetting that they were, in fact, fat and not at all in shape – then followed their masters to dress and change.

The small creatures began to tune their tiny instruments, and the apricot orchard was awash with the soft, ephemeral, magical light of the new moon.

Night had fallen a star ago, and guests were still arriving. The court of the Fairy Queen and the visiting royalty were engaged in muted conversation, eating, or dancing. Despite the disharmony of the final practice, the orchestra played beautifully, and the conductor sighed silently, glad that he hadn't snapped his baton after all. Suddenly, all the floating fireflies flared, went out, and flared again. Slowly, silence fell. When it was complete, a bright beam of light lit up the sky, casting shadows from every object. Guest and servants alike oohed and aahed at the display.

For slowly, majestically, the Queen of Roses, Monarch of all Fairies, was fluttering down the beam of light, the highway of brightness, her wings barely a blur of soft light. Her dress was exactly as the cook had described it, with a swooping neckline, long sleeves trailing almost down to her feet, and a hem giving way to a short train that accented her height and slim build. Her long brown-blonde hair was brushed to a silky shine, and was left loose with only a few braids tying it back away from her face. It floated around her like a protective cloud, and accented her pale ivory skin and the soft blush on her cheeks. Fireflies flocked around her, weaving a complex dance around her face and lighting it with a golden glow. Some had a sneaking suspicion that there would be baby fireflies before too long after that dance. The Queen had arrived. The Ball could begin.

The Queen was as excited as her subjects. She loved the big Ball every year; it was basically the one high point in her life. She loved dressing her best, leaving her hair down, and watching everyone enjoy themselves. She finished her Grand Entrance (a formality insisted upon by the steward), and went gracefully to her throne. Briefly, she noticed a large rock half buried in the ground where there hadn't been one before, but dismissed it. This was her night, and nothing was going to ruin it! She shouldn't have snubbed it so easily. As soon as she sat down and leaned against the rock for just a second, a horrible feeling overcame her, and she fainted.

Three hours later, the Court was in shock. The Queen had disappeared, right from under their noses! And no one could find her. They didn't know where else to look; every inch of the orchard had already been gone over with a fine-toothed comb. The Queen was well and truly vanished.


ACT THE FOURTH

"Ugh," Myalin groaned. What hit me?" Her head felt like the proverbial firecracker that had aided her before had turned around and whacked her full force. When she managed to get to her feet, she saw a rock spur right beside her and gratefully moved towards it, without even taking the time to examine her surroundings.

The Queen of Roses came awake slowly, tears filling her eyes at the pain in her head. The last thing she remembered was sitting on her throne next to a large rock then… nothing. Fortunately, her wings still worked, so she fluttered up into the air and flitted to the top of a tall rock to see where she was. The sight shocked her. She was no longer in her beloved orchard, instead she was in a barren field, full of yellowing grasses and huge boulders sticking up at random. The death and lack of life pained the Queen's heart horribly, and fresh tears spilled down her ivory cheeks at the tremendous loss reverberating through to her very core.

The woman had not passed out. She knew that picking up the chunk of granite would be trouble, but somehow, that hadn't bothered her. And because she knew what was coming, the woman had been able to block most of the pain as well as the black-out. As unfortunate as those side-effects were, they could not be avoided when using a spell of that magnitude. She could feel that she was home again, but where was home? This didn't feel right to her, the dark sky and gloomy fog just didn't jibe with the image her heart provided. And whoever had set the spell would not have wasted it on just her, so there must be others stranded here, confused and in pain. The woman resolved to find them and heal them before they got lost or worse, so she headed for the biggest rock in the area, thinking it would be a good place to start.

The woman was just about to turn away from the rock to search elsewhere when she heard it – a soft gasp of pain. She rounded to base just in time to see an oriental girl flinch in anguish and rub tears out of her eyes. She was obviously not supposed to be here; perhaps she had been in the middle of training, based on the type of clothes she was wearing. Just as the girl was about to pass out again, the woman spoke in a soft voice and said, "I can help you."

Myalin collapsed against the base of the huge spur, tears pricking her eyelashes from the agony in her head. She instantly regretted the motion, as it rocked her head and set off waves of pain through her skull. She gasped at the intensity of it, never having felt something like this before. It was unbearable, and she was contemplating falling into unconsciousness again to escape it when a soft female voice said gently, "I can help you."

Myalin jumped in surprise, then winced in a mix of pain and self-rebuke; usually no one could sneak up on her! The figure was dressed in a long hooded garment that hid everything from view, and the poor light didn't help any. "Who are you?" Myalin asked. "Were you the one who said that?"

"Yes," the woman replied as she removed her hood and shook free masses of shining mahogany hair. It rippled down her back in waves, and it was all the more beautiful to Myalin because she had never seen hair that color before. "And I'm sorry that I can't tell you who I am, because I'm not sure myself. But if you want to stop the pain, you must move away from the stone." Myalin looked at her, trying to decide of the beauty was only skin-deep or not. When another red-hot needle shot through her brain, she settled on following the woman's advice for now, after all, it couldn't hurt, could it?

As soon as she was a foot from the rock, the pain faded. Myalin stared at the woman in shock – how had she known that would happen? She dug in her heels as soon as the pain was bearable, and asked her.

