Chapter One

Amaranthe's Princess

Karin Deveaux slowly fitted another arrow onto her maple bow string, the point of the arrow reflecting off her piercing blue eyes. She released the arrow with a twang, feeling the soft white feathers brush by her jet-black hair. The arrowhead protruded at the near center of the target and she let out a small sigh of frustration. Again, the fourteen-year-old princess had missed the eye of the red and blue target. But it didn't matter; she had discovered something this morning. Something miraculous.

Using only her mind, Karin pulled the arrow out from the target, and aimed it at the centre. Thrusting it forward with all her will power, the arrow stabbed in and stayed.

She had been using this newfound power all afternoon. Sometimes, she was able to move the object with the force of her mind, other times it would be something else. It was exhilarating, finding out about this power. She had no idea where it had come from, but who could she ask?

Abruptly, a metallic whoosh flew past her right ear and another arrow, one with crow-black feathers, split Karin's arrow cleanly in two. A cool male's voice reached her ears,

"It's dangerous to be off castle grounds alone, Karin."

Of course, the only one other than her seven siblings who called her without a title, "What are you doing here, Erek?"

His dark mahogany hair blew with the calm wind as his maroon eyes sparkled with amusement, "Taking a walk." Something in his voice told her that he wasn't exactly telling the truth. She eyes his black-winged horse, the one he always rode on wherever he went. He walked behind her,

"Dressed unacceptably for a princess once again. As expected." He added.

She felt a twinge of annoyance as she stared down at her loose navy pants and a casual shirt that she had stolen off one of her brothers earlier. Her quiver was strapped behind her and her arm guards were worn from wear,

"I don't need you to tell me how to dress."

Erek yanked his arrow out from the target and smirked, "Of course." But the smile just made her even more irritated. He was almost nineteen, and also her guardian. He watched her for almost twenty-four hours of the day, and never let her a moment of peace. Usually, she wouldn't mind; he was only doing his job, after all. The only thing that bothered her was that she was the only one in the family who needed a guardian. Why, even her little sister, Ryte, didn't need one and she was eight! It was probably because she had been so mischievous and troublesome in her younger days.

But that smirk Erek always carried around with him made her hand itch, wanting to slap that expression off his face.

"Again, why are you here?"

He smacked his forehead in mock forgetfulness, "Oh, right. Your eldest sister, Princess Melody, told me to tell you that you have to be in the Great Hall before sunset or else." He stole a glimpse at the red sun, dipping just a little below the horizon, "You're going to be late."

Karin cursed under her breath as she glanced back at the lake castle that took her so long to walk from. And with her khaki sandals, she had no chance in running back in time either. Seething with regretfulness, she turned to Erek, "May I?"

He turned his back on her and hopped onto his horse. Passing a look at her, he then held out his hand for her to take. Karin grinned as she grasped it and he pulled her up behind him.

This was one of the reasons why she considered Erek as her friend. She found it incredibly hard to hate him forever, even if it was possible at times.

But another reason was because he protected her from the ones who had tried to harm her, even if it did get him into trouble later on. Being the second-youngest, she was often teased by her older male cousins who rarely visited. But when they did, however, five years ago, the boys had shoved her into a closet and locked it, cackling with laughter. It wasn't until an hour later that Erek found her; he had boldly locked her cousins in the storage room of the castle and forced an answer out of them.

The wind blew in her face as Erek's horse, Troy, flew above the archery field to the silver glass castle. Well, it wasn't exactly a castle now. From pictures, Karin could see that what used to be there was a gray-walled castle, the ones that you saw in fairytales. But now, under Queen Jasmina's orders, it was rebuilt and remade into a glass-shaped clam, halfway under the surface of the frozen lake. It looked strange, a frozen lake in the middle of a vast valley, but The Queen was so obsessed with glass and ice that she ordered the original castle to be remade into thick, non-see-through glass and the lake that it had stood on to be frozen over for eternity. Karin wasn't sure who The Queen called on to make the Frostbear Lake for her. One of the enchantresses or warlocks in Tyranasia, Karin would guess. She even called upon the Glassmakers of Tyranasia to remake almost everything in the palace out of glass. Karin was certain her father didn't approve of it, but as always, he just sat down and watched intently as the pale blueness of the ice and glass covered what used to be colored with mixed greens and blues.

The sun slowly set and Erek carefully landed at the entrance of the palace, Amaranthe. She cautiously stepped over Troy's feathered wings, hastily waving back.

