Chapter 1

The lights were dim, the only source of illumination coming from the candles. The glow of the flames flickered across the somehow fair face of the woman in the sleek coffin, the interior of which was decorated with white lace at the edges. The altar was filled with small flowers that were so plentiful, they piled up so much that it led a trail out the door between the people that were attending. The smell of incense was strong, though the heavy air of sorrow was stronger.

Somehow, the church was large enough to fit seven kingdoms' worth of people, royal families included. Everyone was dressed in their best attire, the quality ranging from class to class. Even the villains and crooks that ran amuck and had no connection with the woman in the coffin attended, heads hung and contemplating reform.

Though, none were as distraught as the deceased's husband, the king of Sardonia. He tried to put up a fight, to show off his strength and that he could pull through—but alas, it wasn't even five seconds into the ritual that he broke down into tears.

With the king's sobs, the rest of the interior broke down as well, longing for their savior to return.

This woman was known to the world as Suzanne Amethyst Ravyn Mystik Hawk Ichigo Kawaii Sapphyre Lynne Marianne, but as the rest of her name was very, very long and over-the-top (not to mention the fact that the narrator forgot half of it), we're simply going to stop it there and call her Suzanne.

A long time ago, when she was only seventeen, she saved a distant, obscure kingdom from ruin. The skies over their heads were filled with darkness and fire, earthquakes of varying intensity struck the land at sporadic moments, and some people probably died. Their torment came to an end when Suzanne appeared, seemingly landing from the stars as a gift to humanity. She confronted the villain of the kingdom directly, and with her victory, the skies cleared and the lands healed.

(Some say it was a rough fight to boost the glory of their savior, but really, all she had to do was flick him on the forehead and he'd give.)

So, that distant land was saved, and as this victory somehow reached to the main kingdoms, as the world lived in prosperity.

Nobody outside that far-off land knew why or questioned it; they just rolled with the punches. Plus, who'd pass up a life of tranquility?

It didn't last long, however. The same evil returned, this time on a larger scale. He started by taking over Toparia, the kingdom with the second-best economy and largest army, and moved on to the rest of the ruled lands.

He could only make part of one of the central kingdoms, Carnelia, bow down to his skies of fire and grounds of magma before still-seventeen-Suzanne showed up in his next target, Ambeway. She tried to defeat him again, but he proved too powerful this time around, and the teen was eventually forced to retreat.

The villain left Ambeway for the time being, since he didn't want to risk his victory if Suzanne was still there. It was obvious that he didn't take into account that she would recover and maybe even get some backup, since he was defeated in an instant the next time that they met.

Suzanne ran to the high kingdom of Sardonia to rest, and she happened upon its crown prince while in one of the villages. The man was immediately captivated by Suzanne's natural beauty and radiance, and Suzanne felt the same when she saw him.

Never mind that there was a huge evil that needed to be put down; little Sue thought that a make-out session or two couldn't hurt.

Ah…anyway, once they got their act together, the crown prince returned to his castle to retrieve his armor and an enchanted sword that hid the castle vault until a situation like this came up. He went off with Suzanne to confront the villain at his next target: Axinitia. Spells were cast, pointy blades clashed, and Suzanne dealt the final blow by flicking the villain on his nose.

Happily ever after and all that, you know?

To celebrate their victory, the prince married Suzanne and they became king and queen, and they had a child together. All of the kingdoms lived in peace for the next decade or so, until Suzanne somehow died from eating something poisonous. No matter that nothing could penetrate that cast-iron, dipped-in-sparkle-magic stomach before—she kicked the bucket at 28 years after accidentally grabbing a spoiled piece of bread.

Now, just about everyone in the seven kingdoms attended the funeral, and to reiterate, it was sad.

There was one girl, however, who looked around the church with a bored and slightly sour expression on her face. Disinterested, she grabbed one of the shorter clumps of platinum blonde hair on her head and tugged a bit, absently combing through the lock.

She leaned over to her friend on her right, a teary-faced boy around her age, and muttered, "I don't see why everyone from all the corners of the world felt the need to attend the funeral. It's not like half of them personally knew her," she spat out the last word.

