Chapter One: My Sister Almost Kidnaps Me: Crystal

I am a princess.

And while most of the Market People would scream for joy if they were allowed into the castle (and probably several octaves higher and a huge amount louder if they were a child of King Munah here in the town of Munaville), I was about ready to scream of boredom that afternoon of the day of my coronation. I probably would've, if I weren't so tired. Probably would've, if I weren't so insanely worried about the two almost furry bumps that seemed to grow from my shoulder blades. Weirdness.

"Anything Dad'll let me do?" I asked my cat automatically as she returned from her "secret mission," a plea to my daddy to let me do something other than sit and stew in my room. I was sitting on the soft carpet floor, my back against my bed, my knees slightly raised, glaring at my reflection in the small oval mirror that sat uselessly in my hands. "Remove bumps," I added in an undertone to the thing.

The bumps on my back did not go away. Flexed slightly, felt kinda loosened and weak (why would it feel weak?!), but did not go away.

Sparkle meowed back at me, "Nothing."

She launched herself to my side with a yawn, cuddling against my legs, which were covered in a periwinkle-y gaucho material. The light color provided a good contrast against my sun-tanned skin.

"The King doesn't even want you out of your room. To quote the King in his exact words, 'Hermione needs to prepare herself for her coronation this evening. Help her prepare herself, would you please, my little talking kitten?' Sodding git—" the ginger cat added another few choice words to express her current mood toward my father—"he treats me like a kit!" I gave a soft chuckle at the rhyme the cat had made. She grumbled some more, making herself an indignant ball of striped-gold curly fur. "It's like he doesn't think that you're capable of cleaning and dressing yourself up when that mirror will all but wash you—and it does that, too!" Sparkle turned and glanced at the mirror in my hands.

I traced the swirls of the wood frame with my fingers until she finished, and when she had, I groaned, got up, put the mirror on the small square desk on the side Sparkle wasn't on, pulled myself easily onto my tall canopied bed, and plopped on the soft mattress with a sigh.

"Might as well go to sleep: the coronation's not going to start for another three hours," I yawned, my mind still thinking about the feathery bumps on my back. "Be a good cat and wake me up in an hour or two, won't you, Spark?"

She managed to roll her clear gray eyes pretty well for a cat. "I don't think that'll work out, Hermione. I sleep when you sleep and wake up when you wake up. It's like we're connected or something."

"Point," I agreed, closing my eyes as Sparkle sprang lightly onto the bed.

"Crystal!"

My eyes snapped open at the call in time to see a ginger blur (Spark) leap away from the curtained window just above my head, hissing and spitting (Spark, I mean, not the window). I felt a weird desire to giggle. Instead, the more freaked-out bit of my brain kicked in, and I half-shouted, "What the—?"

"Crystal, open the window!"

I groaned. "Beat it, you idiot paparazzi. How could you not know your own princess's name?" I didn't like talking about the princess thing—it was kind of annoying when I was out shopping and people kept bowing in the streets because I'm the great and wonderful princess and could probably have them jailed for disrespect or whatever the crap that's about—but hey, I was in my room, and I didn't like the stupid media intruding on my privacy anyway. I didn't even like the media on public occasions.

"You honestly think any human can get up to the fifth floor of this impossibly large castle without breaking their clumsy necks?" the voice demanded with a touch of sarcasm. "Open the window!"

Frowning, I sort of half-obeyed the speaker, swatting the tree-bark-colored curtains aside.

No one was behind the glass. Confused, I asked, "Who are you? Where are you?"

"Open the window and we'll talk, Crys."

"My name is Hermione," I growled, annoyed, but I slid the window open anyway.

The second it was wide open, a really strong gust of wind picked up the oval mirror (no kidding, I mean the mirror actually came completely off the table) that I had set on my desk. Alarmed, I reached out reflexively with one hand to set it back down.

Another blur, this time sand-colored, shot through the window, and I jerked away from the window reflexively. Before I could get completely away from the portal, though, a strong, tanned, tapered hand seized my wrist and tugged me through.

The ground looked waaay too hard, and I closed my eyes, thinking, I really shouldn't have opened that stupid window. Goodbye, sweet life.

The back of my neck itched, and I fidgeted. Couldn't I at least die semi-comfortable?!