"Thank you! I'll see you tomorrow!" She nodded to the guards, who quickly let her in after inclining their heads. Amaranthe was different from the other castles around Tyranasia. First of all, it was entirely oval shaped. But the minute you stepped in, you'd see the mezzanine's middle platform surrounded by water, which was usually covered with wisteria colored glass. Sometimes it was removed for anyone, including Karin, who wanted to swim in it. There were two floors, the top holding the chambers, and the bottom had the kitchen, storeroom, and everything else. But Karin liked what was underneath, the bottom half of Amaranthe.

Glass coral stairs led down into the basement where the Ballroom and the Dungeons were, but it was the dungeons that interested her. The glass under the water was see-through, so whenever there was a ball, the purple jellyfish and mer-people would be their audience as well.

But there was no time to daydream about it.

She tiptoed up to her room, to the fifth one on the left. The door squeaked as she opened it, but she clumsily stumbled over to her closet. Her feet were dirty but she couldn't wash them. She was already late. Stripping off her pants and shirt, she made a second's decision choosing the crimson gown with a layered hem that hung down to her ankles. Not something that Queen Jasmina would choose.

After struggling to tie it up at the back, she hurriedly combed the tangles out of her hair. She checked herself in the mirror and her reflection beamed back in satisfaction. Swiftly, she slipped her small feet into a pair of high-heels and picked up the hem of her dress as she descended down the stairs. She skidded to a halt as she approached the room which led to the Great Hall. Queen Jasmina shook her head disapprovingly, her blonde hair done up again, prim and proper. Her sister, Gabriella, locked eyes with her and shot her a sympathetic look. Karin didn't waste another second to curtsy politely and sit down. Little Ryte, her auburn hair pinned straight down, whispered into her ear,

"Mother is very mad at you."

"She's not my mother." Karin reminded her, "Queen Marianne's my mother." Rest her soul. She had died when Karin was born, so she was told. She sniffed, and tried not to grimace. Something on the table smelled strongly of curry.

They began their dinner quietly. Her father, King Simon, cast a few worried glances over at her every other minute. She pretended not to notice, but instead she turned her attention to her identical brothers, Jaspar and Jarod. They had started to play with their food, despite being one of the elder. Ryte happily began to copy them. The Queen cleared her throat,

"Settle down. Stop teaching your sister rude manners at the table."

The two boys rolled their eyes as she looked away. Karin hid a smile behind her food; they despised their step-mother as much as she hated them back. Karin loved the twins, with their spiky brown hair and dark, adventurous eyes. They were the only ones who had the time to spend a few hours with her. But since they turned nineteen, they'd been busier spending their days with their girlfriends. Her older brother, Lyon, was also too busy with his fencing lessons. For his sixteenth birthday, King Simon allowed him to participate in the games in the nearby villages. The more Karin looked at Lyon, the more he resembled his eldest brother, Rowan, who had moved away to rule in Vlimad'r.

"Where were you, Karina?" Melody gave her a dirty look. She and Queen Jasmina were the only two who called her by her full name. Melody would also be the only one who supported the Queen all the way through while making Amaranthe.

Karin scowled, "Outside. I lost track of the time."

"Oh, Karina," Queen Jasmina sighed, "You weren't playing with the village boys again, were you?"

"No!" Karin lowered her voice, "No, I was just outside."

Jaspar perked up, "Were you with Erek?" The Queen sniffed with distaste.

"Or were you with another boy?" Jarod piped up.

"Neither." Karin snapped, "I was out in the archery field."

The fork clattered down on Queen Jasmina's plate. She hastily picked it back up, "No wonder you're wearing mismatching shoes. And your feet are filthy."

Karin guiltily stared at her feet. She had worn a left silver and a right red high heel without knowing. Ryte giggled,

"Karin's mismatched!"

"Shush, Ryte." Lyon picked up her fork and fed the peas into her mouth. Ryte chewed and swallowed, but she continued to bounce up and down in her pearl dress.

Karin aggressively stabbed her fork into the steak and lifted it to her mouth. The twins copied her, grinning like fools. Queen Jasmina pouted her thin, pink lips,

"Simon, can you please tell your daughter to use the knife."

Karin's father wearily raised his head, "Karin, behave and use the knife."

She obeyed reluctantly. Queen Jasmina had already gotten the hint that she would never obey orders from her, and only from her dad. The Queen sighed, exasperated,

"Really, dear, how are we going to find you a husband if you are going to act this way. Your fifteenth birthday is tomorrow and no man's going to want to marry a princess who wrestles with peasant boys and doesn't have table manners."

There goes The Queen again. Rambling on about how peasant boys shouldn't mingle with royalty. How many times has she heard this rant this month? Ten times or more?

