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Hi! This is a thread where I will share my fanfiction. I will be posting chapters of my stories here, as well as links to them on other sites.
 
Feedback on any of this would be appreciated dearly!
 
(Do note that this post may not coincide with everything I've uploaded to other sites due to the fact that I have other things in life. However, feedback on what's already posted here is still greatly appreciated!)
 
 
Avatar: The Last Airbender


Fire, Song and a Snowstorm

Chapter 1


           She did not stop running. She could not. She had to get out of there, out of the ice fortress where she was being held. She didn’t care that her feet were making visible marks in the snow – if she could make it, it wouldn’t matter.
            Then the wall of ice appeared before her.
            This was it. There was no way she could escape now.
            There was no sun here, or blue sky. Only thick snowstorm clouds conjured by a stolen power. That was where she and the others were imprisoned. A world without warmth, or new company, or anything other than the ice and snow covering everything.
            Was this her fate?
 
            A girl groaned as the morning sunlight poked through her window, shining on her face. She wrapped herself tightly in a red blanket and rolled over into her pillow, hoping she wouldn’t be wakened…not just yet.
            “Elsi!â€
            A clear voice rang out from the other side of her bedroom door. Slowly, Elsi pulled herself up and off the bed.
            “What?†she said sleepily.
            “It’s snowing, it’s snowing! We have to go outside!â€
            Elsi opened the window curtain. It was indeed snowing. It was one of those rare snows where one could see the sun while the sky made ice crystals.
            She slumped toward her small mirror and began to comb the snags out of her dark brown hair, while her reflection’s golden eyes stared back at her.
            Soon, Elsi was out of her night gown and in a pale yellow day robe with green trim. She walked out of the small house where she lived with her aunt and found who had called to her.
            Mihoshi, Elsi’s childhood friend, was standing in the snow. It wasn’t very deep yet; one could still see the grass tips poking out of the white. As usual, Mihoshi’s dark orange hair was in a single, tight braid, and she wore her favored color of mint green, which Elsi thought nicely complimented her dark brown eyes.
            “Good morning!†Mihoshi said.
            “Good morning yourself,†Elsi replied.
            Suddenly, Elsi felt something small, wet and cold hit her in the back. She turned to see Leyka, Mihoshi’s dark haired younger sister, hiding her hands behind her back and trying, in vain, to form an innocent smile.
            “Did you throw a snowball at me?†Elsi asked, smiling back.
            “Well…†Leyka replied.
            Elsi nodded knowingly at Leyka.
            “Yes!†Leyka yelled excitedly as she threw another small snowball at Elsi. Elsi, however, was prepared this time. Almost as quickly as Leyka had thrown the snowball, Elsi sent a blast of fire in its trajectory, melting it before it could find its target.
            Elsi was a firebender, but only a select few knew it.
            Elsi lived in a small village in the Earth Kingdom, called Midori, stationed in the middle of a forest. She had been raised by Meimu, her aunt, because her parents had been killed by the Fire Nation army. Her father, Keden, had once been a Fire Nation soldier. Forced into that role, he had longed for a way out. And one day, when his fleet touched a particular shore, he met Miri, a common woman from the Earth Kingdom. Keden had left the army and started a life with her, but a week after Elsi had been born to them, the army had found Keden and killed him and Miri for what they saw as an act of treason.
            Elsi, however, had escaped, as Miri had been wise enough to hide her under a shrub outdoors. The next day, Miri’s sister Meimu heard the terrible news. Knowing where they had been hiding, she found Elsi and ever since then had been raising her as her own.
            It was how she had met Mihoshi. Meimu lived next door to Maya, an old friend of herself and Miri. Maya had a husband, Han, and a daughter, Mihoshi. From an early age Elsi and Mihoshi had been the best of friends.
            When it was revealed Elsi had inherited her father’s firebending, she had been warned to speak of it to no one other than Mihoshi and her family, who already knew the identity of Elsi’s father. Meimu knew that, with the war still going on, firebenders were seen as an enemy, and Elsi, if found out, would be an outcast. Worse, if any Fire Nation soldiers found out, they might capture or kill her because she was Keden’s daughter.
            Fortunately for Elsi, she wasn’t the type to concern herself with anything outside of her own world. Oh, she was cautious. She kept herself a secret from strangers, and she was certainly not happy with what the Fire Nation was doing in the Earth Kingdom. But she felt fortunate. An orphan she may have been, but as far as she was concerned, she had a family. She had her aunt who loved her, and Mihoshi and Leyka and Han and Maya – and Liu, who was at that moment flying headfirst into a snowman she and Mihoshi were building.
            Splat! – The little brown striped cat bearing the wings of a swan rammed into the large snowball, getting stuck in it, and in the process causing the snowball to roll off of the snowman-to-be’s bottom portion. As it landed, so did Liu, who at once sat up as soon as the snow broke. She shook the snow off of her head.
            “Liu!†Mihoshi laughed, picking up her quinn, for “quinn†was what the cats with the swan wings were known as. Liu purred at Mihoshi’s touch.
            “Who’s a pretty quinn?†Elsi cooed as she scratched Liu’s head. Liu purred some more.
            The rest of that day was spent redoing the first snowman and building many more, some with cat ears, some with snowballs in their stick hands, and some with their arms positioned as though they were performing a song. In between that were more snowball fights. Despite Elsi’s secret weapon, she couldn’t always evade Leyka, who fancied herself a “snowbender.†Even Mihoshi, an earthbender, couldn’t always put up a wall of icy soil in time to block Leyka. Leyka, of course, had her own strategies. She was an expert at ducking snowballs and at jumping over them at just the right time.
           
            And as the moon rose, it became clear to the one with the frozen heart that if she was to succeed, her fortress had to be hidden from all outsiders. She knew there was a small forest village nearby…anyone could slip in and find it.The trees that surrounded her land would have to block it off…somehow…


Chapter 2


            A velvety dark blue-gray covered the skies over Midori as Elsi, Mihoshi and Leyka retreated from the outdoors, where it was still snowing. Night had fallen, and the cloud cover guaranteed more snow to come.
            Liu the quinn napped in a corner near the fireplace, for which Elsi quickly provided flames. At that same moment, Liu rolled sleepily over and snored.
            “I can’t believe you tried to make a snow fort,†Mihoshi laughed. “I honestly thought snow feared you, Els.â€
            Elsi giggled in reply.
            “Leyka’s too good for either of us to outsmart her, you know that Mi’shi,†she said.
            Leyka looked at the two of them with a triumphant, slightly haughty face.
            “Don’t think you’ve won the whole winter,†Elsi said to Leyka. “Mihoshi is right, snow does fear me –â€
            “ –unless I’m the girl behind the snow!†Leyka shouted back.
            Just then, the wind whistled and one of the windows came open. Immediately, plentiful cold air swooped in, putting out the fire and bringing with it some snow, which at that moment did not seem very frightened of Elsi or anyone else.
            Mihoshi went to the door and opened it.
            “Whoa!†she said. “There’s quite a blizzard out here!â€
            Elsi and Leyka rushed to the door to take a look. Mihoshi was right; the grass that had been poking out that morning was completely covered, as were the roots of the many trees that interspersed with their village. The lowest steps of both Elsi’s and Mihoshi’s porch stairways were also blanketed in white cold.
            “I should go back,†Mihoshi said. “Mama and Papa will be worried if I stay out in a big storm too long.â€
            She grabbed Leyka’s wrist and started to walk through the ever-piling snow to the house next door. Elsi could still hear Leyka’s protests after she closed the door.
            Elsi tried many times to relight the fire and close the window, but it couldn’t be helped. This blizzard was unusually strong.
            A little too strong…
            She looked over into her aunt’s room. Meimu was sitting in a chair with a now flameless candle, trying to read a book without light.
            Elsi decided it was safe to slip out.
            As she stepped outside, she discovered her suspicions were true: there was no way this could be a normal blizzard, even in winters like this. She felt as though her whole body was being pushed by the cold wind, away from a certain point. She looked in the direction from which the wind was trying to keep her and saw, to her shock and somewhat terror, that solid ice was creeping up a cluster of trees.
            Elsi pushed against the wind towards the trees. As she did so, she discovered that it wasn’t the wind that was doing this – it was the snow.
            The snowflakes were flying at her and pushing against her. They were not going down, as snow normally did – they were flying in all directions from that point outward. Something was forcing them away so much that they were unstoppably piling into houses. It had to be an outside force, because snow couldn’t have secrets or vendettas – could it?
            Nevertheless, Elsi pressed on against the snow, and as she drew nearer, the pressure lifted. Oh, the winds were still strong and relentless, but the snow was no longer being pushed away. Now, as typical of a blizzard, it had no discernable way to go. Elsi noticed Midori residents closing their windows successfully at long last.
            When she was sure she was far away from any group of houses, Elsi lit a small flame in her hand to be her light. She approached the spot the snow had forbidden anyone access to, and yelped.
            A large cluster of broken tree branches and briars was stacked high up, much taller than any person, between two trees. The whole thing, and its tree neighbors, were covered entirely in solid ice. Elsi kicked it, but the ice was very hard. The trees surrounding the area were extremely close together, close enough for thick walls of ice to be between them.
            She walked in a circle around the particular area of Midori Forest, only to find that all the trees and everything in between was covered in ice. An entire section of forest had been cut off. Why?


Chapter 3


            The next day, Elsi awoke, still feeling cold from the excursion she had taken the night before. Mihoshi and Leyka had to know what was going on, if indeed the forest was still frozen.
            It was no longer snowing, but there were clouds in the sky and no grass could be seen. The entire ground was covered in four inches of snow.
            Elsi couldn’t quite remember where it was. She had pushed against the snow last night, but today it all looked different. Trees one after another, all looking the same. Clearings with houses interspersed between them. The place she sought she knew to be in the deep forest where no people lived, but she couldn’t even seem to find a way out of the village.
            “Elsi? What are you doing?â€
            It was Leyka.
            “Oh! Leyka! Hi, hello. I was…um…â€
            “Mihoshi’s been looking for you,†Leyka interrupted. “Why are you wandering around?â€
            Elsi approached Leyka and got down on her knees.
            “Listen,†she said quietly. “I found something very strange, but you can’t say a word to anyone but Mihoshi.â€
            Leyka nodded, her eyes wide with curiosity.
            “Deep in the forest there’s a place that’s trapped in ice. All the trees are frozen together. I think someone’s hiding something there.â€
            Leyka’s blank expression quickly turned upward into a wide grin.
            “Yes, I will take you there if I am able to find it,†Elsi replied, sighing as she spoke the last bit.
            Leyka ran off toward the clearing where her and Elsi’s homes were.
            “Mihoshi!†she cried. “Mihoshi!â€
~
            “So last night, you think the snow was pushing against you?†Mihoshi asked Elsi.
            “Exactly,†Elsi said as she, Mihoshi and Leyka entered the northern forest. “It didn’t feel like air at all. It felt like tiny, cold…things…that were pushing me away from there.â€
            “Things?†Mihoshi asked.
            “What else would you call them? Frozen ant-flies?â€
            “Look!†Leyka shouted suddenly.
            The two of them turned to where she was pointing. Among stark, leafless tress and a few evergreens was a wall of ice the color of the summer sky.
            “I don’t like the look of this,†Mihoshi muttered, approaching the wall.
            Elsi gasped.
            “Wait!†she said, running after Mihoshi with Leyka following.
            Mihoshi took a look at the wall. The ice encased adjacent tree trunks for up to at least twelve feet, and in between those trunks the ice was thick and strong. Mihoshi kicked a part of the wall between the tree trunks five times, but the ice did not even crack.
            “Give it up,†said Elsi. “That stuff is harder than metal.â€
            “Strange…†Mihoshi murmured, not listening. She began to walk to the right, following the circle the wall made.
            Then, she reached the first part of the barrier Elsi had seen.
            “Whoa,†said Mihoshi. Elsi and Leyka agreed; their eyes widened as they saw the barrier in daylight.
            The briars and tree branches could be clearly seen through the ice. With the ice holding them in place, some of them looked as though they were suspended in midair.
            “Let’s go!†Mihoshi whispered in excitement.
            “Let’s go?†Elsi said. “We don’t know what’s beyond there! Besides, how could we even get in? The whole place is blocked by ice!â€
            Mihoshi and Leyka both looked at Elsi.
            “What?†Elsi said.
            “You can break it,†replied Mihoshi.
            “How…oh.â€
            “But,†Elsi continued, “I can’t firebend here! What if I get caught? Besides, what if something really really bad is behind there?â€
            “No one’s here!†Leyka said. “It’s just us!â€
            Elsi looked at Leyka’s excited face, then she turned to Mihoshi.
            Suddenly, something sparked inside Elsi. There was just something about Mihoshi. Something about how happy and bright-eyed she looked. Something about how Elsi didn’t feel right letting her down.
            “Okay,†she said. “Stand back.â€
            Mihoshi and Leyka backed away from the ice wall, and Elsi shot a stream of orange fire into the middle of it.
            The wall began to turn slowly into water, then into steam. A hole appeared in it, and it expanded, letting loose briars and branches. After a few minutes, the ice wall had been split in two – there was a gap in the middle of it, marked by wood sitting in a puddle of water.
            Mihoshi stepped through and beckoned Elsi and Leyka.


