Once upon a time, in a kingdom called Guneer, there was a princess who could turn people into birds. And her name was Theodora.
And though the castle of Guneer was filled with many wizards – some of which who were even part of the royal family – no one had ever heard of someone with that kind of power. And the citizens were very afraid.
They were sure that the child would become a tyrant. An uncontrollable ruler turning everyone she knew into birds, without a single soul knowing how to reverse it. So they begged the king and queen to remove her right to the throne. To banish her from the kingdom. To kill her.
But, naturally, the king and queen refused.
They did agree to keep the strange power a secret from their daughter. But that didn't stop the princess from turning her French tutor into a peacock after she was smacked by a ruler. Theodora had no idea what she'd done, and she hadn't had any intention of hurting her tutor, but the fact that it had happened out of anger made everyone even more frightened than before. And nobody could figure out how to turn the tutor back.
So again the citizens of Guneer asked for the princess to be banished. And again, the king and queen refused. But this time, the citizens wouldn't take 'no' for an answer. So they decided to take matters into their own hands.
The Guneerans sent a lumberjack and his six-year-old son to find someone who could help them. And eventually, they came upon the king's brother, a wizard named Duke who had been banished from the kingdom years before.
Duke had agreed to kidnap the princess from his brother's castle, but only if the lumberjack agreed to give his son to Duke so that he could become Duke's apprentice. And so, dedicated to his cause, the lumberjack agreed to give his son, Felt, to the king's banished brother. And the deal was struck.
The next morning, Theodora was gone. And only Duke and his new apprentice knew where she'd been taken.
But soon, Duke discovered that he couldn't keep the two young children in his castle. Not just because he didn't have enough space, but because he didn't have any use for them, either. Felt was still four years away from his test for magic, so Duke didn't know what he could possibly teach him or if the boy could use magic at all. And he certainly didn't know what to do with his five-year-old, bird-conjuring niece.
Eventually, though, Duke decided to send them both into the Black Forest, which lay a few days' journey away from his castle. And he sent ten spiders – for spiders were Duke's henchmen – to look after them there.
Ten years passed.
And Felt and Thea escaped.
And they travelled together. Across the plains. Over the mountains. Through the city. To the castle. All while being pursued by Duke's head spider, encountering strangers that either threatened or saved their lives, remembering truths about their past, and discovering the unusually high amount of magic that Felt had hidden inside him.
And while they traveled, the king was almost forced into a marriage by his mother – a sorceress named Thelma – to his mother. Thelma's favorite wizard, Philander, searched for the ingredients to a love spell, only to realize that he was under a spell himself. And a prince set out on a quest to Duke's castle to try to rescue the lost princess, only to find that she wasn't even there.
In the end, after much fighting and a rather dramatic entrance from Duke, Thelma's plan to marry her son and regain Guneer's throne had failed. And she disappeared.
But before she did, she told Felt two things.
The first was that his mother was alive.
And the second was that Thea had been cursed by her.
But all of that – every plot twist, character, and triumph – was only the beginning.
And this is the story of what happened next.