"Well, then, that's his loss." Karin shot back.

"Your husband wouldn't want a wife who mouths off to her elders, either." Melody put in, making Karin's blood boil even more.

"What, you mean I have to act like you, all-mighty and egotistical in order to find myself a good husband?"

"You act like me, and you'll be successful."

"Bloody hell I will."

"Karina!" Queen Jasmina glowered at her, voice dangerously high, "Do not use those vulgar words at the dinner table."

"Mel shouldn't boast at the dinner table either." Jaspar said.

"That's plenty vulgar." Jarod agreed.

Melody opened her mouth, "You both better shut up or you'll find yourself without tongues in the morning."

Jaspar and Jarod were about to say something when King Simon interrupted, "Please! Can we just eat in peace? Karin, I want to talk to you after dinner."

Karin bit her tongue in order to hold back her arguments. How unfair it was! She hardly said anything! Every time, every day, she would be humiliated by either The Queen or her eldest sister, and always at the end, she would get blamed for it. But something in her father's eyes told her that perhaps that wasn't the reason he had to talk to her.

As soon as Melody was done, she daintily lay down her knife and fork and excused herself. She left the room, head held high and proud like a peacock.

It was a habit of Karin's, matching people with animals. Her dad, King Simon, would resemble a brown bear, with his scruffy beard and eyes like burnt umber. Ryte would remind her off a snow rabbit, with her pale complexion, just like her mother, Jasmina. But then again, The Queen reminded her more of like a white gorilla, ready to pounce on her any second of the day. She suppressed a grin as she finished her soup quietly. She suddenly realized that she was the only one left, other than her father and the butler who was cleaning up the plates.

She stared at her father straight in the eyes, "You wanted to talk to me?"

King Simon motioned to her half-empty bowl of minestrone, "I'll let you finish first." He seemed so far away, sitting on the far left side of the long, glass (of course) table. He stood up in his awkward royal-blue robe, which clashed horribly with the gold outlining threads, and sat down on the chair next to her. He dismissed the butler with a wave.

Karin dropped her spoon onto her china bowl, "I'm done."

King Simon raised his eyebrows, "No, you're not."

"I'm not hungry."

He sighed; his face seemed worn and older, though he was only forty-three years old. But he smiled for his daughter, "I know that you may not like Jasmina, but she is your Queen."

"But she's not my mother."

"That may be true." King Simon's smile widened, "But she is still your Queen and for my sake, please respect her or she'll bite my head off every night, telling me to control you better and get you to behave."

"Control me better." Karin repeated the words hollowly. What did The Queen think she was, a robot? Before she could say another word, though, King Simon said,

"But that's not the reason why I wanted to speak with you."

Karin waited. The King's smile wavered as he spoke softly, "You look so much like your mother."

Karin heard that line so many times she had lost count, but every time The King said it, it made her swell up with pride. The King held out his coarse hands for hers, "Come, I want to show you something."

She her hands fall into her father's and followed him out of the Great Hall. They passed by the Winding Staircase, past the storage rooms and past the Ballroom. She was surprised when The King stopped beside the greenhouse. She remembered when she had run around here with Jaspar and Jarod, in the greenhouse, and knocked down one of Jasmina's favorite glass plants. She scolded them for hours even though Karin was sure that the Glassmakers could simply make her another one.

"Your mother loved the plants I got for her. She put them in the greenhouse every time." King Simon breathed, taking in the smell of what was alive in the room. There were still a few plants that The King had insisted on keeping. A greenhouse would be no use if all the plants in there were made of glass. A brown plant drooped over the side of its pot, and as Karin touched it lightly, she wondered if she could heal it back.

The King stepped to the side, over to where the paintings were. King Simon had ordered his favorite paintings put here, in this very room. Karin wondered how many times her father had ventured here without her knowing. His thick fingers grazed over the surface of the family painting. Karin walked next to him,

"When was this drawn?"

"Oh," He replied, "One or two years before you were born."

She examined the work of art; all of them: Rowan, Melody, Jaspar, Jarod, Gabriella, Lyon, and the King and Queen. All of them were brunettes, though different shades of brown from copper to bistre. Their eyes were a variety from green and rusty brown, with the exception of King Simon's sharp blue eyes. Those were the same blue that colored Karin's eyes.

It was only in paintings that Karin saw what Queen Marianne looked like. She looked so solemn and serene, her hair always let down in curls and her face always serious. But it wasn't her mouth that smiled, it was her eyes. Queen Marianne's dark eyes would make her seem like she was laughing, even if she wasn't really. Fun, audacious; Karin would have loved to meet her mother.