Naturally, the boy was aghast. "Anabelle-Susan! You of all people should kn—"

"—Know 'how important my mother was to the world, what an inspiration she was,' blah, blah…" The girl's hazel-chrome eyes turned to the boy. "Besides, Jonathan, I told you a thousand times at this point: Call me Jen."

"But…" Jonathan's nose wrinkled. "Isn't Anabelle-Susan a prettier name?"

Jen turned to give her friend a proper withering look. "I don't care how 'pretty' or how 'like my mother' my name is, just call me Jen." She turned indignant and whispered, "Besides, what's wrong with Jennifer?!"

"A-Ah, nothing, nothing," the boy raised his hands in defense. It would be a futile attempt, what with him being rather small and Jen possessing enough power and will to casually knock him from one end of the colossal church to the other, but if it would help…

However, the girl simply sighed and went back to playing with her loose locks. She couldn't help but note how stuffy it was in the crowded structure and her tight black dress, and her small nose pointed to the ceiling as she tried to breathe a whiff of cooler air.

Taking another glance around the church, Jen couldn't help but think for what might've been the 507th time that she was the only person that thought the way she did about her mother, and that left her with a sense of loneliness.

Something like the ability to remove the rose-colored lenses that the rest of the world donned in order to see beyond the guts and glamor that Suzanne Marianne-Sterling was seemed like a one-of-a-kind talent.

Jen would talk about how her mother didn't actually do anything for the kingdom except live in the luxury of the castle to the older villagers, or how Suzanne was a vain woman to the kids that she played with in the forests from time to time, but the adults would simply laugh and the kids would avoid her and stick their tongues out at her, and the poor girl didn't know what to do.

Sometimes, she thought about what would happen if she didn't meet that person in the long coat.

When Jen still knew herself as Anabelle-Susan, she was just another name in the crowd. She would not doubt her mother, and she would love Suzanne with all of her heart, between every one of the woman's triumphs and the "flaws" that seemed to boost her image of "endearing."

That one spring morning, Anabelle-Susan was playing with the birds on the path of the castle garden, admiring her mother who was sitting under the trellis yards away. When she picked up one of the little ducklings that stepped out of the pond that the cobblestone path curled around, the child looked up to a shady figure in an unbuttoned wool coat carrying a rectangular bag.

She could make out a thin white line starting from the bag and splitting off into two as it reached the sides of the figure's head, and she could see a cotton shirt and blue pants that were out of place in a kingdom like Sardonia or the neighbors in Carnelia, so Anabelle-Susan wondered where they came from. The mystery of this…phantom was enough to have her halt in playing with the animals and forget about her mother for a moment.

The shadowy person leaned over to address her. "Hello, Ana." They sounded pleasant, but Anabelle-Susan couldn't tell whether their voice was masculine or feminine. "How are you?"

"I'm fine," she replied honestly, despite all of the warnings her father and the servants rattled off to her from time to time about strangers. Speaking of…"Um, excuse me, but…who are you?"

She had the feeling that the figure was smiling. "I am simply a person that wants to give you something."

The hazel flecks in the girl's eyes grew, and you could see a small rainbow shine in her irises. "What is it? Is it a present?"

You could hear a grin in the figure's voice. "Smart girl. The thing that I want to give you is, indeed, a gift. Hold out your hands, please."

Anabelle-Susan gasped, and obediently held out both of her palms. She liked getting presents, whether they were small stones from the village children or offerings of gold and jewels from the kings and queens of neighboring kingdoms.

"Close your eyes," the person whispered as they reached into the pocket of their coat. Anabelle-Susan shut her eyes and waited in anticipation.

Suddenly, Anabelle-Susan felt something press into her palms, and her eyes flew open and focused on her hands. There was a small black box tied with a light blue ribbon. The girl could feel something odd inside, like some type of eerie force residing within the box.