Chapter 4


            It was a completely different world.
            The snow that Mihoshi, Elsi and Leyka now stepped on wasn’t powdery in any way. It was hard and packed, so much that each step a girl made created a crunching noise. This caused apprehension in Elsi, as she didn’t want to be heard by anyone suspicious.
            Though they stepped further and further away from the ice wall, the iciness of the trees did not dwindle. Every lone tree was covered in ice from the ground up to what all three of them supposed was the highest point of the wall.
            Mihoshi glanced at Elsi. She could tell that her best friend still thought this was a bad idea. But to Mihoshi, this was new. This was an adventure. She felt she was meant to be here; to uncover all of its secrets.
            Suddenly, a shout dispelled the quiet.
            “Look!â€
            It had come from Leyka.
            Mihoshi approached where her sister was pointing. Then she gasped.
            “We have to get out of here,†she said.
            Elsi shook her head. What was with Mihoshi? One minute she was all over this, and now –
            But Elsi soon understood.
            A soldier, undoubtedly from the Fire Nation, stood very still in the snow. His armor was the same white color.
            “What is he doing here?!†Elsi whispered. Her heart raced. Her village…it was under attack!
            “Wait,†Mihoshi said. “I think he’s frozen.â€
            Elsi reached a finger out, slowly, and touched the armor. It was cold, and it didn’t even feel like metal. It felt like –
            “Snow,†she said.
            Leyka punched the soldier’s hand. It broke off and fell. She stepped on it and it turned into white powder.
            “It’s a statue made of snow!†Leyka gasped.
            “Wow,†Mihoshi said. “How did they build it? It looks so real…â€
            Elsi turned. She saw, not far away, another soldier. This one looked like it was from the Earth Kingdom. Unlike the Fire Nation one, it had no helmet. Its hair and beard were showing, but it didn’t have a face.
            She shot a stream of fire at its arm, and it melted into water.
            “Look at this!†Mihoshi said.
            Elsi and Leyka followed her voice and found yet another white soldier. This one had a helmet shaped like a wolf, and through it they could see its lack of face.
            Mihoshi stuck her hand in the helmet.
            “They’re all snow,†she said with wonder in her voice.
            “Is this why this glade was cut off?†Elsi asked. “So someone could make a bunch of snowmen?â€
            “Listen!†Mihoshi whispered.
            Elsi listened.
            Footsteps could be heard in the distance, but they were soft. Whoever it was, they weren’t crunching through the almost frozen ground like Elsi, Mihoshi and Leyka had been.
            They grew closer and closer.
            “Eeeeek!†Leyka screamed.
            Mihoshi and Elsi turned at once.
            Coming toward them were at least a dozen snow soldiers, some from every nation. They didn’t move like people. They moved, Mihoshi thought, like walking dolls.
            “S-someone’s bending the snow in them,†she stammered. “That’s why th-this was frozen. They w-want to hide their snow army!â€
            Elsi stepped in front of Mihoshi and Leyka. She took a stance.
            The snowmen kept coming.
            “Get away from us!†Elsi shouted as she shot fire at two of the snowmen, melting them.
            The snowmen formed a circle around the three girls.
            “S-stop it!†Elsi yelled. She continued to melt as many snowmen as she could.
            A female voice laughed in response. It was coming from a far point.
            “You can’t do that forever!†the voice called.
            As Elsi watched, snow came up from the ground and formed itself into a new soldier.
            “I won’t let you harm them!†Elsi called back.
            “Mihoshiiii! Heeeelp!â€
            Elsi stopped firebending. One of the soldiers had grabbed hold of Leyka.
            Mihoshi bent a large rock towards the soldier but stopped. She didn’t want to hit her sister.
            Elsi didn’t know what to do. She had to melt the snowman, but she couldn’t hit Leyka. And it would be hard not to; the snowman was moving away very quickly.
            Then more snowmen closed in on Elsi and Mihoshi, blocking Leyka from view.
            “No!†Mihoshi screamed, bending the rock through the snowmen.
            Suddenly, they all collapsed into piles of snow.
            Mihoshi darted her head in many directions.
            “Leyka!†she screamed.
            But Leyka and the snowman carrying her had both vanished.


Chapter 5


            “Mihoshiiii! Elsiiii!â€
            Leyka still screamed and kicked at the surprisingly hard snow soldier. It was being bent so well that her kicks and flails did little to dislocate the snow, but she didn’t stop trying.
            Suddenly, the soldier stopped.
            Before Leyka could try to escape, it started moving again, but it wasn’t traveling the same path it had been. Leyka noticed that it been carrying her down a path marked by mean looking icicles jutting out of every tree and the ground. Now, it walked through a gap between icicle-covered trees and found a path that Leyka thought looked much friendlier.
            The trees here were not so covered in ice that they looked blue; she could see the wood and leaves through the ice. The menacing icicles were gone. Instead, intricate, smooth swirls of ice were attached to the branches and leaves, like works of art. It wasn’t as dark as it had been on the other path.
            On top of that, the snowman’s grip on Leyka was no longer harsh and restraining. It was carrying her carefully, like she was a baby.
            She turned. Up ahead, she saw an incredible sight: a fortress made entirely of light blue ice.
            As she was taken closer, she witnessed the main doors open and a girl, about Mihoshi’s or Elsi’s age, stepped out.
            Leyka’s mouth slowly fell open as she got nearer to the other girl, seeing her more clearly.
            The girl’s skin was light blue, and her long, straight hair was also blue, a shade darker than her skin. And her eyes were the same color as the glaring blue icicles she had seen earlier, yet they had an odd warmth to them that no icicle could bear.
            Her garmet was strange, too. She wore a blue frock the color of her hair adorned with white ruffles and pearls. It covered her whole body, but Leyka didn’t think it would protect her from the cold, even combined with the white gloves covering her arms.
            The blue girl raised her hands and lowered them. The snowman, as if responding, gently put Leyka on the ground. The girl then spread her arms outward, and the snowman dissolved into snow.
            “Who…are you?†Leyka asked.
~
            Though the lifeless warriors forged of snow had been able to move about, Elsi and Mihoshi now stood still as icy statues, looking into the distance with wide eyes.
            After a long silence, which may not have been long at all, Elsi finally spoke.
            “We have to find her,†she said.
            Mihoshi turned and looked at Elsi with sad eyes.
            “How?†she replied, her voice soft with emotion. “We couldn’t stop those…things…when they took her.â€
            The sound of crunching footprints approached.
            Elsi spun towards the noise. “Who’s there?!†she demanded, igniting two flames within her hands.
            A voice sounded in the distance.
            “I…â€
            Elsi lowered her hands.
            “Come closer so I can see you.â€
            A girl, younger than Mihoshi or Elsi but notably older than Leyka, stepped into the clearing. Mihoshi put her hand up to her mouth to keep from gasping, and Elsi flinched. The girl had icy blue skin, hair and eyes. She wore a heavy blue coat adorned with white fur, two leather gloves, and a blue hat atop her hair, which was in two long braids.
            She giggled.
            “This is not how I really am.â€
            “What’s your name?†Mihoshi asked.
            “I’m Ket-Ket,†the girl answered. “I used to live in the Northern Water tribe until…â€
            “Until?†Elsi inquired, extinguishing her bending.
            Ket-Ket smirked.
            “I don’t think you would believe me if I told you.â€
            “But you can help us find my sister?†Mihoshi asked.
            “Yep!†Ket-Ket said cheerfully. “I think I know where she is now. Follow me!â€
            Ket-Ket started to walk back the way she had come.
            Elsi glanced at Mihoshi.
            “Do we trust her?â€
            “She’s just a girl. I think we can believe what she says.â€
            And firebender and earthbender followed the steps of the ice girl.


Chapter 6


            The path that Ket-Ket led Mihoshi and Elsi through started out like an ordinary snowy path through a forest until they came to a fork on the road.
            On the left path, a dark blue fog covered almost everything. The trees were completely frozen, so much that the ice surrounding them looked blue. Jutting out of the trees and ground were many vicious icicles.
            Elsi eyed the path warily, and a look of fear came onto Mihoshi’s face. Her sister…had they taken her down there?
            “Oh, you don’t want to go that way,†Ket-Ket said. “Come on, over here.â€
            The older girls turned and saw Ket-Ket start down the other path, which they, with relief, also took.
            The snow was falling gently on this path, and the trees, while still frozen, were visible through the ice. The sky was bright on this part of the forest, and Mihoshi gazed in awe at the smooth icy swirls jutting out from tree branches. Whoever had made them was an artist, she thought. They want this place to look friendly, she thought.
            “Here we are!†Ket-Ket said with a smile.
            Elsi and Mihoshi gazed ahead. Standing before them was a fortress made entirely of ice. It was layered like a cake, with octogonal floors atop each other and balconies on each roof excepting the highest, which was topped with a pagoda roof.
            “Well, come in!†Ket-Ket said. “Your sister is probably waiting.â€
            Mihoshi was the first to open the doors, which swung wide at the touch of her finger. She glanced back at Elsi, who stood still with a look of suspicion, and continued on.
            Everything was made of ice. There were ice scupltures of potted plants, ice fountains with ice shaped like running water inside them, and decorations that resembled frozen raindrops connected by string hanging from the ceiling. Right in front of her was a grand staircase to the second floor.
            She had barely taken all of its majesty in when a girl, who appeared to be made of ice like Ket-Ket, made her way down the staircase. The girl looked to be around her and Elsi’s age, and she wore ruffles and pearls. Mihoshi noticed that she wore gloves like Ket-Ket, only hers looked like satin.
            Elsi suddenly appeared, stepping up next to Mihoshi, as did Ket-Ket on her other side.
            “Ket-Ket,†the girl said in a somewhat serious voice. “Why have you brought them here?â€
            “My sister,†Mihoshi interjected. “Ket-Ket says she was taken here.â€
            The unknown girl descended the steps completely, looking Elsi and Mihoshi in the eye.
            Then the serious look on her face melted into a smile.
            “I am Aira,†the girl said.
            She turned to Mihoshi. “So your sister would be Leyka, yes?â€
            “Yes!†Mihoshi cried. “Oh, please can we see her?â€
            Aira turned toward the stairs.
            “Of course. Come with me.â€
~
            The second floor room was much like that of the first floor, but on the third and highest floor, it was different.
            Several armchairs and rugs made of packed snow filled the place, and a fireplace made of ice stood on the corner, with an ice sculpture of a fire in it.
            In one of the armchairs sat Leyka with a cup of tea.
            “Mihoshi!†Leyka cried. “Elsi!â€
            Leyka jumped off of the snow chair and ran toward her sister, catching her in a hug.
            Elsi turned to Aira.
            “So,†Elsi said, “you took her?!â€
            Aira’s face fell.
            “I did not take her,†she said quietly. “I saved her.â€
            “Do you think I’m going to believe that?!†Elsi snapped.
            Aira stared Elsi down.
            “I rescued that little girl,†she said calmly. “If I hadn’t, she would have been…â€
            Aira trailed off. It was clear she wanted to say something but didn’t know quite how to put it.
            “Would have been what?†Elsi demanded.
            “If I told you, you would not believe me,†Aira replied.
            “Leyka,†Mihoshi asked. “What did happen?â€
            “The snowman…the soldier, he picked me up and took me here,†Leyka replied. “Then Aira came and turned him into snow and said I should stay here.â€
            It sounded like a kidnapping to Elsi.
            “Leyka, come on,†Mihoshi said. “We’re going home.â€
            But as Mihoshi turned to the door, a wall of ice appeared before it, blocking it. Elsi, Mihoshi and Leyka quickly looked at Aira, whose gloved hand was outstretched toward the ice wall.
            “You cannot leave!†Aira exclaimed. “None of you! Once you’ve been seen you are not safe, except with me!â€
            A flame erupted in Elsi’s hand.
            “I heard you earlier,†she snarled. “I heard you call out to us as we fought your frozen soldiers.â€
            “What?!†Aira gasped.
            “You told Mihoshi and I that we couldn’t keep fighting them,†Elsi continued.
            “I wasn’t even there!â€
            Elsi’s flame evaporated. She kept her eyes on Aira, but her gaze softened.
            “Then who was that?â€
            Aira’s face fell.
            “Someone with ice for a heart,†she replied. “What I told you is true. If you try to get out of here those warriors will come after you again. I should know...
            “I tried to escape the night before last, but my path was blocked. This part of the forest was sealed off to make sure I didn’t try again.â€