"I remember when this painting was drawn. Your mother was so excited to be a part of it and I was just as happy to see her like that. If only you could have seen her then."

Your mother…

Karin never heard him say Queen Marianne. It was always, your mother. She couldn't figure out why. Her eyes followed his, and she realized that he was no longer looking at the family painting, but at the one beside it.

A beautiful woman, with silky, black hair that went as long as the waistline of her celadon dress, was posing with an overjoyed laugh on her face. Her slim hands were on her waist, and Karin noticed that the background of the canvas was of the greenhouse itself, except it looked much different. Small vines crept up along the glass walls and everywhere behind her were emerald and jade plants. Her own dress made it blend with the back and it looked as if she were like a goddess, sprouting up from the earth itself.

"Who is she?" Karin asked, "I've seen her before, but you've never really told me about her."

The King paused. Were there tears in his eyes? "Her name was Ellinia. She was the advisor of Amaranthe, and also an enchantress, one of few in this world of Tyranasia."

"An Enchantress? Really?" Karin interrupted. She instantly bowed her head in repent but The King didn't seem to mind.

"Ellinia was a great friend; I don't think I have ever met anyone quite like her. She's different from the rest of the servants who work here. Independent, brave, and she didn't even bother obeying my orders, not like I gave her many. My wife, rest her soul, was very fond of her. Best friends, they were. Ellinia worked here until you were born, and then she left. I don't know where she is right now. She never even said good-bye."

Karin gawkily patted her father on the shoulder, "Why don't you write to her? I'm sure she'd love to hear from you."

"Karin, I don't even know where she is right now. She didn't leave a word on where she heading off to. It was smart of her, I suppose, now that enchantresses are being executed on the spot."

"Why's that?" Karin asked, shocked.

"Duke Mortinhell has been ordering them to be captured and brought to Bhoar Mountains where his fortress is. I can't do anything about it; his region is far from where I rule. I suppose he doesn't like humans who have magical powers."

"But our world is magical!" Karin choked out, trying not to let panic take hold of her. What would happen if people knew what she could do? "Look at us! Flying horses and faeries that roam all around the forest! Why can't we have a few enchantresses here and there? Does he take the warlocks too?"

"No. Remember, Karin, warlocks only have one special power they can use. Enchantresses can do everything."

Karin shook her head vigorously, "It doesn't seem fair."

Her father grasped her on the shoulders, "Karin, don't be upset." His voice sounded slightly alarmed, "Since when did you start to care about what happened in Tyranasia."

She had a second thought about telling him about her secret, but what if he turned against her too? She couldn't trust anyone with this secret. Not yet, anyway. She shrugged her shoulders as indifferently as she could, "I-I'm not upset. It just seems so unfair. Enchantresses don't have a say on whether or not they want a magical touch on their fingers. It just happens, right?"

"Seems to me you know a lot about it." The King winked at her. "Have you been doing some research in the library without me knowing?"

"Maybe." Karin smiled. She loved it when her father tried making her feel better, even if it ended up making her feel a lot worse. It was the thought that counted. "Father, don't worry about Ellinia. I'm sure she's fine, wherever she is."

King Simon rubbed his forehead, "I hope so. I really hope so."

How big was Tyranasia? Her father never let her explore the outside world, but Erek brought stories of Lindyr, the village where he came from. She had visited it once, two years ago and she had been wrestling with one of the village boys, but that was because he had called her an S.S.P. She had asked him as politely as she could what he had meant and he replied, "Snobby spoiled princess". Erek had pulled her off in time when Melody rode in and saw the scene. She had raced back to tell Queen Jasmina the news, and Karin was never allowed in Lindyr ever again. Ever since then, Melody and Karin had been on bad terms, and with Queen Jasmina, even worse. The Queen had also put Erek on her hate list, probably right under her twin brothers.

But Karin made a secret wish anyway, that she would one day be able to travel around the world of Tyranasia, and maybe even see the wonderful creatures she read and saw in those picture books when she was little. Faeries of almost every color, those tiny pixies that pulled at your hair. and even those odd creatures she couldn't pronounce the names of. That's what she had heard anyway.

She forced a smile out, "Father, I should go. It's getting late and you should get some sleep too."

King Simon chuckled, "Speak for yourself, Karin. You've got your fifteenth birthday tomorrow, so you've got lots to plan. Don't be surprised if the front doors are filled with suitors asking for your hand in marriage first thing in the morning."

Karin nodded, mouth still held in a stiff smile, "Thanks." She turned to leave, retching inwardly so her father couldn't see.