She looked up, wanting to ask about it, but the figure was gone. There was nothing but the sounds of lapping water and the rustling of wind against the leaves of bushes. The duckling, having disappeared when the "phantom" showed up, returned to Anabelle-Susan's side, looking up in curiosity. The girl looked around for any wisp of shadow or a dark brown hat, but it seemed that the "phantom" was gone for good.

Shrugging, Anabelle-Susan brushed the duckling over a little and sat down on the grass growing near the pond. The duckling hopped around her, quacking excitedly. The girl took one of the loose ends of the ribbon and tugged, pulling the strip of silk away from the box. She flipped open the lid and—

—Everything went dark. Later on, Anabelle-Susan woke up, feeling disoriented and a tad grumpy. She sat up, and found that she was in her violet-framed bed in her lilac-walled room. Her father was at her bedside, but her mother was nowhere to be found. The king was talking to a woman that the girl recognized as one of the castle healers. She stared long enough to get the king's attention, and the man made his way over and knelt down next to Anabelle-Susan's bed, babbling off about something that the girl didn't quite pay attention to. All the girl knew is that she was hungry, and she communicated this to her father.

He paused in his ramblings and seemed surprised, but the expression was gone as fast as it appeared, replaced with amusement. The king relented, bringing his daughter out of the room and down for lunch.

Upon arriving to the dining hall, Anabelle-Susan noted that there was already food on the table, coupled with a person that was already eating. Suzanne was sitting at one end of the long table, poised and elegant while eating a slab of meat. She was every bit of proper and punctual and whatever type of "p" adjective that you could think, but somehow, the sight of the woman that the girl was nearly identical to made Anabelle-Susan's blood boil with a foreign type of emotion.

Disgust, frustration…She never had to feel this before. The world was a peaceful place, filled with pastel colors and happiness. Her mother was the center of it all, even!

Negativity was confusing for the little child that usually felt a familial love for Suzanne and undeniable admiration, but later that night, the girl's eyes were filled with worry as she was curled up in her bed, trying to think about all of the great things that her mother was.

Well, there was the fact that she saved the world and gained the respect of the seven kingdoms, and…

…What else was there?

The next day, Anabelle-Susan decided to try and stay in the company of her mother to learn a bit more about the woman. Suzanne gave out a slight chuckle, but other than that, the child and mother merely sat under the wisterias, drinking tea while the woman read books written in an unknown language. The air around the two was awkward, and conversations never lasted long, much to the frustration of a curious Anabelle-Susan.

That night, she kept a scrap of paper and had a quill with an ink jar. She sat in front of her small desk, and she scribbled in handwriting only legible to her: likes books and tea.

The rest of the week was Anabelle-Susan trying to get more information about her mother by sitting with her, and it was the same every day: "Drinks tea and reads books."

She tried asking the king about Suzanne one day while he was in his study, and he dreamily replied, "Oh, she's amazing! She's beautiful, and she's kind, and…" He rambled on about how "great" she was, though he didn't do anything but compliment her looks and prevalence in battle.

Suddenly, he stopped in the middle of his tirade and looked at Anabelle-Susan in confusion. "Why are you asking about this, anyway?" He asked. "You've known your mother for a long time…Unless you were asking about how we met?"

"Um," Anabelle-Susan blinked, not quite sure what to say. "No, I remember that you told me that you met when she was fighting that villain, but I wanted to know the great things that she was."

"Oh, that?" The king laughed. "Well, I'll tell you—"

"It's getting late, father," Anabelle-Susan interrupted hastily, glancing at the open window. Moonlight was streaming through and cast a white glow on the wooden floors of the study. "I should go to sleep."

"Ah…" the king nodded slightly, looking at his daughter with an unidentifiable gleam in his eyes. "Well, let's get you to your room, huh?"

When Anabelle-Susan entered her bedroom, she went straight to her desk and picked out the scrap of paper that stuck out between two book covers. She got out her quill and scribbled: Has good looks and strength.

She kept looking at the paper every night for the next couple of weeks, frowning at the contents. There wasn't anything particularly special about Suzanne whatsoever, let alone a collection of great traits.

She supposed her sudden lack of admiration was understandable, though she still loved her mother. She just couldn't find an explanation for that overwhelming disgust.