Chapter 7


            Elsi was leaning against the ice wall of the top room in Aira’s fort. Mihoshi paced nearby.
            The ice wall blocking the door to the descending staircase was gone, but both girls knew that Aira was guarding the main door. Elsi was exhausted; twice she had tried melting the door with her firebending and both times Aira had been repairing all the damage she did before she could slip out. Elsi had noticed that though Aira wasn’t hesitant about her icebending, she neglected to put her hands on Elsi. In fact, she seemed to be consciously not touching anyone other than Ket-Ket.
            “Do you believe her?†Elsi asked Mihoshi. “Aira, I mean.â€
            “Yeah,†Mihoshi replied. “I don’t know why I wouldn’t.â€
            Elsi shrugged.
            “I don’t believe her,†she said. “I mean, Leyka doesn’t seem to.â€
            She was somewhat right. Leyka didn’t entirely trust Aira, but she didn’t know if she disbelieved her either.  She did, however, trust Ket-Ket, who was currently exploring the fort with her.
            Elsi sighed.
            “Elsi, are you okay?†Mihoshi asked.
            “I want to go home,†Elsi admitted. “I hate that we’re trapped here.â€
            “Me too,†Mihoshi said. She squeezed Elsi’s hand.
            Elsi squeezed back.
            “I’m glad you’re here, Mi’shi,†said Elsi. “You’re being here makes this whole thing bearable.â€
            Mihoshi nodded.
            “I don’t know where I would be if you weren’t here, Els.â€
            “I’m scared, Mi’shi,†Elsi continued. “I’ve flaunted my firebending in front of Aira and Ket-Ket, which means my secret’s out if they tell. And I’m scared for Leyka…I think Aira turned Ket-Ket into an ice person like her and will do the same to Leyka and us if we don’t get out of here.â€
            Mihoshi said nothing of her suspicions that Aira wasn’t behind it. She knew her best friend needed a listening ear.
            After a silence, Mihoshi turned to Elsi.
            “I’m sorry, Els,†she said. “We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for me.â€
            “What are you talking about?â€
            “I’m the one who told you to open the ice barrier. If I hadn’t, we wouldn’t have ever encountered the snow warriors and Leyka wouldn’t have been taken, and we wouldn’t be here. Oh Elsi…I miss my home already. I miss Mom and Dad and Liu…Mom and Dad, Els! They must be so worried about me! And Leyka too! I want to go home to them, both of us, or at least somehow tell them we’re alright –â€
            She was cut off by Elsi suddenly pulling her into an embrace.
            “Mi’shi…please,†Elsi said. “Don’t blame yourself. It’s Aira, or whoever made the snow warriors, that person did this. Besides, you didn’t open the barrier. I did.â€
            Mihoshi sighed as her arms hugged Elsi.
            “I would get us out of here if I could, but these walls are too thick to melt, and Aira is at the door,†Elsi sighed. “Believe me, I want to go home too. Aunt Meimu must be scared to death about where I am.â€
            Elsi looked at Mihoshi and gasped quietly. She had only just know realized how close they were. A moment after, Mihoshi came to the same realization and the two broke the embrace and stepped back, still staring at each other.
            As Elsi looked at Mihoshi, she felt as though she was seeing her for the first time. Mihoshi was beautiful and so, so kind. Her face was friendly and her expression was full of compassion. She reminded Elsi of a flower in spring. She was, in Elsi’s mind, perfect.
            And Mihoshi stared back at Elsi. All Mihoshi could think about was the glow of Elsi’s eyes and the warmth of her smile. And she was good and kind and brave, like the sun that never failed to rise. She was perfect to Mihoshi.
            Both girls felt memories come to the surface. Those days when Elsi and Mihoshi had run through the tall grass as children, played in the pond, and written songs. The day Mihoshi’s father had given her the liuqin and the joy she had shared with Elsi. The day Mihoshi had become a big sister and Elsi felt like she had too. Elsi creating spectacular light shows just for Mihoshi; the time when Elsi had accidentally burned a corner of her cat painting and Mihoshi had framed it anyway; when they had tried to get lost in the woods only to find that the old abandoned house belonged to Elsi and her aunt. All the games, songs, fire and snowball fights burned in their minds.
            That was the moment when Mihoshi knew she loved Elsi.
            She felt shocked – not that she loved her, but that she had loved her all her life and not known it. In the next moment, Elsi was taken aback by the knowledge that she loved Mihoshi, and had loved her ever since they were children.
            “Elsi…†Mihoshi said, “I…â€
            And in that moment her lips touched Elsi’s, and the two of them sank into a kiss.


Chapter 8


            Within the highest floor of an icy fort, a firebender and an earthbender stood facing each other, trembling.
            “So…th-that happened,†Elsi stammered quietly.
            Mihoshi broke into a smile.
            “Elsi…we kissed. You and me, Els.â€
            “Mihoshi,†Elsi asked, “do you…you know…â€
            Mihoshi once again threw her arms around Elsi.
            “I love you, Elsi,†she said. “I believe I’ve loved you ever since we met as children.â€
            Elsi smiled as she returned Mihoshi’s embrace.
            “I love you too, Mi’shi,†Elsi said. A single tear formed in her right eye. This was possibly the happiest moment of her life thus far.
            Suddenly, a crash and bang sounded from two floors below. Mihoshi and Elsi broke apart, each with an expression of shock on her face.
            “What was that?!†Elsi cried.
            “Mihoshiiii! Elsiiii!â€
            The two girls turned to see Leyka entering the third floor with Ket-Ket close behind her.
            “What’s going on?†Mihoshi asked, stepping toward her sister.
            “Someone broke in!†cried Leyka.
            “The snow warriors got in!†Ket-Ket said.
            Soon, Aira appeared, huffing up the stairs, her face wearing an expression of absolute panic.
            “They’re here,†she said, breathing heavily.
            Elsi felt as though she saw the older ice girl in a new light. No, she had never believed Aira’s story, not until now. The snow warriors appeared to be after her. But then, who was creating them if not Aira?
            “I can’t let them find her!†Aira cried out, frantically running to the frozen fireplace. “They’re coming. Elsi – it is Elsi, right? You’re a firebender, use that against them! Ket-Ket, do whatever you can! You two†– she looked at Mihoshi and Leyka – “just stay behind Ket-Ket and Elsi.â€
            As Aira had predicted, two soldiers of snow made their way up the stairs, followed by seven more. Elsi blasted fire at the first two, melting them into puddles. She noticed that Ket-Ket seemed to be bending the ice furniture, breaking apart the frozen flowers and end tables. These she sent at the snow warriors. Punctured by the sharp ice, three soldiers collapsed into snow.
            But more were coming. Five more warriors filled the room, followed by four more. By now, Mihoshi and Leyka no longer heeded Aira’s command. With no earth to bend, Mihoshi relentlessly kicked and slapped at the soldiers, as did her sister. Between them, they were able to disable five soldiers, but Mihoshi, who wasn’t trained in fighting without earthbending, and Leyka, who wasn’t trained in fighting at all, were growing tired. Elsi and Ket-Ket kept going, but it was apparent that they were outnumbered.
            “No!†Aira screamed.
            The four girls turned. Two snow warriors were headed in Aira’s direction, hands outstretched to grab her.
            Mihoshi didn’t need to think twice: she ran at Aira, intent on pushing her out of the way – bam! She slammed against a wall of ice and slipped to the ground. When she looked up, she saw Aira had made the wall.
            “Aira – no!â€
            Mihoshi could only watch as she pulled herself up. Leyka and Ket-Ket were trying to stop more from coming in, but they were obviously becoming exhausted. Elsi, however, was focused on the now four soldiers headed for Aira. She sent fireball after fireball at them but seven more headed for the ice girl. Within seconds, two of them had grabbed her by the arms and dragged her away from the fireplace.
            “Please…no…†Aira said softly.
            A crack appeared vertically down the fireplace, and then the whole thing shattered. Aira screamed in horror. All around them, every snow warrior save the ones holding Aira turned to snow and blew away.
            They all turned to see who had broken the fireplace, and they saw.
            A woman stood at the top of the steps. She wore a long gown of indigo with dark purple trim. Her black hair cascaded to her shoulders in thin, unbraided pigtails, and her dark purple eyes gleamed with contempt. In her right hand she held what looked like a giant blue snowflake.
            She walked with a pompous air to where the fireplace had been. Behind it was another room with three snow beds and a snow rug. Sitting on the rug, looking scared, was another ice girl. This one looked to be only eight years old with short hair that reached just above her shoulders.
            “Aira,†the dark haired woman said in a cold voice, “so that’s where you were hiding her.â€
            Aira looked at the woman with frozen tears on her face.
            “Please,†she said, “don’t take Maya-Ar again.â€
            Elsi glared at the woman.
            “Who are you?!†she demanded. “Why are you threatening Aira?!â€
            “I,†said the woman, “am Kaligah. Kaligah of the Frozen Heart, queen of ice and snow. And how fortunate it is that I meet three more girls worthy of joining me today.â€



Northern Lights (poem about Ket-Ket, her PoV)


This is the destiny of a child of the moon
Never was I connected to my element
Why should I not have acquired the fate
To become my element
To become like the city of my home
But still, it’s a curse
It was never meant to be me
The Ice Queen was looking for another
For the one who could make the waters sing
I wasn’t about to let her
I love my family
I stepped forward and she took me
 
The northern lights are far, far away now
I am very lucky to have found new family
A big sister and little sister within the frozen forest
I desire to take them home
We might go back across the ocean
To the northern lights
To the family who thinks me lost
But the Ice Queen is merciless
She will never ever let us go
I will not relent, however
I will stand by my new sisters
And one day
We three will return to the northern lights
And the snow


Winterscape (fairytale AU)


