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Prologue

A cool mist descended on the Menilan moors near the small village of Fernan. It was summer, and such mists were common in this part of Arsinuae. Menilan was a large city-state, bordering on Albion, Alentio, Tonuka, and, of course, Syriana.

It had been established only over a century ago, when a man by the name of Markhus Verazza, a farmer, brought himself and his extended family to farm the rich soil. The original farm had been replaced by a rather garish castle, which stood in the major town of Tream.

One girl hurried along the rabbit path through the forest. She glanced at the sky. The sun was beginning to set, signifying the end of the long summer day. She was glad to have taken the mountain path, even though the walk was tougher than that of the road.

Several spans ahead of her, a smaller girl ran through the undergrowth. "Kessah!" the older one cried, "Don’t! Mamma’ll be upset if you tear your dress!" And she’ll blame it all on me. Laughing, Kessah continued to scamper along, pretending to be an animal of sorts. She never listens to me—or anyone else, ‘cept for Papa.

Kessah was now out of sight. Samandia scolded herself for not concentrating on her younger sister. "Kessah!" she called chidingly through the woods. Then, again, more concerned this time. "Kessah? Where are you?" Now, realising she was alone, the girl shivered. The fog had crept up on her, and its cold fingers enveloped her body.

Samandia tried to run, but found herself glued in place. A voice whispered inside her head. "You are now under service to your matriarch—me!"

Glancing around herself, she whispered back, "I don’t know what that word means."

The voice came back, infuriated. "Stupid child! I am your queen! Queen of Arsinuae!"

Samandia narrowed her eyes. "There is no queen. They say she fell from her tower several days ago. It would be impossible—"

"Insolent child! Why in all of Arsinuae she chose you … of course I am queen!" In front of her, a wispy figure appeared. It seemed to have no bottom half—its body was cut off from its legs.

Samandia’s eyes widened when she saw the face. "You’re—you’re a faery! Or an elf!"

The woman sighed exasperatedly. "No! I’m human!"

Samandia looked puzzled and disappointed. "But your ears …"

"My ears? Oh, yes, they’re pointy. That’s how I got my name … my mother named me. My father never wanted anything to do with me, seeing as I was female. So he married me off to one of his friends. But I had my revenge! Ten years I was suppressed, oppressed, depressed! But now …" a smile slowly spread across her face. It showed nothing but a feeling of hatred. "Now I’ll live again!"

Samandia tried to understand exactly what the woman was saying. Unable to grasp the evil with her innocent mind, she questioned her. "And what is your name?"

"Child, my name is Sidhe. Queen Sidhe of Arsinuae, and Queen Sidhe of magic." The younger girl’s eyes widened and jaw dropped. She stood like that speechless, as the woman reached towards her.

Holding her forehead, Sidhe began to speak. Samandia tried to struggle, but the witch was too strong.

"I bind thee, Samandia of Fernan.

I bind thee, Samandia Darvosten.

I bind thee to the coven of Sidhe.

You are now my servant, the first of many.

I grant to thee, a title.

You are the leader, the leader of all magic …"

Samandia spun around dizzily, a warm pink cloud enveloping her and sweeping her away. She saw other worlds, other people, magic the likes of she had ever seen before. But, then, I’ve never seen magic at all before today …

The voice was finished. The enchantment was done, and Samandia was brought back to earth—her earth, anyway. She turned to go, but the woman pulled her back. "Not so fast!" she said gruffly. Then, she tried to mask her voice. "Dear child, I will grant you a wish. One wish, of anything you’d like." Samandia opened her mouth, knowing exactly what her wish would be. Sidhe promptly closed it again, then said: "Anything except to reverse the enchantment of course."

The girl nearly cried. What on earth would I ever need? I’m only a child, and … An idea sprang into her mind. She was twelve years old, and too young to handle any kind of magic. Just this light ‘helping’ had left her head feeling like she’d been hit over the head with a wheelbarrow. She smiled at Sidhe. "Six years is what I want."

Sidhe did not understand. "What do you mean, ‘six years’?"

"Six years before this—this sickness overcomes me. Six years before I have to become your servant. Six years—"

The mist growled. "Yes, I get the picture. Alright, girl. But don’t expect any favours from me, you hear? Even then you’ll only be a maid—and you shall suffer, never mind that. Your ‘six years’ might be more costly than you imagine. It might cost you any number of things; girlhood, love, family … sanity. But I shall have the last laugh—and the last blow."

A blast of ice slammed into the back of Samandia’s head and she collapsed to the ground. And that was where they found her, the search party, hours later, with only one word on her lips.

That word was Sidhe.

 

Copyright 2000 M. Lees

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