One day, Anabelle-Susan was in her parents' room located at the top of one of the castle spires, looking for her father to see if he would bring her to Carnelia in September so she could attend the sculptures and paintings festival that they held annually. She was holding a glass of warm milk that a servant gave her, since according to him, drinking milk allows you to grow tall and strong. She didn't believe it, of course, since it sounded like something from one of the books on fairy tales in the library, but she took it anyway.

Now that she thought about it, it was the first time she's ever been in her parents' room. Usually her father was in the study, but when Anabelle-Susan didn't find him in there, she decided that he was probably in his room. The walls were painted red, with weird paintings placed on top of the solid color. They seemed to be drawn in graphite and featured simplistic designs. Some looked like people, others looked like animals.

Anabelle-Susan stood there for a bit, pondering the pictures. When she was satisfied with her observations, she turned to exit the room, but she bumped into Suzanne as the woman was entering and spilled the milk she was holding on her mother's favorite lavender dress.

Within the next minute, the king of Sardonia barged into the room to see his wife yelling and his daughter on the floor, wailing next to an abandoned cup and a puddle of milk. When he calmly interrupted Suzanne in her rant and asked her what was going on, she explained that the girl spilled milk on her dress.

It didn't leave a great stain; there was just a small wet spot on the hem of the dress. However, the king felt that he should take his wife's side and looked down at his daughter. "Anabelle-Susan, I'm sending you to the dungeon tonight. In the meantime, think about what you've done."

Now, Anabelle-Susan loved her father, and it was obvious that he loved her back. He would take her anywhere she wanted, no matter how long the trip was. He'd throw her parties on her birthdays, and he'd be willing to join her on her excursions into the forests whenever she heard a new tale about a monster. However, Suzanne always seemed to come first. It didn't matter what they were doing; the king was at the woman's beck and call, and it would only frustrate Anabelle-Susan for a bit before she relented.

It didn't leave a great stain; there was just a small wet spot on the hem of the dress. However, the king felt that he should take his wife's side and looked down at his daughter. "Anabelle-Susan, I'm sending you to your room for the rest of tonight. In the meantime, think about what you've done."

Now, Anabelle-Susan loved her father, and it was obvious that he loved her back. He would take her anywhere she wanted, no matter how long the trip was. He'd throw her parties on her birthdays, and he'd be willing to join her on her excursions into the forests whenever she heard a new tale about a monster. However, Suzanne always seemed to come first. It didn't matter what they were doing; the king was at the woman's beck and call, and it would only frustrate Anabelle-Susan for a bit before she relented.

This time around, she was more than frustrated. She struggled as much as she could, but since her mother had a grip of iron and was the one carrying her down to her room, she found herself sitting in the middle of the purple carpet on her floor, doing nothing except for looking up at the painted ceiling a few hours later. The moonlight streamed through her window, providing her only source of illumination until the sun rose to make things easier to see.

She spent her first hours in her room sobbing about the set of circumstances that she came to face, but once her hiccups stopped and the tears dried, she just got bored. She tried to entertain herself by pulling on the wool that stuck up in the rug and watching the moon for rabbits with mallets, but eventually, she settled with lying on her bed. The worst part was, she couldn't go to sleep.

Soon deciding that, no, she didn't want to be stuck in the self-dubbed "jail" for as long as she was awake, the girl got up and used her powers that she inherited from her mother to blast the door open with fire, not thinking that guards would probably be up in an instant. She made her way to the place that she found was an acceptable second stomping ground: the garden behind the castle.

Nobody really knew about it, if the overgrown vines and wild grass was any evidence. Understandable, seeing as how it was only accessible if you leaned against the correct wall and grabbed the doorknob leading into the greenhouse before the wall was set back in place. Anabelle-Susan discovered it the other day by chance, as she was wandering the castle. When she started to lean against the wall as boredom weighed down on her mind, she fell through the wall and ended up outside. She spent the rest of that afternoon trying to figure out the mystery of the panel.