            Once upon a time…
            It was a kingdom that knew snow for much of the year. Situated far in the north, it had a long winter, thus its spring and fall were quite short, caught between the winter and summer.
            As such, they loved the snow there. They lived by the changing of the seasons, and when the snow fell, it was the signal of a season of joy. The people celebrated daily, dancing like the snowflakes and singing like the cold winds. The most joyous day of all for them was the winter solstice, the longest night of the year.
            In that kingdom lived a girl named Mihoshi. She lived and worked with her parents and younger sister. Like all in the land, she too was anticipating the solstice with great delight.
            During the season, people worked with smiles on their faces, trading goods, decorating their homes, singing with the wind…until three days before the solstice.
            On that day, the town crier screamed in sorrow four words that changed everything.
            “Princess Elsi is missing!â€
            A hush fell over the kingdom. The princess had a kind of warmth about her that seemed to shield the land from the chill of winter. Her smile and compassion made her beloved. And now, she had disappeared, and no one wished to revel for the solstice until she was returned.
            Now, Mihoshi had seen the princess from afar. She had seen the royal girl, decked in furs of red and gold, hand out coats to those without and re-light torches that had gone dark. Mihoshi had seen love in her eyes, golden as the sun. And she had never told a soul that those were the eyes she felt love for.
            So that night, Mihoshi decided to seek the missing princess and bring her back home.
~snowfall~
            She set out from the village in her green coat, with a green hat atop her head, and made her way to the woods. Everyone avoided the woods in winter, for there were legends about the north wind deceiving travelers, and of a mysterious lad who carried an ever-burning flame.
            Indeed, the woods looked very scary, with the dark, clouded winter sky above the girl and the hibernating trees without their leaves, covered in ever-falling snow. It was very cold; the winds seemed to bite any piece of exposed skin, but she pressed on, determined to find the princess and save the solstice celebration.
            It was when she had walked so deeply into the woods that she was sure she was lost that she saw him.
            A lad carrying a flame that never went out. Just as the legend had said.
            Mihoshi bravely walked up to the man.
            “Hello?†she said. “What are you doing out in the snow?â€
            The young man paused and smiled at Mihoshi.
            “My home is in the sky,†he said. “But, every winter it is covered by clouds, and so I wander here until they depart and I can return in the summer.â€
            He raised the torch he held, and she saw that his eyes were golden, like the sun. And she gasped when she saw the flame-like scar covering the left side of his face.
            “Do not fear,†he said to her gently. “I got this fighting a terrible lightning storm. The storm threatened to flood your kingdom and set the land aflame with its lightning bolts. I fought the storm for the sake of all of you.â€
            Mihoshi opened her mouth in awe. She knew that legend.
            “You’re Fire Lord Zuko,†she said softly. “The spirit of the sun.â€
            The young lad smiled.
            “Yes, Mihoshi of the winter land, it is I. You are looking for someone, are you not?â€
            And Mihoshi told him the tale of how the Princess Elsi had disappeared the night before the solstice, and how she had always loved the princess but never told a soul, and how she was now determined to find her beloved.
            “Even if she doesn’t return my love, if she is happy and safe, that is all that matters to my heart,†the girl concluded.
            “The woods are dangerous,†said Fire Lord Zuko, “especially in winter, which is part of the reason I leave the sky during this season. Will you let me guide you, Mihoshi?â€
            Mihoshi nodded.
~sunlight~
            As she followed him and his torch, whose warmth sheltered her from the bitter winter, she listened as he told her of the four winds.
            “They all live here,†he said. “The south, east and west winds will be happy to help you on your quest. But beware the north wind. She will lead you astray with promises of great fortune and power, but will only guide you to get lost in these woods forever.â€
            Upon seeing Mihoshi shiver in fear, he added, “But yours is a noble goal. The north wind is drawn naturally to the hearts of the greedy. I think you have little to fear.â€
            As they walked forward, a sudden wind blew in from the west. Mihoshi turned, and a young girl dressed in blue faded into sight.
            “I am Ket-Ket, the west wind,†she said. “What is it you seek?â€
            “I seek the princess of the winter kingdom,†Mihoshi replied.
            Ket-Ket pointed to the east. “Go,†she said. “If you come upon my sisters, heed them, except for the north wind. She has a heart of ice, be warned.â€
~siren song~
            At another part of the wood, three men had teamed up together to also find someone. They were from another land and had heard tell of a “Snow Queen†who sat on a throne of crystal and kept jewels and silver abound. The three were greedy, and each wanted the legendary riches for himself. Each had a pair of golden eyes like the princess and the sun spirit, but none of their eyes held the same warmth. For these three wanted for nothing but power and glory.
            As the three scoundrels entered more deeply into the forest, they heard a voice on the wind from the north.
            “Oh, you with fire in your heart, come to me, I will lead you to your desire…â€
            The men’s eyes all lit up. They ran towards the voice, pushing each other back along the way, each wanting to be the one to reach the voice first.
            “Come this way, this way…â€
~seeker~
            Mihoshi and the Fire Lord continued on their path, walking east, as the west wind had pointed. Suddenly, Mihoshi heard a voice calling to someone.
            “This way, oh fire of glory, this way! I will grant you what you desire…â€
            It drifted on the wind coming from the north.
            Remembering the warnings given by Fire Lord Zuko and Ket-Ket, Mihoshi followed the sun spirit eastward, while not so far away, the three rogues ignored the light entirely, walking with fortitude to the voice that promised them satisfaction of their greedy hearts.
            After a few more steps, another wind hit Mihoshi, this one coming from the very direction she was walking in – the east. She looked up, and noticed that three paths stood before her, and Fire Lord Zuko had disappeared.
            “Don’t fret, he has only walked on,†said a young voice.
            Mihoshi looked down. A little girl was fading into sight.
            “My name is Maya-Ar,†said the girl. “I am the east wind.â€
            “Where did the sun spirit go?†Mihoshi asked her.
            “He carries the eternal flame,†Maya-Ar replied. “So do you.â€
            Mihoshi was bewildered, for she held no torch.
            “It is inside your heart,†said the east wind. “That flame is what led you to wander into these woods, and is the reason you have come this far.â€
            Mihoshi thought hard. She thought of the times she had seen Princess Elsi and how she could never tell her she loved her, for not only was she, like all of us, afraid to confess her love, but Elsi was a princess, and Mihoshi was but a common pauper. And as it was, royalty did not marry common folk.
            “Oh, come to me, wanderer, and I can give you what you desire.â€
            The voice came from the path on the right, whispering on a cold gale. Mihoshi peered down the path, and she could hear three more voices – very faint, but clear. They were the voices of greedy men who all wanted the same thing.
            Mihoshi stared down the center path. There was nothing there, just the cold wind and snow.
            But when she looked down the left path, she felt warmth. It didn’t come from the sun spirit’s flame, but from her own heart. And in that moment her mind filled with her love for Princess Elsi, and she walked down the path to the left. It was only a few steps before she found Fire Lord Zuko awaiting her, smiling.
            “I knew you would trust in the fire of love to guide you here,†he said to her.
~sorrows of envy~
            The north wind laughed coldly and whisked herself away through the trees. Where she was leading those three fools, she did not know, but she did not care. What fun it was for her, sending them on a quest for riches they would never find if they kept following her.
            “Come to me,†she called. “Come to me, and I will grant you your desire.â€
            Another heard the voice of the north wind. She was looking out of an icy window, over the treetops.
            “Poor fools,†said the maiden. “Even if they could catch me, I would never give them their heart’s desire. I keep that for a greater purpose.â€
~song~
            “Are we nearly there?†Mihoshi asked the sun spirit.
            He nodded.
            “You need only meet with one more wind, and she and I will help you reach the princess of the winter kingdom.â€
            Indeed, only a half hour of traveling later, she came upon a young woman, about her age, dressed in queenly robes. She was icy blue and looked to be that cold, but her eyes and smile were warm.
            “You are the south wind?†Mihoshi asked.
            “I am Aira,†the woman replied. “Yes, I am the south wind.â€
            Suddenly, another voice rang out.
            “I am the south wind!†the voice proclaimed.
            The woman came from the north. Unlike the other three winds, her gaze was cold and her mouth was in a permanent sneer.
            “No,†Mihoshi said. “You are the north wind. I heard you before.â€
            The north wind smiled in a mean way.
            “Yes, child, I am Kaligah, the north wind. However, it is I you must follow, not them. For I have seen your heart, Mihoshi, and I know its true desire.â€
            “What would you know about my heart?†Mihoshi said defiantly.
            “I know you seek the love of the Princess Elsi, a love that you do not believe can be realized,†Kaligah replied. “But, if you come with me, I can lead you to a great power that will cause her to return your love.â€
            She extended a cold, white hand.
            Mihoshi pondered this. She did want to realize a love with Princess Elsi. It would make her heart happier than it had ever been before.
            Then she saw Fire Lord Zuko out of the corner of her eye, and remembered the very words she had said to him.
            Even if she doesn’t return my love, if she is happy and safe, that is all that matters to my heart.
            She would never want to betray Elsi by placing an enchantment no better than a curse upon her.
            Thus, Mihoshi followed the south wind and the sun spirit. Kaligah pushed after them, but found she could not come within close distance of Fire Lord Zuko’s flame, for the north wind is afraid of the sun.
~snow queen~
            The south wind guided the girl and the sun until she could guide them no more, and soon Mihoshi and Fire Lord Zuko stood before a pair of large, thick icy doors.
            Also standing there were the three scoundrels who had followed the north wind all that way.
            “Why did a little girl come into the dark forest?†one asked Mihoshi nastily. “There is nothing but danger here.â€
            Mihoshi, gathering courage from the warmth of Fire Lord Zuko’s flame, stared the three down.
            “I have come here because of love!†she declared.
            “Fool!†said another as he guffawed. “Love will get you nowhere in this cruel world. Power and glory are the only means of survival. Gah hah haaa!â€
            They suddenly turned away from her when they heard the north wind’s voice again.
            “Come this way, oh carriers of flame…â€
            And the three rogues, ignoring the doors just before them, raced in the direction of the voice, far away from the castle of the Snow Queen they sought.
            Where did they go?
            That I cannot say, for none have seen them since.
            Mihoshi, paying them no attention, approached the thick icy doors…and she opened them.
            There, on a throne of crystal, sitting before her, was Princess Elsi.
            “You are the Snow Queen!†Mihoshi said.
            Elsi stood and nodded.
            “Oh, sweet Mihoshi, thank you for coming here.â€
            Mihoshi’s mouth dropped. Could the princess have loved her from afar, just as Mihoshi had loved the princess?
            “I have seen you,†said Elsi. “I have seen your honesty and compassion and realized that I need no prince studded in gold and jewels to make me happy. You have a truly noble heart, and I wish to share mine with it. And indeed, these many years I have been the Snow Queen, keeping my treasures here and giving them to those in need from other lands, which I could not do from home as my aunt, the queen, has forbidden me to travel from the winter kingdom.â€
            “Please come back,†Mihoshi said. “The kingdom is in sorrow with you gone, and the solstice celebration will not happen unless you return.â€
            Elsi paused.
            “I left for good this time, for how can I help the rest of the world if I am locked away in my own castle?â€
            That was when the princess saw Fire Lord Zuko and his eternal flame of love, warmth…and courage.
~solstice~
            It was the night of the solstice, and the people of the kingdom cheered as Mihoshi returned with their princess. During the celebration, Queen Meimu was giving a speech, when her niece indicated that she wished to say something.
            And so Elsi told all – of how she had been the Snow Queen these many years and how she had found love in a common girl who had walked across the woods for three days to find her, rejecting the courtship of Hahn, a neighboring prince, who walked away quite grumpy.
            Queen Meimu didn’t know what to make of it, but she looked over the balcony and saw the sun spirit in the crowd. Fire Lord Zuko held his flame up for her to see, and the answer became clear to her.
            “I’m sorry, dear Elsi,†she said.
            In truth, she had forbidden Elsi from leaving because her parents had been killed in a terrible war, and the queen wanted to lose no one else. But knowing of Elsi’s compassion, she decreed that the princess was free to travel about the now peaceful world and deliver kindness and joy to those who needed it. And she blessed the match of Elsi and Mihoshi, who both smiled through tears. Mihoshi had found her princess, and Elsi had found her kind, honest pauper at last.
            The End



 
Barbie Movies


Barbie as the Princess and the Pauper II

Chapter 1


She was the queen of this land.
Erika, formerly a toiling seamstress with a dream of being a singer, was now Queen of Dulcinia. She had found her true love in King Dominick only three years before.
It had come as quite a surprise that instead of the Princess Anneliese of Kattenland, to whom he had been engaged, the King had married a mere pauper, as his Ambassador called her. The Ambassador was altogether not pleased with the whole situation.
The singer queen stood on the balcony of her room, looking down at the beautiful valley kingdom of Dulcinia. It was quite lovely, with running streams and fruit trees that one could not hope to find on the mountaintop where Kattenland lay.
Still, Erika missed Kattenland. She missed the view one could see from the old window at Madam Carpe’s Dress Shop. Even though she had longed all her life to get out of that place, it had been a beautiful view. One could see the whole world from that window. Here in the Dulcinian palace, she could see only her kingdom and the mountain where Kattenland sat in the distance.
Erika’s cat, Wolfie, who continued his doggish ways, was sometimes here, but sometimes there. He and Serafina, Anneliese’s beautiful white cat, had about – was it twenty kittens now? They were everywhere.
Erika missed the cat family when they were in Kattenland.
~
Downstairs, in the palace’s yellow throne room with a fountain in the middle, King Dominick’s Ambassador, Bismarck, didn’t notice Erika’s entrance as he paced. If he had, he would have given an obviously reluctant bow. That was the only other problem with Erika’s queenly life. Apart from his obvious disdain for her and the longing for Kattenland, life was just about perfect.
She didn’t want to have to talk to him. But if she was going to go to Kattenland, he would have to let her go.
“Excuse me, sir?â€
Bismarck turned. He bowed his head briefly without saying a word.
“I would like to go to Kattenland, please.â€
He sighed. “Very well. Miss Bertie?â€
Bertie was the seamstress Erika had worked alongside at Madam Carpe’s. She was now Erika’s lady-in-waiting.
“Come along, Your Majesty,†she said, smiling, as she held out her hand to Erika.
~
She wondered what Princess Anneliese would think of her. When they had last seen each other, she and Dominick had said their goodbyes to Anneliese and her husband, Julian. Then, they had departed for Dulcinia and the princess and her consort went back to Kattenland.
She still hadn’t kicked the habit of wearing ordinary clothes by then, but now, with her elegant purple queen gown and her golden crown, she wouldn’t be the same Erika anymore. She would be a queen to Anneliese, a political figure.
With a sigh, Erika allowed Bertie to guide her out of the carriage.
~
The Princess Anneliese Kendall Katten was by no means Queen of Kattenland yet. Her mother, Genevieve, still reigned, but as she was getting older, Anneliese and Julian often helped her out.
The princess and her consort now had a daughter, who had only recently entered the world. The two-week-old girl, who resembled her father in most respects except for the fact that she shared Anneliese’s sky-blue eyes, turned in her cradle and looked out the window. Below it, she saw what looked very much like her mother, almost exactly. For a second she thought Anneliese had gone outside until the princess picked her daughter up and proceeded to walk downstairs to meet her guest.
~
“Erika! You’re back!â€
Princess Anneliese’s face was bright with joy.
“Hello, Bertie,†she said, giving a quick curtsy.
Erika’s mouth curled into a smile. Anneliese wasn’t treating her like a queen at all! She was the same old Erika!
She had opened her arms wide to embrace the princess when she saw the baby in her arms.
“Who is this?†Erika asked joyfully.
“Oh!†Anneliese giggled. “I just sent a letter to you about her. This is my new daughter. Her name is Misha Anne Katten.â€
Misha Anne Katten seemed to quizzically regard Erika.
“She thinks I’m you,†Erika said.
“What are you doing here?â€
“Oh, I missed Kattenland especially today, and the cats are over here. I just wanted to see you and Julian, and Wolfie too.â€
~
Up in the newest room in the castle, which had a huge window overlooking the whole kingdom, and by extension, the whole world as they knew it, Princess Misha lay in her blue cradle lined with silk. Beside her, Erika kneeled, singing her favorite song to the little princess.
“Though you may not know where your gifts may lead
And it may not show at the start
When you live your dream you’ll find destiny
Is written in your heartâ€
Misha soon closed her eyes and went to sleep.
“An envoy from Dulcinia once came here,†Julian said. “He told me of how the people revered their songbird queen.â€
Erika laughed.
“I was also told that they didn’t like King Dominick’s ambassador very well. I heard he doesn’t like you that much.â€
“He doesn’t,†agreed Erika. “He thinks it was foolish of Dominick to marry me, and I must say, honestly, if he weren’t around, I might not be longing all the time for Kattenland.â€


Chapter 2

   Bismarck was, altogether, a very unhappy man.
            He had brought Dominick all the way up that mountain to Kattenland, and he had insisted he go on the first journey disguised as a page so he could get to know Anneliese, his bride-to-be.
            Then, just like any old fool, he was going to tell her. And he did tell her when he met her. Only it wasn’t really her. It was some poor girl from the village!
            And what did he do, even after he found this out? He came right back to Kattenland to marry her again. And she’d left him to go and sing. Then, just when Bismarck finally thought he had some peace, the street rat had come to Dulcinia herself. He and she had gone back to that disgraceful mountain and gotten themselves married.
            These days, Bismarck thought it just might be better off if he were king instead of Dominick, the lovesick fool.
            He had to be. Because of her, Dominick was wasting all his rightful riches on the street urchins of the land. He had told Bismarck that this was so they could “follow their dreamsâ€. Well, Bismarck had no time for that.
            He had an idea. Dominick was certainly a master of disguise. He had some armor somewhere. He’d used it to masquerade as a guard so he could bail Erika out of jail.
            Bismarck was going to do the exact same thing.
            ~
            “Hey Nack, did ya hear something?â€
            Nick, a street rat who had gotten his wage from helping Preminger, Queen Genevieve’s traitorous adviser, was now locked up in the Kattenland castle dungeons with his fellow hooligan, Nack.
            As usual, Nack responded by slapping Nick.
            “It’s only the guard, ya idiot! He’s sleepin’ on the job, as always! An’ his armor’s clankin’ against da wall while he snores!â€
            “No, I definitely heard something! Like…footsteps.â€
            “Ya heard nothin’ of the sort!â€
            “I think you did, boys. You want out, or what?â€
            A strangely fat new guard was unlocking the cell door.
            “Who exactly are you?†Nack demanded.
            “My name’s Bismarck,†the guard whispered. “I’m going to need to the help of you two and your boss if I’m to be the King of Dulcinia.â€
            After a pause, he asked, “Where is your boss?â€
~
            Preminger couldn’t believe his luck. He had gone from the richest man in Kattenland to a good-for-nothing prisoner. It was all because of that stupid schoolboy interfering. And his doppelganger. Preminger had no idea where that tutor had found such a perfect likeness of Princess Anneliese.
            He was in the lowest dungeon of them all. It was completely underground, just like that accursed mine from which he’d stolen Kattenland’s gold supply, and the guard posted on him was always awake.
            That guy was talking to himself now. Preminger suspected it was because he was crazy from sleep deprivation.
            But wait – who was the other voice?
            “Yes – the Queen demands to see all three of them. Now let him out!â€
            Oh no. This could not be good.
            He saw Nick and Nack enter his cell along with a very fat guard.
            “Psst!†said the fat guard. “Are you Preminger?â€
            “Yep, that’s him,†said Nick. He was promptly dealt a slap in the face.
            “Shhh!†said the guard. “Now, Preminger, my name is Bismarck. I have this plan, but first we need to get to Dulcinia. What do you say?â€
~
            “How are we going to get past King Dominick and his doppelganger queen?!†demanded Preminger on the carriage ride out of Kattenland.
            “Well, you see,†Bismarck replied, “the thing is, Queen Erika’s not in Dulcinia. She was homesick, and so she’s in Kattenland with their royal family.â€
            Preminger groaned. He hated the lot of them. That idiotic queen, her troublesome daughter, and the tutor the princess had ended up marrying. All good-for-nothing pansies content to flaunt about in the palace all day.
            He hated King Dominick too – he had nearly stolen Kattenland from him! And he hated his doppelganger queen. She was partly responsible for Preminger’s bad luck.
            “You will help me, won’t you Preminger?†said Bismarck.
            Preminger sneered.
            “How could I refuse?â€


Chapter 3


Erika took a few steps before reaching the edge of the balcony where she and Dominick had once sat. They had been here when she was masquerading as Anneliese, and he thought she was the Princess. This was where he had told her she was honest, no pretenses. It had made her uneasy back then, as the very life she was living at the time was a lie.
            Now, it made sense. She was glad that he had continued to love her even after realizing she wasn’t the princess. What was worse was that Preminger had made up a story about how she had hidden the princess in the Kattenland Mine and then collapsed it. He had fooled her into believing Anneliese had perished in the collapse. She hadn’t, of course. She and Julian had gotten themselves out by flooding the mine. It was thanks to Wolfie’s digging that they’d gotten out through the mine shaft.
           
