Prologue: Please Excuse Me While I Save the World

Rowan Laestaes felt a sharp tug as, somewhere in Faerie, his Faerie, the one that had broken away from Europe, someone used magic. He hadn't noticed magic usage before. But lately, he'd been feeling it more and more. And that was a very, very bad thing. It meant the magic in Faerie was running dangerously low, and something needed to be done. Rowan leaned back in his throne, watching the proceedings in his mother's court with barely-concealed boredom. Queen Llewellyn was doing things the old-fashioned way; examining every aspect of the problem and trying to find various solutions. Rowan didn't have the patience for any of it.

He slid out of his throne, removing the golden circlet from his forehead and leaving it on the chair. No one even blinked as he left the council chamber. He left the palace, and then Talang, the Faerie capital, entirely, strolling down the rocky beach to the lake. He already knew what needed to be done. He stopped at one of the tidal pools, peering into it from above.

"Show me the girl," he said. Pins and needles swept through his body at the use of magic. It was a fairly recent development. Magic for him was usually painless, effortless, thoughtless. He didn't like the sudden change that accompanied the rapid drain of magic from Faerie. But, to his relief, the water fogged, going translucent and then opaque.

In the magical water, an image formed. It was a girl, human, a young woman, really. She had on heavy black boots that went up nearly to her knees, bright blue leggings printed with white, puffy clouds, and a taffeta skirt in all the colors of the rainbow, and a rainbow-striped shirt worn under a black, lace-trimmed corset. Her hair was dark brown, shot through with unnatural streaks of red, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Her eyes were a chocolate color, lowered to the book in her hands. Around her neck hung a silver chain, with a pentacle medallion.

Rowan nodded, and the image vanished. He continued on down the rocky beach until he reached the water. A cluster of rocks wasn't far off shore, breaking the waves and making the beach relatively quiet. It was a calm day, though, with more ripples than waves, and the rocks were currently occupied by a group of creatures with the torsos of women and the lower bodies of fish. They were silent, and sat there on the rocks, combing their hair. Their backs were turned to him as they stared out over the lake.

"By the power of the Faerie throne, I claim your voices," Rowan called. He had effectively stolen the singing voices of the sirens, keeping him safe from their charms. The sirens whirled around, looks of rage on their faces. They dove off the rocks and, moments later, were charging out of the water at the beach as unclad women.

"What do you want, Rowan?" the leader rasped. Every world revealed her razor-sharp teeth, a mark of her siren mother. Her hair was an inky black, and absorbed all the light that hit it. It was long, loose, and threaded through by a string hanging with pearls and shells. Her eyes were the same brilliant purple as Rowan's; in fact, she and Rowan were related. The half-siren was a by-blow of his father's, and it was the reason she had retained her ability to speak. Her siren singing voice had been stolen, but her court fae speaking voice remained.

"I want you to cross the veil and bring back a girl," Rowan said. "You have noticed the dwindling magic, no doubt? Well, this girl is the way to fix it." Rowan sighed. "Arabella, I do not want to force you."

Arabella tossed her head in defiance. "I'll do it, Rowan, but only if you offer me a seat in the Faerie Court."

Rowan bristled. "That is not within my power. I will, however, speak to my mother about the possibility. I am afraid that is all I may offer."

Arabella seemed to consider for a moment. "Why us?" she asked finally. "Our powers are limited on land."

"There should be no need for you to tread on land," Rowan said. "The girl will be out with her cousins on the lake. Wreck the ship and bring her to me."

"And the cousins?"

"Two young men and one young woman. Do with them what you wish." Rowan held out a hand and summoned an image of the girl, holding it out for Arabella to examine. "It's her that I want."

The sirens crowded close, salivating at the thought of a hunt. Rowan murmured a word releasing their voices. They lout an ear-piercing cry of triumph, and dove back into the water, legs turning to fins. Arabella surfaced near the rocks and called back to Rowan, "Be here at midnight! We'll have her for you!" And then she vanished, leaving hardly a ripple behind her.