But my mind told me mechanically, Someone has Spark by the scruff of her neck. It's our faerie-angeli connection.[1]

What's an angeli? I wondered.

And then we—myself and my "killer-slash-suicider"—landed.

"Ow," I said, and fell on my butt.

"Sorry about that," the voice apologized. "It must be rough, losing your wings so early, and then not knowing. Having a cat angeli should help a little bit, though I dunno how she found you without your magic," the speaker added thoughtfully to herself, shaking long, black, dark-brown-tipped hair from her round-ish, tanned face. Bright orange eyes looked mischievously down at me (how she'd stayed standing was beyond me), but I thought I saw a tiny bit of honesty in those eyes. The back of my neck still itched, and I reached up to scratch it.

A sand-colored dog (the blur I'd seen) landed with a quiet thump beside the young woman, releasing a panicking Sparkle. My spine tingled, like I'd only just landed, too.

Something flashed, blinding me for a split second. My mirror half buried itself in the dirt underfoot, reflecting a forest type of dark green. My "kidnapper" (or was she my killer? I was confused....) had managed to land us in the woodsy part of the castle courtyard, and my scrambled brain wondered how she had managed that: after all, wasn't the copse on the other side of the castle? Then I saw myself in the mirror and groaned.

"Oh, wonderful," I mumbled sarcastically. "Daddy's gonna kill me. I'm a mess." I picked at a twig in my curly hair.

The noble—I had a guess at her rank, and the clothes she wore were made of pretty good material—snorted. "You mean Munah? Lying filth," she spat. (I scooched away from her nervously: she could easily be someone trying to kidnap me out of spite, though how she'd managed to wing it to my window was a mystery. Wing it. Ha, ha.)

She blinked and smiled. "Oh, sorry, I forgot that you don't know the truth. My name is Amber. This dog—" she patted the creature affectionately—"is my angeli, Autumn, though for some reason we prefer the name Ember. I'm a faerie."

"Hey, Crys. Long time no see," the dog growled softly. "Nice meeting ya, Spark."

Spark let out a strangled wail. I understood her unspoken thoughts: her speaking ability could be a good way to send a message if left unknown by this strange kidnapper.

And then her words caught up to me. "Wait, what?" I asked, still on the forest floor. "You're a faerie? I thought faeries had wings. And what's an angeli? What do you mean, I don't know the truth?"

Amber sighed reluctantly. "Good questions, and not one of them answered easily," she pouted. "Ah, well, least shocking first. My permanent wings are on the grow: I've only just passed the Klœw'iin state [2], where all faeries lose their stereotypical but evanescent wings in order to regrow their new ones. It also contains part of a faerie's life force until puberty, when it absorbs all of the life force contained in a faerie's body and sustains the faerie's bodily state. For example, you are in your Klœw'iin state right now—or you would be, if you were still a faerie—"

"IF I WERE STILL A FAERIE?!" I exploded. "I—I'M NOT A FAERIE! I CAN'T B—MMmph!"

"Geez, Amber, can't you at least keep Munah's guards from finding us until we escape? Do we have to tell her here, in enemy territory?"

I froze. Someone—a guy—was standing behind me, and he had his hand clamped over my mouth. I blushed.

"Skyler-Anroh Berji, I told you to stay home! Geez!" Amber growled at him simultaneous to Ember's annoyed whine of "Cirrus!"

I whined nervously behind the restraining hand as a (kind of small) albino tiger melted out of the woodsy gloom. I mean, come on, it was a tiger, for Pete's sake!

The hand disappeared by the time I'd calmed down a bit, and a boy flitted to the cat. I shivered as he spoke again, though this time he spoke with a slightly larger amount of respect: "Hey, Amber. High Faerie Crystal." The tiger dipped its head to the ground for a second and lifted it back up.

The name Crystal had me squeaking in annoyance again. "My name is Hermione! Her—my—oh—nee! Not Crystal or Crys or whatever! And I'm not a faerie—am I?" Spark meowed her agreement from where she was crouched at my feet but then shrank nervously as Cirrus glanced at her with bored night-blue eyes.

"Why don't you say something? It's like you're holding yourself back, Sparkle," the tiger asked in an extremely quiet voice. Amber and Ember blinked at him, astonished, though I wasn't completely sure why. Then again, I was more interested in having a quiet mourning session over the fact that my one possible way out of this insanity was killed. Sniffle.