            She and Dominick had no children yet, but you never knew what could happen. It could be just around the corner. She hoped that, one day, she would have a little daughter as beautiful as Misha Anne Katten.
            “Your Majesty!â€
            She turned. Bertie was running up to her. She ran right up, hoping to catch her.
            “What is it?â€
            “I’ve just received a letter from Ambassador Bismarck. He says His Majesty the King wishes to speak to you immediately.â€
            Erika gasped. She knew it had to be serious, for he had known where she was going and that she was planning to stay for more than a day.
            “Did this letter say what happened?†she asked.
            “No,†replied the lady. “I’m sorry, Your Majesty.â€
 
            After a hasty farewell to the Katten royalty, Erika was back in the carriage. Unlike the last trip, however, she wasted no time looking out the window and marveling at the beauty of the mountains or the valleys, which she had done when she wasn’t busy thinking about what Anneliese and the others were up to. Her heart was sick with worry. Was her beloved ill? Was the kingdom getting along okay? Could they even be on the verge of war? She dared herself not think on it. In all her life she had never experienced a war. It was frightening to think of what might happen.
            After she had thought up her last worries as to what could be wrong, she found herself falling into dreamland.
 
            She was a little girl again, happy and free, singing, while her parents smiled. She was about fourteen. Her father and mother had caught the same plague that had only a week ago proven fatal to the King of Kattenland. She was praying for their recovery. She was fifteen. It had been three months since she’d lost her parents. She was now working at Madam Carpe’s dress shop to pay off their debt. She was finding an odd stray kitten who barked and deciding to take him in. She was seventeen. She and Princess Anneliese were coming face to face like a mirror. She was being coached on how to act like a princess by Julian. She was falling in love for the first time with King Dominick. She was being exposed by Preminger. She was planning her escape from the dungeons. She was singing in some far-off land. She was getting married. She was being crowned Queen of Dulcinia.
            Amidst the smiling, cheering crowd, she saw the sour face of Bismarck.
            She cried.
 
            “Your Majesty? We’re back.â€
            Bertie’s voice pulled Erika out of her flashback. Immediately she got herself out of the carriage without even waiting for the guards to help.
            “Dominick?! Dominick!â€
            “He’s not here,†said a familiar voice.
            It was Bismarck.
            “He’s not?! Where is he?! What’s happened?!â€
            “He had an…urgent meeting with the King of Lunenmeyer,†Bismarck replied. “He wanted you to come, but unfortunately you arrived too late. He will be back by tomorrow.â€
            “What’s going on in Lunenmeyer?â€
            “I’m sorry, Your Majesty, but I’m under strict orders not to tell.â€
 
            That night, King Dominick gave his escort orders to take him back to Dulcinia immediately. For some reason, his ambassador had told him that the Queen of Paladia wanted to see him right away, and he’d gone all the way there only to find out that there was nothing she needed from him after all. Why had his ambassador sent him on a bogus mission? It had occurred to him right there and then that the place he should be was the one he had just left.
            “Back to Dulcinia! Now! Quickly!â€
 
            Erika awoke without opening her eyes. The night before, she had complained to Bertie and the ladies about how cheated she felt and fell asleep. She’d always been a heavy sleeper. But something was different today. It smelled funny. Almost like…horses.
            She opened her eyes.
            “Herve!â€
            Herve, Preminger’s old horse, regarded the Queen with kind eyes. She screamed when she found herself in the stable with him and his mate, a beautiful white horse named Fleur.
            “I wouldn’t do that if I was you,†sneered a voice Erika thought she would never hear again.
            She looked through the stable window and screamed again.
            “N-Nack! Is that-t y-you?!â€
            “I wouldn’t be askin’ stupid questions if I was you,†said Nack.
            “I wouldn’ be me if I was you,†Nick interjected. He promptly received a clout to the ear.
            “B-but how d-did you two escape?!†Erika whispered.
            “We was helped out!†exclaimed Nack. “Someone who really doesn’t like you got us out, and the boss too!â€
            “What?! Preminger escaped t-too?!â€
            “Yup he did,†said Nick. “An’ this time, you don’t got no cats to help yer escape – ow!â€
            Herve made a grunting noise. He had hated being Preminger’s horse and he wasn’t about to be that horse again.
            “The boss is nickin’ us some armor,†Nack said. “An’ if ya wanna ever see yer beloved kingy again, you’re gonna do as we tell ya! Don’t even think abou’ tryin’ to escape!â€
            And they slammed the window in her face.
            She went around, trying to open all the windows and doors. They were padlocked.
            She was locked in.


Chapter 4

The doors to the throne room of Dulcinia Castle slammed open, and Dominick ran in. He looked very angry.
            “My Lady Bertie! Where’s my ambassador?â€
            Bertie, regarding the king uneasily, curtsied and said, “I’m afraid I cannot tell you. What do you need him for?â€
            “I would love to know why he sent me to Paladia when clearly my service wasn’t needed there!â€
            “But my King…he told me you had gone to Lunenmeyer.â€
            “Then he lied to you, my lady! Just as he lied to me!â€
 
            Erika had to think of something, fast. If she was to escape, she would need to listen.
            “And why, pray tell, is the stable padlocked?†she heard a man’s voice say gruffly.
            “Oh, dat’s because…†Nick began, though it seemed like he was having trouble making up a plausible story.
            “Dat’s because,†Nack interjected, “there’s a mad horse in ’ere. He was caught las’ night by Sir…Nick – I mean, Sir Nicholas, who’s da guy ’round here that’s good wiv da horses?â€
            “You mean Sir Steven?†said the gruff-voiced man. Erika assumed he must be a hard-working guard.
            “Yeah…Sir Steven, dat’s him!†Nack replied. “Owns a horse ’imself, doesn’t he?â€
            “Indeed,†said the gruff-voiced man. “It’s hard to believe he would put a crazed beast in here with his own Fleur. He loves that horse. He even persuaded the Princess of Kattenland to let one of her horses stay with her. He thinks they’re in love…as if. I’m not into that sappy romantic stuff.â€
            “Just make sure he don’ get out, ’kay?†said Nack.
            Erika heard two pairs of feet run away.
            She was ready. Carefully, she mounted Fleur, so no unsavory characters who might be lurking would hear her.
            “Could you help, please?†she said sweetly.
            “Eh? Who’s that?†asked the gruff-voiced man.
            “I’m just a maid. I was locked in here with the mad horse, I suppose. I fell asleep last night and when I woke up and heard about a crazed animal in here I got quite frightened. Could you let me out, please?â€
            She didn’t dare reveal her true identity. After all, what if this gruff-voiced character was also in cahoots with Preminger?
            “All right,†said the man. She heard the chink of an opening padlock.
            The door slowly opened.
            “Fleur, now! To Kattenland! Ha!â€
            The white horse immediately galloped away from the stable door and castle. If Erika was to go back to Dulcinia she could get kidnapped all over again. Preminger had somehow infiltrated the palace.
 
            “Yeah, Boss, I’m afraid Erika escaped on one o’ the horses.â€
            “Now you tell me?!â€
            Preminger grabbed Nick and Nack by the wrists and headed for the stables.
            “How could you two be so stupid?! I was supposed to let her out, you fools! Didn’t you hear me tell you I was going to tell her a well-rehearsed story of how that idiot Dominick never really loved her and had hidden her in the stables with you two to help, and he had some dastardly plot?â€
            He could see it now. He was telling Erika of how he had repented, seen the light, and made a switch, how he had been spying on King Dominick for several days because he was suspicious of him, how he had found out the King’s wicked plot the day he’d locked his Queen up, and how he’d just rescued her to prove himself redeemed. He was exposing Dominick as a wretched scoundrel, smirking as the guards dragged the King pleading his innocence away. He was marrying a tearful yet grateful Erika. And finally, he was being crowned King of Dulcinia.
            And now, that could never go as planned. Nick and Nack had made another stupid mistake. It was due to their stupidity that his first plan had gone so horribly, horribly wrong, and now they’d messed up again. Not to mention the fact that they’d practically told her Preminger was supposed to be working for someone else. At least they hadn’t mentioned Bismarck’s name. One thing was certain: once Preminger was king, and he would be, one way or another, that ambassador was headed straight to the dungeons.
 
            “Anneliese! Julian! I need you! Quickly!â€
            Anneliese opened the door.
            “Erika! You’re back! What happened?â€
            The princess noticed her friend was crying. Something terrible must’ve happened. She prayed King Dominick hadn’t taken ill.
            “I was practically kidnapped upon my return.â€
 
            “I don’t know what Nack meant…someone who doesn’t like me did this? I can’t think of anyone other than that incompetent guard of yours.†Erika sobbed, cradling Wolfie, who had just arrived in the parlor with his family.
            “Don’t worry, Erika,†said Anneliese, patting one of the kittens, who yipped and licked her hand. “I told my mother that Preminger escaped. She’s sending all her best guards to find him. And she’s making sure he can’t get back into Kattenland.â€
            Misha squealed with delight as a kitten barked at her playfully.
            “I’m worried about Dominick,†Erika confided. “He’s there, with Preminger. I wish we could get him to Kattenland where he was safe.â€
            Anneliese’s eyes suddenly caught a faint glimmer of inspiration.
            “Perhaps we can.â€


Chapter 5

        When was Julian going to get back?
            He’d been out all day today to find something suitable. Where he had gotten one for Erika Anneliese did not know. All she knew was that she was going to have to do it soon. It might be the only way to throw off Preminger. And whoever it was that wanted some kind of revenge on Erika.
            She was so lost in thought and worry that she jumped when someone knocked on the door.
            “Oh! Er…come in, please.â€
            Julian entered.
            “There you are!†the princess said. “Do you have it?â€
            “Yes. It took me a long time to find one,†said Julian.
            He reached into a box and pulled out a brown wig.
           
            “I look just like her!†Anneliese exclaimed as she took a look at her reflection. She had changed her pink gown to a green one.
            Erika handed Anneliese her queen’s crown and the note she was supposed to give to King Dominick upon her arrival.
            “Bring Wolfie,†Erika said. “If Preminger is out he may have found Midas.â€
            “What about Misha?â€
            “She still thinks I’m you. I’m sure it will be in order. Julian’s already told my mother and the maids about this plan. You just have to stay in the palace and no one will know I’m gone.â€
 
            “Remember, Your Highness,†Bertie said as she led Anneliese out of the carriage. “No one is to know except for His Majesty and myself. Anyone else must think you’re our queen.â€
            “I understand,†said Anneliese.
 
            “Your Majesty!â€
            “Bertie!†Dominick cried. “What is it?â€
            “I have found your queen!â€
            Anneliese entered the room with a perfectly graceful, queenly walk, just as Julian had taught her. She then whispered something to Dominick and slipped the note into his hand.
            “We are…ahem…very glad to have you back, Your Majesty,†said Ambassador Bismarck in a tone that suggested he didn’t exactly approve. “Would you mind telling us what exactly you told our king?â€
            “That’s not your business, Bismarck,†snapped Dominick. “Frankly, I would like to not talk to you until you’ve completely regained my trust!â€
            “Now Lady Bertie,†he said, turning to the former seamstress, “how exactly did you find her?â€
            “Nick and Nack were dragging her through a forest north of here,†Bertie said. “I’m sorry, but they got away. She’s more important anyhow.â€
            “Indeed she is,†the King replied. “Now, if you all would excuse me.†He bowed and ascended the stairs.
            He had to do what the girl had told him to do. He recognized Erika’s voice, and hers was a little bit softer, like silk, compared to Erika’s, which was like a bright flower blooming.
            Read this, she had said. And don’t let anyone see you.
            It smelled like roses.
 
            Dear Dominick,
            Erika is safe. She’s in Kattenland, hiding. She feared if she went back here, she would get captured all over again.
            She and I have swapped again. I’m going to try to find out who else is behind this. Erika believes that, based on what Nack told her, someone who isn’t fond of her let Preminger go free. Neither of us can think of anyone.
            Please, help me try to find this person so your queen can return to Dulcinia and I can return home.