"I think… I think I used to live here. But… it's so different now…" The woman murmured, deep in thought, then shook it off and said, "That was no ordinary rock. It has been imbued with a negative energy that siphons off any magic it comes in contact with. Obviously, you have a very strong reserve for it to cause you that much pain."

She was about to continue when a tiny voice said, "So that's… why I… feel this… way?"

The Queen almost shrieked when she landed on top of the boulder. Fire shot through her body and her wings, making her crumple to her knees. She knew that she had to get up, get off the stone, but she couldn't move, not even her wingtips. Through the haze, she heard voices murmuring, about a stone, and siphoning magic… siphoning magic?! That must be why she felt like she was dying; fairies were pure magic! Gathering her strength, she tried to yell, knowing that if the two people under her moved away, they would never have know she was there, and she would die. But the best she could manage was a weak "So that's… why I… feel… this way?"

The woman looked up in mild surprise. Ah, so that's why the rock hadn't stopped siphoning – there was someone on top of the boulder! It had to be the last person to go through the spell, there wasn't enough power to carry more than three people.

"Excuse me, may I ask what type of being you are? For you to be this badly off, you must have powerful magic." The faint answer she got back sent a chill down her spine.

"A… fairy…" Both people on the ground gasped at the simple statement, for totally different reasons. Myalin because fairies were a thing of legends, and the woman because the feelings of familiarity and looming memory had grown exponentially. She snapped to action and spoke faster and less deliberately than ever before.

"Quickly, find something we can use to knock her from the top of the spur. Anything long will do."

Myalin glanced around looking for something, but the ground was bare. Then the fickle firecracker went off again and she began undoing her tunic. "We can toss this up so that the sleeve lands on her, she can grab it, and we can tug her off." The woman looked at her for a second, then a smile flickered on her lips and in her eyes before vanishing as if it had never been.

"Did you hear that?" She said to the fairy. "Do you agree?"

"Yes…" The answer was so slight that it could barely be heard. At that moment, Myalin slipped out of her tunic and stood in her loose undershirt and pants. Thinking rapidly, she also slid the large hairpin that kept up her bun out of her hair and let the braid tumble down her back in gleaming black coils. The woman looked at her strangely until Myalin said shortly, "Weight." She attached the heavy clip to one sleeve of her tunic and gently lobbed it at the top of the stone. The clip bounced off about three inches too low, and Myalin scowled at her bad aim. The next time, though, it was perfect. It settled across the rock and presumably the fairy as well.

"Now grab on tight to the cloth. We'll pull you down." A few seconds later, Myalin smoothly started to draw the shirt down and immediately felt the extra weight. Relief washed over her, even though she didn't know this being at all. "I've got her," she called to the woman. "Now be ready to catch her!" at that second, the sleeve came free of the stone and the fairy plummeted to the ground, only to be intercepted by the woman's cupped hands.

When Myalin turned around, she expected to see some sort of happy expression on the woman's face. Instead what she saw was a white face with a look of shock all over it. "What? What is it?" Then the woman opened her hands and Myalin saw the tiny being, only two hand-spans tall. The fairy had not grabbed hold of the fabric. In all likelihood, she had been unconscious the entire time. What had happened was that the clip had caught around her leg, and dragged her that way. But that wasn't the worst. The sharp point of the pin – where it first entered Myalin's hair – was nearly piercing the delicate membrane of the fae's wing! If it had gone any further, the fairy would have died anyway, for a fae can't live without its wings. And with that, she began to stir. Her wings beat feebly and her shimmering dress stirred in the slight breeze created. Her long brown-blonde hair was thrown over her head and face, and fell back when she sat up. Revealing the delicate crown perched on her brow.

The woman gasped. "I remember! We… we're a group! Us three… there was a war here, that's why it's so dead. And the magical side of it guaranteed that nothing would ever live here again. The enemy won, and… banished all the surviving defenders. We must have an ally here somewhere, who else would have cast the spell? Oh this is wonderful, we have a second chance to save our world!"

Myalin and the Queen of Fairies looked at her with blank faces. Myalin took it upon herself to ask, "But why are we back and no one else? And why can we remember nothing?"

The woman opened her mouth to answer but another voice, a male voice answered first. "I have the answer to that, child. You three are the remaining royalty of the three major races in this world – human, elf, and fae. I brought you here to continue the fight for freedom, so you can take up your thrones again. You don't remember, because I made it so. Yes, I was the one who sent you all away. I couldn't risk you getting killed, and this was the best way I could see how to avoid it. I'm sorry my children, but you must take up the sword and fight!" All three stared at him, but the woman alone recognized him as… "Master Om?!"

"Yes my dear, all three of you know me somehow. But now isn't the time. I have much to inform you of, much to teach you…" As he led them away, Myalin felt eyes on her back and looked over her shoulder in time to see a black bird fly off into the sky. But what harm could a lone bird do on a happy day like today? She had a war to fight, freedom to win, and best of all, not suitors to avoid! Yes, today was turning out to be a very happy day indeed!

THE END


E/N: Here it is, the long overdue addition to English Assignments. I apologize! It's long, to make up for the gap! Yeah, that's why I did it... I think...