Spark screeched, her fur standing on end. I could tell (but don't ask me how!) that she kind of... liked... Cirrus. Oh, joy. "How did you know—?!"

"Ea~sy," Skyler grinned. "Sparkle is Crystal-hyrie's angeli [3], right? All angelii can talk, even though they may choose not to." Cirrus nodded in quiet agreement as he (and Skyler) sat down.

"Hyrie?"

"A term of respect reserved for descendants of the Faerie Thief," Amber explained, seating herself next to Skyler on the ground. I felt something that felt suspiciously like jealousy, but then I wasn't completely sure why.

I pressed my palms to my forehead. "So, what's an angeli? And what about the truth? Why are you calling me Crystal or Crys or hyrie or whatever?"

Amber's eyes shifted nervously. It seemed like Skyler's complaint about not being able to keep unnoticed had touched a nerve, and now she had gone all tense and stuff. "Well, since this isn't a very secure place for chit-chat, I can only tell you what you strictly need to know," she said matter-of-fact-ly. "We'll tell you enough for you to decide that we're telling the truth and will come home with us, and then we'll tell you the rest in Haven."

She took a deep breath and began. "About twenty-five years ago, Munah came to our clan with a request. Our clan, the Haivœnu, were in a nearby mountain at that time. The mountain itself is now known to humans as Faeriehill, and it lies east of this city."

"I remember Dad telling me about that during geography," I muttered, accidentally interrupting Amber, who fell silent anyway. "He said he believed that faeries exist, or at least that they once existed... but that was some time ago. Legend has it some people attacked the ones in Faeriehill about twenty years ago and brought one back with them, all chained up...." I ended in a whisper, my eyes wide as I added two and two. Five [4]. Wonderful. Note the sarcasm.

Amber laughed bitterly, a tinkling but bark-like sound. "To us, the faeries," she continued, "the mountain was known as Haven. Anyways, Munah came to Haven those twenty-five years ago asking for the youngest female child, who was actually me at the time. He explained that he wanted to try matching you with a human, calling the hypothetical result a faeman. Naturally, our parents declined his request, replying frostily that they were not remotely interested in breeding one of their daughters.

"Angered, Munah stormed from Haven and returned with an army half a decade later when we had all but forgotten him. By that time, you were born. If it weren't for you, I would've been willing to leave with the rest of the survivors to find another clan to wage war upon Munah and his army.

"But you were a factor, and though most of the clan was willing to leave you in his hands for the time being, Sky sided with me and nursed me until I was up to scratch and able to steal.

"Munah himself had attacked me. He had everything a powerful king with a mad idea needed. He had his army, a map of our entire mountain, and a cage, made by magicians, designed for capturing you. What's more, the fire he used to burn my back was cursed, so I couldn't really do anything...." Amber gritted her teeth, rubbing her back where she was apparently burned.

I bit my lip. "For some reason, the wings thing is still bothering me... maybe because I don't remember having wings when I was small."

"Part of that's the cage Munah put you in," Skyler said when Amber continued her silence. "I caught a glimpse of it when I found Amber just when Munah was leaving. I didn't want to attract his attention, because I thought he'd just hurt Amber. I didn't think you were the one in the cage. Anyway, I decided to hide behind something—a chair, I think—and my wings hurt just looking at the thing." He shivered and continued. "I think part of the thing was designed to erase your faerie memories, and another part designed to forcibly remove your wings. But wings are strongly... uhh... Amber, what word am I looking for?"

Amber gave a lifeless response. "'Rooted.' Wings are strongly rooted in magic—and in life—and ripping your wings off should've been like tearing away your magic, if not your life. But at the same time, you need your magic for your angeli to first find you and for you to communicate, and you obviously have your angeli right here... hmm." She visibly pulled herself together and looked at me thoughtfully. "Curious. Say, Crys, is there anything you can do?"

"Do?" I asked blankly. I accepted being Crystal instead of Hermione now.

"Anything other humans can't do," Skyler explained as Amber had fallen quiet again, though her silence now seemed more thoughtful than hurt. "I can control the temperature of objects around me. Amber-hyrie can manipulate the wind. We could probably play around with the weather if we really wanted to, but it'd be very tiring for the both of us. Distance matters, see."