Anneliese Kendall Katten

Crown Princess of Kattenland

 


Chapter 6


            Bismarck had had to endure an unfair amount of surprises in his lifetime, but this…this was just beyond his endurance.
            Erika had escaped. Either a mere pauper was unbelievably clever, or Preminger hadn’t held up his end of the deal. Bismarck had told him to hide Erika until people began to inquire, and then together, they would expose King Dominick as a traitor conspiring with the Katten royal family. That way, Preminger would get Kattenland and Bismarck would get Dulcinia.
            He retired to his chamber and read his detailed plan. Yes, that sounded just about right. King Dominick and Anneliese he had planned to reveal to be secret lovers, and thus come up with a plan to get rid of Erika. That he had left to Preminger; Kattenland’s mine was in a sorry state after the last collapse, and surely he could trap Erika in there as he had done Anneliese. And Dulcinia’s people, with their ridiculous admiration of the girl, would overthrow Dominick, as would the Katten people with their royalty, for they adored Erika too. Bismarck and Preminger, of course, would be the ones next in line.
            But now, Erika was loose. Bismarck decided he would question Preminger immediately.
 
            Dominick was equally distressed, but unlike his ambassador, he had honorable reasons.
            According to Anneliese’s note, someone who “wasn’t fond of†Erika was plotting against him and his wife. At first, he could think of no one but Preminger – and then it hit him.
            “I need a carriage right away!†Dominick announced as he entered the throne room.
            Bismarck frowned. To make matters worse, it sounded as though the namby-pamby king had found something out.
            He cleared his throat.
            “Rrr…a-hem. Where is it you need to go, Your Majesty?†he inquired, with a slight flourish of sarcasm on the word “majestyâ€.
            “I need to ask you a question first,†he said as a servant went to get a carriage for the king. “I would like to know why you sent me to Paladia, and then lied to my wife and my lady Bertie about sending me to Lunenmeyer! And answer me this time!â€
            Bismarck had known this one was coming. He had asked this the day before, when Erika had been abducted. He had deliberately hidden from everyone, and when he was found and asked, he’d quickly changed the subject to the Queen’s disappearance, which had veered the king off that course – at least, for the time being.
            Fortunately for him, he had a new, well-rehearsed story.
            “With…grr…respect, Your Majesty, I was feeling rather clumsy that day. When I first tripped that morning, I landed on my noggin, boggling my mind quite a bit. I lost my sense of direction and my short-term memory. I was given a letter that said there was trouble in Parthinia, but I mixed up the P-names and told you Paladia by mistake. Then, after you left, someone mentioned Lunenmeyer in passing, and the name stuck in my mind. I was utterly convinced that I had sent you there.
            “My memory problems were resolved by the shocking announcement of your return, but my sense of direction was still awry. I looked for you but I headed toward the dungeons by mistake. When you found me, I was so shocked that another snippet of my memory returned, which was learning of the disappearance of your wife.â€
            Dominick frowned, but, to Bismarck’s relief, he nodded.
            “Please,†he said in a stern voice, “take care not to trip in the future.â€
            The King still wasn’t certain he could trust Bismarck, but his explanation hadn’t sounded dishonest.
            “Your carriage is ready, Your Majesty,†said a guard.
            “Ah, where is it you are going?†asked the ambassador.
            “I’m going to search the lands surrounding Mount Katten for Erika’s old boss,†Dominick replied gravely. “For she is someone who would undoubtedly want revenge on a servant putting her out of business.â€


Chapter 7


            If Preminger wanted to do something right, he would have to do it himself.
            He’d already told Nick and Nack that he was making his next plan alone. Now that Erika had escaped and was back in the castle, he had two new problems. One, he needed a new plan, which was already forming in his mind, but the other one was what worried him more. He would need to think of a convincing story to tell Bismarck. If the ambassador suspected that Preminger had let Erika out himself, which indeed he had not done, then he would be exposed as a double-crosser quite quickly. He had to think of something, fast.
            He already had a new plan. It would involve, once again, making it seem as though Dominick was plotting, except this time, it would involve a co-conspiracy between the King and his ambassador, thus getting the King overthrown and Bismarck locked up or exiled, and Erika landed as his queen. But how to convince Bismarck of his continued loyalty?
            The King had left, so Preminger would have an easier time of it getting to Bismarck, as Dominick knew exactly what Preminger was. Unfortunately, so did most of Dominick’s guards. He would have to sneak in, but do it in a way that didn’t seem untrustworthy to Bismarck.
            Then it hit him, much as his plan to kidnap Anneliese had in the Kattenland mines. Ah, those were the days…
            It was so easy, as he was already in his old cabin, and Midas, ever faithful, had taken shelter there. The dog was not nearly as well groomed as he had been three years ago, but after Preminger’s escape, he had tried to make both himself and his dog look as they had before that tragic day.
            Preminger told Midas exactly what was to be done…
 
            A guard at the gates of Dominick’s castle was quite suddenly brought out of his half-awake state by a loud bark.
            “WOOF WOOF! GRRROOOOWWLLL!â€
            The guard nudged his companion, who made a “huh?†noise before being whacked hard on the shoulder. “Oh!†The second guard shook his head rapidly and was immediately alert.
            “You lazy fool!†the first guard scolded.
            “You’re one to – †began the second guard, but the first one interrupted him with a loud “SHHH!â€
            “There is an animal right there!†the first guard said, pointing the dark shape of a poodle.
            “GRRRRRRRR!†Midas bent down on his front knees and uttered his most menacing growls. The second guard flinched, but the first guard did not.
            This was his cue. Midas jumped and bit the second guard’s boot.
            “AAAAAHH!†screamed the guard, clutching his foot. The first guard pointed his spear at the dog, who yelped – then caught himself. Preminger would not give him any doggie treats if he let a little thing like that stop him.
            The conniving canine growled again and jumped once more – this time sandwiching the shaft of the first guard’s spear between his teeth. The guard, unwilling to relinquish his weapon, was pulled to the ground when Midas landed. The dog then wrenched the spear from the guard’s hand and sprinted. Immediately the two, now very awake men began chasing him, the second guard firmly clutching his own spear.
            Preminger leapt from behind the tree where he had been hiding and chuckled. He then ran through the gate.
 
            Dominick was determined to find the plotting old dressmaker. He’d been traveling to Kattenland, since that had been her home, and then he saw what looked undeniably like footprints. Women’s shoes. It struck him as odd – no one traveled without a horse. No one except someone who couldn’t afford a horse and had been forced out of home.
            He ordered the driver of his carriage to stop. He would follow these on foot.
            Dominick lit his torch and looked closely at the trail. He followed these mysterious prints to a clearing in the forest where he had been traveling.
            A very meager fire was lit, and an old woman huddled next to it, clinging to a gown that had to have been very elegant once, and there were some old tattered bows.
            It had to be Erika’s former boss.
            “Aha!†Dominick said loudly. Madame Carp jumped and squeaked.
            “W-who are you?†she asked in a very scared voice.
            “I am Dominick, the king of this land! And I believe you’ve been planning revenge against my wife, Erika, since you were exposed as a cruel and heartless woman!â€
            Madame Carp gasped. She never, ever thought she would hear Erika’s name again. And since her life had gone to the dogs now, she had wished she could find either of those seamstresses and apologize. Then maybe – just maybe – she could take the royal Kattenland business back from that despicable woman, Camille or whatever her name was, who, admittedly, was a wonderful knitter and might have come to work with her if she hadn’t been so strict.
            Wait – why was she having second thoughts on how to run her business? Was it because of this? It was not until Dominick shouted “Speak to me!†that she came back to reality.
            “I…I…†she stammered.
            “What did you do?!â€
            “N-nothing.†She hastily got up and curtsied. “Your M-majesty.â€
            “Did you try to have Erika kidnapped?!†His face was very close to hers, and his blue eyes were full of fury.
            “N-no!†Madame Carp sobbed. “I d-didn’t! I may have been a bad boss but I had nothing to do with whatever that w-was!â€
            She shook her head, as some part of her scolded, Bad boss?! What had gotten into you, woman?! Have you gone soft?!
            Dominick stepped away from her. It was unlikely she was behind this.
            “Take her back to the castle in the carriage,†he ordered his escorting guard. “She must be starving…I’ll take one of the horses.â€
            He detached a horse from the carriage and mounted it, ordering it to take him back to the castle.
 
            “AH!†Bismarck yelled. “PREMINGER?!â€
            “Yes,†Preminger sneered. “I have come to…explain some things to you. You see, I did not let the Queen escape.â€
            Bismarck glared. How did Preminger know about that?
            “Nick and Nack saw what happened, and reported it to me,†he continued. “You see, a very – well, a dozen very strong guards wanted to ride the horses and broke down the door, where they discovered her. That’s how she escaped.â€
            “And why would you think I suspected you?†Bismarck asked with a suspicious tone.
            “Nick and Nack are idiots!†Preminger retorted. “Half the time they forget you’re even in the picture! They knew we had planned to move her somewhere else, and I overheard them saying that I must have tried to do that myself, but she got away! I thought they would have told you when they remembered you were part of it, and that would sound very suspicious, would it not?â€
            “So you’re still in on it?â€
            “Goodness me, how could I refuse?â€


Chapter 8

          Anneliese gasped. She had seen Preminger inside the palace.
            She was frightened. What if he saw her?
            But still, she knew he was working with someone else. This person might be in the palace with Preminger. If they were, then Anneliese had to find out.
            Then she heard someone yell “AH! PREMINGER?!â€
            Hold on…that was the voice of the man who had asked her what she had whispered to Dominick!
            Quickly, she ran. She didn’t want to be found by these people, especially now that she looked like Erika. She would have to wait until Dominick got back, which might be ages if he was looking for a street rat dressmaker. Then she would tell him what his ambassador was up to.
            She went back to Erika’s room and lay down on the beautiful blue canopy bed. The room was round, unlike Anneliese’s back home, and full of flowerpots containing blue rosebushes. There were two glass doors across from the entrance that led outside to a small balcony, and a window across from the bed that showed the starry night sky in all its elegance. Beneath it was a rather large cat bed meant to accommodate the rather large cat family who frequented this castle. To the right of this bed was a small wooden desk with open drawers full of messy music papers. Anneliese had to smile at this; Erika still avidly wrote songs even though she was queen. It made sense, as the princess had heard that Erika often sang for Dulcinia’s people.
            She began to feel rather sleepy and closed her eyes. Soon she was dozing.
            Preminger was ready. He and Bismarck crept into the room, picked up Anneliese, thinking she was Erika, and carried her out of the palace, while Midas kept the guards busy. At this point, Preminger neither knew nor cared where Nick and Nack were. He was better off without them.
 
            Serafina yawned. It was a new morning.
            “Wake up, dear,†she said, nudging the oldest kitten, a beautiful white cat named Lucille. “We’ve got more walking to do before we get to Dulcinia Palace.â€
            Lucille groaned, but the youngest, a light brown kitten named Tigger, barked in happiness. Gradually, all the kittens awoke, with a mixture of yawns, groans, and excited barks and meows.
            Tigger and the rest of the happy kittens ran ahead of their tired sisters and brothers, with Wolfie and Serafina in the lead, enjoying the fresh green grass of the spring.
            Just then, Serafina spotted a carriage – one of Dominick’s. Lucille and her tired siblings rejoiced. This meant they would ride the rest of the way.
            Wolfie ran up to the carriage and barked. The driver looked down and smiled upon seeing him.
            “Come on in,†he said, pleased that he was the one to be the cat chauffeur today. The guard in the carriage opened the door.
            All the cats ran in. Serafina and the tired kittens settled themselves on the seat across from the guard and Madame Carp, while Wolfie and the rest sat on the floor.
            Madame Carp was asleep, leaning against the wall of the carriage. Serafina and the kittens near her soon fell asleep too, as did the youngsters on the floor. Even Tigger dropped off after looking out the window for fifteen minutes. But Wolfie was wide awake, for something troubled him.
            What was that horrible woman doing going to Dulcinia Palace? She wasn’t going back to taunt Erika, that was for sure. Wolfie was not going to let her order his guardian (who he thought of as his mother, as he couldn’t remember his real one) around anymore. That guard had to be incredibly stupid to be letting her go there.
            Suddenly, the carriage lurched. It shook, waking Madame Carp and the sleeping cats. Wolfie growled at the old dressmaker, who yelped. That dastardly cat, she thought.
            The guard went out to check for a broken wheel. There was none.
            “There’s nothing wrong with the carriage, sir,†he told the driver.
            The guard climbed back in, and the two lovebirds (or rather, cats) got into a spat that sounded like nothing more than meaningless growls, barks and hisses to the humans over Wolfie’s hostile behavior to the old woman. This continued as the carriage began once more to ramble along the road to Dulcinia Palace.
            And not one person, cat, or doggish cat noticed Nick and Nack lying contentedly on top of the carriage.


Chapter 9

     No.
            No. It couldn’t be. It just couldn’t be.
            Anneliese had gotten kidnapped again. She had to have been, because how else could she have gone, while she was sleeping, from Erika’s room…to Preminger’s cabin?
            They had to have taken her. Preminger and that dastardly ambassador. Her wig was still on.
            They’d taken her because she looked like Erika, which meant that she hadn’t been the intended target. She was scared. What were they going to do next?
            Anneliese got up and pulled at the door, which was locked, again.
            “Nick?! Nack?!†she hollered.
            The only response was a dog’s growl.
            Anneliese recognized that dog. It was Midas, Preminger’s dog. Erika was right; Preminger had found him.
            Nick and Nack were not here, then. It wasn’t surprising, seeing as they had had to have been major impediments in Preminger’s plans, since they’d already ruined his first one by letting her escape when she’d been here before.
            One thing was for certain. She had to get out. If she didn’t, who knew what would happen.
 