She explored the garden as much as she could with the moonlight from above, pulling away thick vines and discovering little buds popping out from stems in the ground. She greeted the mice that prowled the ground looking for seeds, and she watched an owl as it caught those same mice.

She eventually tired herself out, and she looked around for the two oak trees that granted entryway to a little clearing that she found the other day. The clearing was big enough that she could fit in it if she curled up into a ball, and the grass was comfortable enough to sleep in. She climbed into the grotto once she found it, ignoring the prickly bushes that caught onto her dress and scratched at her legs. She landed on the patch of grass, and she fell asleep within moments.

The following morning, she woke up to the loud, echoing footsteps of boots against tile. A man was shouting, and the herd of footsteps quickened. The girl sat up, blearily rubbing at her eyes and trying to collect her thoughts. Once she realized that she was in the garden, she was wide awake. Maybe her father got the guards looking for her?

Shrugging, Anabelle-Susan climbed out of the grotto and made her way to the rotting wooden door. She opened it, coming to the dark space between the two panels that hid the door. She turned and flipped the panel on her left, appearing in the empty, old corridor. The girl contemplated letting her father know that she was all right, but she decided to turn the cold shoulder. After all, he did send her to her room, which was practically the dungeon to a kid.

She managed to slip into the western garden without detection and played with some squirrels that morning, eating the apples growing on the trees for breakfast. One of the guards spotted her in the afternoon while she was taking the new flock of ducklings for a tour around the garden, and she didn't mind him when the man went to inform the king about her whereabouts.

The king of Sardonia arrived while Anabelle-Susan was contemplating going inside to snag something for lunch, and the man immediately ran over to his daughter and hugged her, apologizing for his behavior that previous night.

She decided to forgive him for the time being, but the girl was still a bit bitter.

Since then, Anabelle-Susan only went inside the castle to ask servants for food and to fish around the library for fairy tales. She would sleep in the hidden garden, since the grass was usually cool and comfortable, and since she usually spent most of her time in one of the gardens anyway, either chatting with the animals in the west or exploring the wild jungle that the back cultivated. Sometimes, she'd see Suzanne again, casually drinking tea and reading books under the wisteria-trellis, and the girl would find a viable reason for that previously unexplainable disgust.

After a few months, Anabelle-Susan came across the black box that she was given. She noticed a speck of blue under a rose bush, and she inspected it, finding the box next to the blue ribbon. She grabbed both objects, remembering that she didn't actually get to see what was inside. She was surprised to open the cover and find a folded note addressed to her in red ink. She unfolded it and read,

Ana, I'm sure that you're confused right now, but don't worryin due time, you'll find out what you're meant to do.

I have given you a gift that nobody else in your world has. Can you guess what it is?

Underneath the note was an earring with a charm shaped like a closed book. Anabelle-Susan wondered what was so special about it, since a piece of jewelry wasn't really anything special. Not to mention that, if it was a magical artifact, Anabelle-Susan would be able to tell, but nonetheless, the girl went inside to find a servant that would help her put it on.

Since that day, Jen never met the person shrouded in shadow again. She did wonder how they were doing, occasionally. Though, she spent the rest of her childhood changing and growing into a girl that wants nothing but to get out of her mother's shadow. Every village that she visited had people asking about her mother's well being, and only a few people would think to drop a "how are you today?" every now and then. It got to the point that Anabelle-Susan tried to change her name once she realized that the second half of her first name was very similar to "Suzanne."

Ah, well, the nine-year-old girl thought as she pulled herself back to the present, maybe that will change. She pushed the lock of hair that she was playing with behind her right ear as she looked around thoughtfully at the melancholy faces. Maybe someone out there will think, "Perhaps she wasn't as fantastic as I thought."

A/N: Ah, don't mind me; just taking this story for a test run. It'll pick up eventually, I'll promise you that. Another thing: I had some trouble deciding the genre of this story, so if you think it belongs somewhere else, tell me and I'll fix it.

(For those curious, I edited this chapter. One of the scenes didn't bode well with me, so if the situation towards the end seems lame, that's probably why.)

If you like the premise so far or you found something that bothered you that you think I could fix, by all means, leave a review.