"Well," I muttered, picking up the mirror that I had almost forgotten about during Amber's story. My ability—if that's what it was—seemed kinda weak compared to theirs. I tapped the pattern-less frame thoughtfully. Amber appeared on the polished surface. "Lighter skin."

Amber gasped and leaped up, staring frantically at her now snow-white arms. "C-c-c-c-cold!" she spluttered as Ember sat huddled at her feet, her fur no longer sand-colored but pure white like Amber's skin. I stifled a giggle and heard Skyler chuckle. Sparkle gave me a half-exasperated glance before bursting out in a fit of snickering. Cirrus remained bored, but I could've sworn he was grinning on the inside at least.

"I've never tried that on me before," I grinned innocently. "Every change feels different, which is why I don't like making huge changes on myself. See, my skin used to be lighter, like Amber's skin was before I accidentally... well..." I waved a hand at the figuratively frozen faerie (oo, alliteration!). "Anyways, I was like Amber was until I did a color change to darken it (I meant to tan it, but this is what I got instead). It felt really hot. Original skin color," I added to the mirror. Amber let out a curse, snapped out a five-bladed fan that didn't seem to have any paper between the blades (is that what they were called?), and started blowing strangely large gusts of air at herself. Ember whined, rolling on her back and waving her paws in the air pleadingly.

"It's—not—helping—" she muttered, her arm blurring as she tried (keyword—TRIED) cooling down.

"How strong is this appearance changing?" Skyler asked curiously.

Smirking dangerously, I tapped the mirror's edge and focused on my next thought. Skyler flashed onto the mirror. "Girl."

All the blood drained from Sky's face.

I snickered and managed to get out a "kidding" before having a laughing fit.

"No," Sky gasped in a voice at least an octave higher than what I'd heard from him before. "No, you aren't."

"You mean it worked?" I giggled. "I've never tried gender-changing before."

"Change me back," Skyler whined, his (or more accurately, her) voice still unnaturally high.

"No sweat... I hope," I added in an undertone. "Boy."

Sky gagged. "Thank the Thief, I'm back to normal!" he groaned, slumping dramatically over his equally relieved (but quieter) feline angeli.

"So, the wings?" I asked, turning my head toward Amber.

"Right," Amber sighed, apparently giving herself up to the fact that she wasn't going to cool down any time soon and closing the fan. "If you really want to see mine, I guess I could show you...." She turned around, showing me a very disturbing sight.

Sparkle and I gasped. Skyler closed his eyes and buried his head in his angeli's white fur.

Her shirt had no back to it, leaving her skin bare. Amber's back was crisscrossed with angry red scars; her relatively tiny wings were not immediately visible in their nevertheless beautiful tan-peach-white glory.

"Dad... Dad did this?" I whispered numbly, stretching out a hand to trace the largest scar, but Amber winced and shook her head, whirling away from me. "Twenty-some years ago? But—but they look only days old!"

"He used cursed fire. A mere human would've died," Skyler spat, glaring at the scars. I felt a stab of something that seemed almost like jealousy again, and again I wasn't sure why. "Even Amber came close—too close for comfort."

Amber's head suddenly snapped up, the few wrinkles on her face tensing like a wild wolf-dog dreading the return of a cruel master.[5] Ember's ears were cocked forward at her side, her expression a exactly like Amber's, even though one was on a human face and the other on an actual dog's. "Shoot!" they growled simultaneously. "We're out of time, Sky!"

She whirled on me. "Hold out your hand, Crys," she demanded, skillfully twirling the fan between and up and around her fingers in a complicated dance. A small air bubble floated, almost invisibly, to my outstretched hand. I stared at it, thoroughly confused.

"Listen to it later, before Munah gets to you," the High Faerie commanded, her hand wrapping around Sky's wrist (huh, that seemed kinda familiar, wonder why?) and tugging him into the trees. Sparkle followed at a nod from Cirrus, who promptly disappeared into the canopy above. Ember glanced at me: we were alone, but not for long. Even I could hear the loud crashing armor from somewhere nearby. Then she vanished, too, and I was left alone.

I only managed to bring the air-thing to my side as soldier-guards crashed through the woods around me. It all happened so fast that I was still standing there, completely out of it.

A small tap on my shoulder made me spin around, afraid that Munah'd found me, but it was only Landon.