            “Erika? Erika!â€
            Dominick had searched the whole palace. He knew that it was actually Anneliese, but nevertheless, she knew what she was doing and would have come running if he called. That is, if she was even here.
            “Ambassador Bismarck?!â€
            Bismarck, who was in a hall nearby, was frightened. Had Dominick found him out?
            He ran to his king, secretly in a panic.
            “Have you seen – uh, Erika?†King Dominick asked politely.
            Bismarck, relieved, shook his head.
            A servant entered the hall, bowing.
            “Your Majesty,†he said, “your escorting guard has returned with the dressmaker, and the cat family.â€
            Dominick went out to meet them.
            “Mangy beasts,†he heard Madame Carp mutter under her breath. “The carriage trips over something and they act like sniveling children. Cats are just pests.â€
            Wolfie, Tigger, and some of the other kittens greeted Dominick enthusiastically, followed by a tired Serafina and the rest of the little cats.
            Just as Dominick was bending down to pet Wolfie, his ears went up and he looked very alert. It was plain that he sensed something was wrong.
            “What is it, Wolfie?†he asked.
            The cat growled in Bismarck’s direction, then pointed a paw at the top of the carriage with a whimper.
            Dominick ran closer to take a look. No one appeared to be there.
            He did not notice the two figures sneaking around in the hedge maze behind the carriage.
            “Ya know, I always thought dat Bismarck had da better ideas,†Nack was saying quietly to Nick. “The boss is gonna be sorry he ever called us fools!â€
            “Yeah,†Nick muttered.
            “Let’s go find ’im. BUT –†he added rather loudly, grabbing Nick’s arm, “we is NOT moving until da King goes back inside! Then, we finds a way to make a deal wiv da guy!â€
            “Right,†said Nick. “I knew that!â€
 
            Anneliese was about to kick down the door when someone started to fumble with the lock. This was familiar…yes, very much so, for Preminger had done the exact same thing when he had collected her from Madame Carp’s!
            “Preminger,†she said in an angry tone under her breath. Well, he wasn’t taking her anywhere. She took off one of her shoes. She was going to have to break the window if she didn’t want to go with him.
            BAM!
            The door swung open and hit the wall hard. Preminger stepped in.
            Anneliese got up. He didn’t have any keys that she could see, which could mean he was playing the hero. But why would he do that when he knew how much she didn’t trust him anymore?
            “Your Majesty,†Preminger said with a sneer.
            Of course. She had almost forgotten that everyone thought she was Erika.
            Anneliese stood up.
            “Forget it, Preminger,†she snapped. “I already heard Ki – my husband’s ambassador talking to you.â€
            Unlike Bismarck, Preminger had the useful and uncanny ability to think of believable lies on the spot.
            “Did you hear him scream, Your Majesty?†he asked, still sneering.
            Anneliese nodded, wondering what his motivation was in asking.
            “That was because I tried to arrest him,†he said smoothly. “You see, I’ve turned over a new leaf and I wanted to prove myself to you, because I overheard your husband and Bismarck talk of a dastardly plot!â€
            “And what did this ‘dastardly plot’ entail?†Anneliese asked, her eyes narrowing.
            “I’m terribly sorry, but you see, King Dominick never really did love you.â€
            Anneliese found this hard to believe. Why go back for Erika when she wasn’t the princess he was supposed to marry, and besides had been told that she had tried to usurp her throne, if he didn’t love her?
            “He and his ambassador planned to have you…disappear somehow,†he continued. “Then, he could get all the gold you earned as a singer.â€
            As skilled as he was, Anneliese still didn’t believe him.
            “Why do you suddenly want to help me,†she snapped, “when you were so convinced Eri – I mean, I had tried to murder Princess Anneliese?!â€
            “I told you,†he snapped back, “I’ve seen the error of my ways! That was a lie!â€
            “I’m not going with you, Preminger,†snapped the princess. “I don’t believe you. Dominick wouldn’t have come back for…for me if he didn’t love me. And you kidnapped me!â€
            “No,†said Preminger, “King Dominick and Bismarck did this.†Then he stopped. How was he supposed to explain Dominick’s rescue of Erika?
            Then he had it.
            “You look so much like the princess,†he said. “The King thought you must be her. In fact, he thought that whole thing was ploy set up by me and Queen Genevieve to get her out of the arranged marriage because…someone better came along. He was angry and went to get you so he could get married and save his reputation.â€
            She still didn’t believe a word of it, but Preminger grabbed her arm and pulled her out of the cabin, much as he had when she was locked in Madame Carp’s.
            They went outside to his old cart, where a new horse was hooked up.
            “To Dulcinia Palace!†he cried, cackling.


Chapter 10


            Panting, Dominick entered Kattenland Palace.
            Julian and Erika knew something had gone wrong.
            “What happened?†Julian asked.
            Dominick was silent. It was clear he wanted to say something but he didn’t know how to say it.
            “Anneliese…is missing.â€
            “Oh no!†Erika gasped.
            She had to get back there. If she went back to Dulcinia Palace, Preminger’s accomplice would express surprise at her return, and they would know who else was plotting.
            Dominick seemed to know what Erika was thinking.
            “You can’t go back,†he said. “If it was Preminger and whoever he’s working who took her, they’ll think you escaped and probably kidnap you, too. Julian, come on, we need to find her.â€
 
            Erika watched as Julian and Dominick left in the carriage. Well, one thing was for certain. She wasn’t going to obey him and stay here. Luckily, Fleur was still in Kattenland.
            She went to the stables and mounted Fleur.
            “To Dulcinia Palace!†she cried.
 
            As Fleur made her way down the mountain, Erika made sure that she was far enough behind Dominick’s carriage so that its occupants would not see her. When, at sunset, she finally reached the palace, Dominick’s carriage went right by, for Anneliese was not there.
            As Erika led Fleur to the Dulcinian stables, she noticed something else.
            A cart was arriving at the palace, pulled by a horse she had never seen before. In the cart were a white-haired man and a brown-haired girl.
            Erika walked up closer. She gasped. The man was Preminger, and the girl was –
            She squealed. Dominick’s carriage was far away by now. But other than that, why had Preminger brought Anneliese back?
            Carefully, so as not to be noticed, Erika crept behind Preminger and Anneliese as they ascended the stairs. They entered the grand hall, and she slipped in behind. Wolfie barked, and instantly ran to Erika’s side. Erika told him “shh!†and they hid behind a large pot.
            “Where is that treacherous king and his conniving ambassador?!†Preminger shouted angrily.
            “No!†cried Anneliese. “Don’t believe anything he says!â€
            The maids dusting the walls looked from Preminger to Anneliese.
            Bismarck came running down the stairs. He yelped upon seeing Anneliese.
            “Preminger?!†he scolded. “What is the meaning of this?!â€
            “I know your plot, dastardly fiend!†Preminger shouted at the ambassador. “You kidnapped this poor young lady and held her captive!â€
            Bismarck looked appalled.
            Erika let out a slight gasp. What were they talking about?
            “Bismarck!†said a familiar voice. “We’re right behind ya!â€
            Nick and Nack entered the room from a pair of golden double doors that led to the throne room.
            “WHAT the –†Preminger shouted. “Nick?! NACK?! What are you – you’ve betrayed me!â€
            “What is going on?!†Erika finally shouted, jumping out from behind her hiding place. “Ambassador Bismarck, what are you doing with those hooligans?!â€
            Preminger let out a surprised shout. Ambassador Bismarck’s eyes grew wide.
            “There – there’s two of them!†Bismarck stuttered.
            “No,†snapped Preminger. “One of them is the Princess of Kattenland!â€
            He called for Midas.
            Erika rushed toward Anneliese. “Are you alright?†she asked.
            Anneliese sighed. Serafina rubbed up against the princess’s leg.
            Preminger’s dog came running in from outside. He sniffed both girls.
            Then, he jumped and pulled off the brunette wig on Anneliese.
            Bismarck gasped.
            “Erika,†she said, “Ambassador Bismarck is the one Preminger was working with! He –â€
            “GUARDS!†Preminger yelled. “SEIZE HIM!†He pointed at Bismarck.
            The guards just stood there.
            Although this news was quite a shock, Erika trusted her friend.
            “Do as he says,†she ordered.
            The guards grabbed Bismarck as well as Nick and Nack and marched them toward the dungeon.
            The girls sighed.
            Then Preminger unhooked the horse from his cart.
            “Follow that trail!†he commanded, pointing to the tracks of Dominick’s carriage.
            The two girls trembled. What was going on?
            Then suddenly, they heard a bunch of loud shouts and of glass breaking. Bismarck, Nick and Nack burst through the door.
            “GET THEM!†he yelled at his new cronies.
            Anneliese and Erika were grabbed by the two ruffians, who marched them up to Erika’s room and locked them in.
           
            Erika sighed.
            “This is not good.†She was watching Bismarck egg on another horse to go after Preminger.
            “I don’t know what they’re planning,†said Anneliese, “but whatever it is, we have to get to Dominick and Julian before they do!â€


Chapter 11


Chapter Text
            “An’ then, Bismarck an’ we’s gonna get Dulcinia!â€
            Erika trembled. Apparently Nick and Nack were going to take them away from the palace and arrange for them to “disappear,†then reveal Julian and Dominick as planning it all with Preminger, so that Bismarck would be king.
            “We have to get out of here!†she told Anneliese, almost weeping. “We have to warn them what Bismarck is up to!â€
 
            Tigger, although he acted brave much of the time, was actually very frightened at the moment. His father’s mother – his Erika – was going to come to harm if something wasn’t done.
            It fell to the brave kitten to take the biggest risk he ever had.
            Tigger ran up to Nick and growled like a dog.
            “AHH!†Nick yelped. He ran away, Tigger barking at his heels.
            “COME BACK HERE YA SPINELESS IDIOT!†Nack shouted, running after them.
            “We’ve got to follow them,†Wolfie whispered to the kittens and his wife. “Nack has the keys to Erika’s bedchamber dangling from his pocket. Let’s get them!â€
            To every cat’s surprise, Lucille barked. She then ran hot on Nack’s trail, followed by her parents, brothers and sisters.
            Nack heard many barks behind him. He turned around.
            “AHHHHHH!†he screamed. It was all cats! How could an army of barking creatures be mere cats?
            In his moment of distraction, Melissa, one of the braver kittens, jumped up and grabbed hold of a keyring protruding from Nack’s pocket.
            Nack screamed even louder. Both Nick and Tigger suddenly turned in his direction at his yells of, “CAT! CAAAAAAAAAAT!â€
            Nick followed Tigger back to his family. He saw Nack looking extremely fearful.
            “Wha’s wrong?†he asked.
            “CAT! KEYS! CAT – TOOK – RUN – GET – CAAAAAAAAT!â€
            His finger pointed rigidly at the retreating Melissa, the keyring clamped tightly between her teeth.
 
            “Good job, everyone!†said Wolfie. “Now, hand me the keys, please, Melissa.â€
            The little cat dropped the keyring. Wolfie picked it up and handed it to Tigger. Kittens began to stack on top of their father until Tigger stood atop them all on two legs, now able to reach the keyhole. He dropped the keyring and his older brother Adrian caught it. Then Tigger lifted a key up and fitted it into the hole. He took the keyring between his jaws again and turned it.
            Erika noticed the door opening just a smidge.
            “It’s open!†she gasped. “Come on, let’s go!â€
            The two girls sped out the doors, knocking over many cats.
            Anneliese laughed.
            “You good kitties,†she said, smiling and petting them.
            Wolfie barked, gesturing to Nick and Nack behind them. Tigger dropped the keys and cats and humans started to run for the door out.
           
            “ACK! Cats, cats CATS!â€
            Madame Carp, having been knocked over by a tsunami of kittens, stood up again. Her eyes met Erika’s.
            “Erika – er…Your…Majesty?†she said weakly, curtsying.
            Erika looked at the woman. How did she get here?
            Then she gave a small gasp. The old dressmaker’s clothes were dirty and ripped, and she looked to be very hungry.
            “Eri – Your Majesty,†she said, sobbing, “I’m sorry. Can you…f-forgive me?â€
            Just then, Erika’s mind lit up. She knew just how to get Preminger to get what he deserved, at least.
            “Of course,†said Erika. “But…you have to help us.â€
            And she whispered a plan to Anneliese and Madame Carp.


Chapter 12

           Erika hooked Fleur up to a carriage as Anneliese, Madame Carp, and all the cats piled in.
            The tracks from King Dominick’s carriage were still visible. Newer were what looked like two sets of hoofprints. She supposed that the newer set of hoofprints must belong to a horse that Bismarck mounted.
            Erika sat herself in the driver’s seat of the carriage.
            “Follow those tracks!†she told Fleur. “And quickly!â€
            The white horse picked up speed. Soon, she was going so fast that Erika was clinging onto the reins. She heard Madame Carp say, “Really!â€
            Soon, she saw a fat figure in the distance. It had a reddish color to it.
            “After him!†Erika urged the horse.
            Fleur was now hot on Bismarck’s trail. Even further ahead, Erika could see another lone horse which had to belong to Preminger. She could not see the other carriage at all, and now she had to squint to see Bismarck, as the sun was rising higher and higher in the sky. Erika was surprised by this; in her chase she had completely lost track of time.
            Just then, she heard the clop-clop of hooves behind her. Before she could turn, Erika heard the jumble of frightened barks and meows (coupled with Madame Carp’s annoyed growls). She soon heard Anneliese scream very loudly, loud enough to be heard above the sound of the fast-moving horses.
            “ERIKA! LOOK OUT! NICK AND NACK ARE AFTER US!â€
            Erika egged the horse on still faster. She couldn’t let them catch her and her friends!
 
            Suddenly, Ambassador Bismarck’s horse skidded to stop. Erika egged Fleur on. Panting, the horse raced toward a beautiful valley, surrounded by trees. Bismarck, Preminger, Midas, Dominick and Julian were all standing by the side of a shining lake, along with the horses and carriage.
            Finally, Fleur stopped. Erika leapt off the driver’s seat, exhausted, and the carriage’s occupants all stepped out.
            “You traitor!†Preminger accused Ambassador Bismarck. “How could you and that idiot who dares call himself a king team up to do that to Erika?!â€
            Dominick began to protest, but Bismarck interrupted him.
            “I haven’t done a thing, you criminal!†he retorted. “I know for a fact that you and the King hid her in the Kattenland Mine, and –â€
            He suddenly stopped when he saw Erika. His eyes were wide with shock.
            “What – how did you –â€
            Two more horses skidded to a halt, dismounted by Nick and Nack.
            “TRAITORS!†Preminger yelled at the two men. “You’ll pay for –â€
            “Save it, Preminger!†Anneliese said.
            Dominick looked around at the two girls, dressmaker, men, and cats.
            “What is going on?†he asked. “Erika, what are you doing here? I told you to –â€
            “Your Majesty,†said Anneliese, “Ambassador Bismarck betrayed you. He and Preminger came up with a plan. They kidnapped Erika and me.â€
            Dominick gasped. Then an extremely angry expression appeared on his face.
            “I should have known!†he spat. “What with your lies and sending me to kingdoms where I wasn’t needed! Guard!â€
            The guard driving his carriage grabbed Bismarck’s hands behind his back.
            “Take him straight to the dungeon!†Dominick said, his voice full of fury.
            The guard shoved Bismarck in the carriage, firmly locked the door, and told the horse to go back to the palace. The carriage sped away.
 
            Preminger, Nick, Nack, and Midas just stood there, all shocked by what had just happened.
            “Your…Majesty,†said Preminger with a sly grin, “could you possibly forgive me?â€
            Dominick continued to stare angrily, this time at Preminger.
            “Hold it,†said Erika. “Let me handle this. I know the perfect job for these rogues.â€
 
            It came as quite a shock to Bertie and to Kattenland’s Queen Genevieve that Madame Carp had managed to open a new shop, this time in Dulcinia. However, one could hardly feel sorry for the people who now had to work there every day. Unlike Wolfie, Midas could not figure out how to sneak in and out, and Preminger thought his days in the Katten dungeons were nothing compared to knitting stupid dresses endlessly. On top of that, whenever Nick or Nack did a horrible job (which was almost everything they sewed), he was expected to fix it. Madame Carp had told them something about a “redemption debt†or some such nonsense, but Preminger didn’t believe he was ever going to pay the whole thing off. Somehow, Madame Carp would bring up some other misdeed he had done (by now, he was quite sure she was making things up) and adding extra “interest†because of it.
            Bertie herself had become much more than a handmaiden. She was now King Dominick’s new ambassador, and she was helped out by two feline friends called Melissa and Tigger, who Dominick had named “the cleverest, most deserving cats in Dulciniaâ€.
            The next time Erika came to Kattenland, which was not long after, Anneliese was delighted to hear that she was now expecting a child. Misha, who was still a baby, still couldn’t tell the difference between Erika and Anneliese, so she had come to the conclusion that sometimes her mother’s singing voice sounded like a bright sun, and other times it sounded like silk, like it had most of the time.
            And they all…well, you know how that story goes.
THE END



My Name is Erika (warning: death of protagonist's parents, sad)


            My name is Erika.
            I was born on the top of Mount Katten, in the kingdom there known as Kattenland. My parents, upon my birth, named me Erika after my father, Erik.
            I, of course, had no idea of this, but Kattenland’s Princess Anneliese was born at the exact same moment as I was. Later in life, my mother would tell me about the great celebration on the day I was born. Though she and my father knew it was for the princess, she would say it made them feel as though I was special. Since then, I knew I must be somehow important, being born on the same day as the princess.
            My mother, Allyson, was the most wonderful human being to walk the realm of Kelia. She was like a fairy godmother to me, as she was so kind and always bright, even though we were very poor. She would sing her favorite song to me every night, before I went to sleep.
            I never had any siblings. My mother always told me that I was her treasure, and that she didn’t feel she could share that love with another child.
            We may have been poor, but my childhood was, in general, very pleasant. I used to go into the streets of Kattenland during the day, where I would show particular interest in the flowers. Occasionally I would see something that made my heart leap: the Katten Blue Rose. When I first saw one at the age of six, I was fascinated that the roses could be any color other than pink. After some talking with my parents about it, I learned that the blue roses only grew in Kattenland, or at least had only been found here up to this point in time. The Katten Blue Rose instantly became my favorite flower. It smelled even more wonderful than the pink rose, and it was my favorite color: light blue.
            I loved to sing, too. It was a passion of my mother’s. My parents told me what an excellent musical voice I had. I used to prance around the streets and sing, a little girl’s idea of fun. People would smile at me. In fact, the local baker soon knew my name, and told me that my daily songs made his day.
            My very favorite song was taught to me by my mother. It was called “Written in Your Heart†and I still sing it fondly to this very day. I’ve known it for as long as I can remember. My mother probably first sang it to me when I was only a few days old. I never did ask her, which I regret.
            I had an affinity with cats. When I was young, there were many stray animals roaming Kattenland (less, now, since Princess Anneliese has been working hard to get them all into good homes). For some reason, the kittens were never afraid of me. Adult cats would run sometimes or even frighten me with snarls, but the kittens always let me near them. I kept asking my parents if we could keep one, but we were too poor to keep a pet.
            It was in my fourteenth year that everything changed.
            I woke up one day, expecting it to be like any other, but my parents’ faces were grave. I knew something must be serious.
            My mother told me that the King of Kattenland had become ill. And to make matters worse, a few nobles had also gotten the disease. No one knew what it was.
            We were all praying for the King to get better. He was a very good and just king.
            However, I didn’t think my life would necessarily be impacted that much – until the plague spread to the common folk.
            My parents had ordered me to stay indoors, which made me miserable. I knew that it was only for my protection, as people had started dying of the unknown illness, but all the same, I cried every day and prayed the disease would go away soon.
            Then, the King died.
            Even the weather was gloomy that morning we heard. There were gray clouds over Mount Katten and its immediate surroundings. All the palace windows were closed, or so we’d heard. We’d also heard that only one person didn’t seem devastated about the whole matter: Preminger, the royal advisor. It struck me as a little suspicious.
            Later that same day, I noticed my mother was walking more slowly.
            The next day, both she and my father fell ill. I was scared. About everyone who had caught this thing had not recovered. My mother still sang to me from her bedside, and she promised if the worst should happen, I would be okay. They’d made arrangements with someone.
            About two months later, a week after my fifteenth birthday, they both died. My father was first, and I was with my mother throughout.
            It was a terrible day. I cried so hard that I was surprised I had any tears left. I was all alone now. Why, oh why, oh why?
            Some time later – or perhaps no time at all – someone knocked on my door.
            It was Madame Carp, the local dressmaker. She claimed she was my legal guardian now.
            I went with her only because I had nowhere else to go.
            It turned that I’d only survived as a baby because my parents had borrowed a lot of money from her. I had to work for her to pay off their debt.
            I didn’t want to work, especially not now. But she was stubborn. Fortunately, my parents had taught me how to sew, perhaps because of this.
            I found that I was expected to work all day every day. I was getting sick of it, but I had inherited from my parents a sense of honor, and they had promised to pay her back. Since it was up to me now, I didn’t feel I could break it. I thought their souls might be weeping from shame if I did. Still, I sang. I sang as I worked, and I knew that once my debt was paid, I was free to go and follow my dream.
            It wasn’t all bad. I made a new friend in the seamstress Bertie, and I found a strange little kitten one day while wandering outside. The kitten was white with brown patches, and he was barking and panting. He was chasing his own tail and seemed to be enjoying himself. I adopted the kitten and named him Wolfie. Thankfully, Madame Carp didn’t object, though I doubt she completely approved.
            That is the story of my childhood up to the point when I met the princess and found that we looked alike.


The Kelian Origins of Clara


            In the land of Parthinia lived three young noble ladies. They were sisters, and two of them were cheerful and kind. The eldest, Lady Pirlipat, was selfish and stuck-up.
            The two youngest were twin sisters, named Alice and Elizabeth. They were good friends of Parthinia’s Prince Reginald. He considered them family. Pirlipat, however, had her eye on the young prince. She intended to be his queen.
            Reginald also knew a young squire, a fairy mouse. The mouse was Pirlipat’s confidant. Sneaky and sly, he expected a promised sum of money when Pirlipat, at the age of seventeen, asked of him to help her win the prince’s hand.
            The mouse, using his cunning, managed to worm his way into the trust of the King and Queen. They made him an attendant to the prince, who gladly accepted, for he believed the mouse to be his true friend.
           
            The prince, who thought little of Pirlipat, continued to spend time with her sisters, who, although he loved them rather well, had no desire to marry either of them. Elizabeth and Alice did wonder if Reginald sought their love, but one day they had to stop. For Reginald met up with a young woman known as Miriam. She was the youngest princess of the nearby land of Selenia. She had been traveling with the rest of the Selenian royal family, and she and Reginald soon fell in love.
            Elizabeth and Alice were happy for the prince, but Pirlipat was not. She commanded the mouse to slip the prince false information about Princess Miriam, in hopes that Reginald would turn away from her. The mouse soon saw an opportunity: he spied Miriam speaking to a young squire about the horses. To the prince he twisted the story, saying that Miriam and the squire were having an affair behind his back.
            When Reginald questioned his beloved and the squire, he learned that the mouse was wrong, for other servants backed up the pair’s story. He did not, however, cease to trust the mouse, for he thought he was simply mistaken.
            Pirlipat was furious that her plan had gone wrong. She cooked up a plot of her own, without the mouse’s help.
            She would send Miriam away to another world. That was it. Then, Pirlipat would become the next Queen of Parthinia.
            But how to do it?
            She decided she would have to steal the King’s scepter. Determined not to be seen, she snuck into the King’s treasure at midnight. However, Miriam was awakened by Pirlipat’s rushing footsteps past her door, for she had spied a sleeping guard and was quick to scamper. Curious, Miriam opened the door.
            She spied Pirlipat, who she knew well to be her rival for Prince Reginald’s affections, run down the stairs to the treasure vault. This was not good. Immediately she alerted the mouse, who had by now earned so much of the prince’s trust that he was considered his advisor.
            The mouse did not know why Pirlipat was plotting, and, more importantly, why she was plotting without him. He was furious! He decided that he would sabotage her plan.
            With quiet mouse footsteps, he followed her down into the treasure vault, where she had almost neared the scepter. As soon as she touched it, the mouse made an incredible squeaking fit, waking the guards nearby. Pirlipat turned, scepter in hand, and prepared to cast a spell on the fast approaching guards. The mouse ran into her, knocking the scepter out of her hand. He caught it, and to be sure no one would go after him, transformed the guards into small garden fairies, who flew away.
            The power felt good. The mouse was very pleased that he had the scepter. With it, he was sure to be able to do whatever he wanted. In fact, he thought he might be able to seize the throne with it. Unfortunately for him, he had underestimated Pirlipat. She dove at him before he could seriously consider taking over, grabbing the scepter from his hand. Full of fury, the mouse ran after her as she began a search for Miriam – a search that unexpectedly ended when she entered the grand ballroom. The lights were on, and the King, the Queen, Prince Reginald, Princess Miriam, Alice and Elizabeth were all there.
            The mouse arrived later, panting.
            “I-I’m sorry, Your Majesties, Your Highness,†he gasped. “I tried to stop her, but she is incredibly strong.â€
            The surprise in his voice was genuine; he had not expected a seemingly delicate lady to be able to wrench the scepter from his hand.
            “Reginald!†Pirlipat snapped. “You may never see her again!â€
            She pointed the scepter at Miriam, chanting a spell.
            Alice and Elizabeth gasped and jumped in front of her. Soon, the blast from Pirlipat’s spell hit them, and they disappeared, only to reappear in another world – a world different from their own.
            Furious, Reginald drew his sword.
            “Drop it, Pirlipat!†he commanded.
            She wouldn’t. But the mouse still did not want to see Pirlipat’s plans work. He swiped the scepter from her, taking her completely by surprise. Then he handed it to Reginald’s father.
            “Pirlipat!†barked the infuriated king. “For this vile act, you must suffer the consequences!â€
            And with that, he changed Pirlipat into a wooden owl and sent her to the world where her sisters had ended up.
 
            When she arrived at the grand house where her sisters were now staying, due to Alice falling for the son of the rich Drosselmeyer,  she knew that to get back into the king’s – and Reginald’s – good graces, she would have to redeem herself. Thus, she, Alice and Elizabeth together made the locket that served as portal between Parthinia and Victorian England. For most of the day, Pirlipat would sleep atop the grandfather clock and dream of the life she might have had with Reginald, who did marry Miriam and in due course had a son, Prince Eric. Alice bore two children: Clara and Tommy.
 
            As for the mouse, his lust for power continued to grow, and thus he spoiled Prince Eric at every chance he got, making him less appropriate king material. The mouse thought that maybe…just maybe…he was the one who would get Reginald’s throne.



 
You can also find my stories at: https://www.fanfiction.net/~saeryen and http://archiveofourown.org/users/AriaSaeryen

Edited by Saeryen

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UPDATE: I've uploaded every complete chapter so far of Fire, Song and a Snowstorm, as well as my two ATLA one-shots, Northern Lights and Winterscape. I've also uploaded a couple of my Barbie oneshots.

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Well, for one thing, you most certainly have talent as a writer.

 

Ugh, since the forum update, lots and lots of characters of certain types have been screwed around with, making lots of text illegible.

 

Basically, every story written here has that glitchy text pervading it.

 

It definitely breaks the immersion.

 

But! That is no fault of your own! What I was able to read was absolutely fantastic.

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39 minutes ago, PhoenixSoul said:

Well, for one thing, you most certainly have talent as a writer.

 

Ugh, since the forum update, lots and lots of characters of certain types have been screwed around with, making lots of text illegible.

 

Basically, every story written here has that glitchy text pervading it.

 

It definitely breaks the immersion.

 

But! That is no fault of your own! What I was able to read was absolutely fantastic.

Thanks! I noticed that with someone else's story too. I may have to fix it.

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