Landon was my favorite guard; he used to teach me a bit of self-defense until recently, when Munah had decided that I'd learned enough. He was a quiet guy most of the time when surrounded by soldiers, and not very old at all (or at least, he seemed barely older than me, but he once told me that he was actually around 30). He was thin and silent when he walked, even in armor; his hazel eyes, inhuman fighting skill, and black hair (the bangs of which were tinged with what seemed like actual silver but was really just some sort of dye) made him something of an exotic legend, one of many that surrounded Castle Munah.

"Are you okay, Lady Hermione?" he asked, concern flickering behind his almost-perfect facade of cold indifference. I suddenly remembered my human name, but it felt strange—and somehow wrong. I'd always liked my old name, but now that I knew my faerie name, the human one seemed smaller, weirder. It was like my real name had struck a forgotten chord.

More proof that the faeries had been telling me the truth. I ran my mind over the conversation, but came to a grinding halt as I realized—Amber is my sister?!

I went through the tale of the past again, rechecking frantically, until Spark's voice cut through my mind quietly: Hold the air-thing to your ear. It's Amber's way of long-distance messaging. Hurry, Munah could come any second now. I understood the moment I heard it: Spark had consciously tapped into our faerie-angeli connection.

I held the air-thing to my ear. Amber's voice rang quietly into the noisy air, but I could hear it even over the crashing armor. My free hand twitched in surprise.

"...sh your coronation later today, okay? ...Pretend to Munah that you didn't believe us. We'll come and get you when we come to gate-crash your coronation later today, okay? ...Pretend to Munah that you didn't bel...."

Amber's voice repeated the two-sentence instructions over and over. I let the air-thing slide through my fingers to the ground where it dissolved in an almost-unnoticeable burst of wind, gently moving a clump of dirt, and pretended that I was brushing a strand of hair from my face.

It was probably just me, but for a split second I thought that Landon's eyes were on the little patch of dirt as it settled. His eyes lifted to meet mine, but his emotions were hidden behind his careful eyes and he glanced away, less than a second later.

"Hermione?" an all too familiar voice called. "Are you okay? Did the kidnappers do anything to you?"

My head jerked up from where it had sank down to while I was thinking, and my belief in the faeries stumbled (no better word for it at hand) as I gazed at Munah's clear, strangely mahogany eyes.

"I'm fine, Daddy," I reassured automatically.

Munah sighed, relieved. "That's good, I don't know what I would've done without you as a—I mean, without you."

The fact that Munah had changed his statement upset my trust in him just enough for me to realize that Amber, Skyler, and their angelii had been telling the truth. I pressed the phrase into my mind, to hopefully keep me from forgetting: "...done without you as aI mean, without you."

"King Munah!" a soldier shouted, clanking his way through the forest toward us. "We've caught one of the kidnappers!"

My heart almost stopped as a cut and bruised Skyler was dragged toward us, and then thrown on the ground. He was unconscious, a trickle of blood oozing slowly down his cheek from his forehead.

Landon glanced up at the trees to the east, as though he heard something. I listened, too, and heard the hint of an anguished wail.

Cirrus was mourning the separation from his faerie.


End Notes:

[1] angeli—pronounced AN-juh-LEE. plural, angelii (AN-juh-LYE)

[2] Klœw'inn—pronounced KLAWN

[3] hyrie—pronounced HEE-rye

[4] ...I added two and two. Five.—just a little joke I have with a school friend. *coughcough, Noah!* It could, in this situation, also mean the world was turning upside-down. Figuratively, of course, but you catch my drift. I hope.

[5] ...like a wild wolf-dog dreading the return of a cruel master.—It really DOESN'T sound like Crys, but the figurative language was too good to cut! 9_9"


Sera: (reads, and then rereads, and then re-rereads story) I'm good with that.

Lily: ......mmmm.

Sera: ...you aren't still angry with me, are you?

Lily: ......mmmm.

Sera: -_-" she's still angry. idk why. =/. Review, people! (Faves work too, but reviews are betterer =3)

EDITED 04-21-09, 08:15PM

EDITED 16-11-09, 09:50PM—NOTE: Skyler's angeli's name is officially CIRRUS! Seriously. I was going through this, and didn't know whether I meant to name him Shiro or Cirrus -.-" The conclusion I've come to is that his name is Cirrus, and his nickname (that will be very rarely used) is Shiro.