Hullo! For those old timers you, you will probably remember me, back in the days when there were very few fan fiction here and everyone knew everyone's fan fiction by heart. Wow, those days are gone and I am just stupefied, amazed at the amount of fan fics now. Which is good, helps to take up the places of those who have "retired" from the scene. All will be dearly missed and remembered. You all know who you are! I salute you!

I am presently writing a fan fiction, which I originally wrote it for Wildofre's Realm. Somehow, from a short thing which I originally envisioned it to be it soon escalated to a full blown story with chapters. Gasp! And I admittedly have been most remiss in my updating duties.

I didn't want to upload to ff.net till I finished my work, but I felt that I should upload the revised versions (for all I know I may further revise it, and for all I know, now with all the new rules and regulations ff.net has, I haven't got a chance to read the new stuff, I will get into trouble for that. Ah well.) to let my faithful readers know that I am still alive, writing slowly, but writing still. And that the fic is updated. I don't know if I will upload the new bits as I always feel I shall finish everything and polish it up before I shove it to hapless readers on ff.net. I sincerely would like to thank all those who wrote me encouraging, some a bit threatening e-mails to continue the story. So the fic is dedicated to all you pple who still have faith in me. Thank you.

If you have the opportunity, do visit my webpage! All details under my profile, I think.

For those who really have never read my work whatsoever.

KEY :
'thoughts'
"speech"
[author speaking, or author notes]

If I really made major boo boos, or any bone of contention, do contact me. Thank you.

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What If Prologue

In the beginning of Wild Magic of the Immortal Series

Once upon a time, in a land called Galla, in a small parcel of land owned by Duke Jarrod of Neptu, there lived a couple in a cottage. The Father was a procurer and nurturer of swine (also known, to the less educated as simply the "pig keeper"), as was his father before him, and as his father's father before his father.

It was hardly a glamorous job, mucking out the pens and throwing slops to the pigs. But the Father was proud of it. He, he claimed, reared the best pigs in all of Cria and Neptu, and some even say Tortall. It was true that his pigs were highly sought after. Once, in the Father's grandfather's time, no less person than the king of Galla ordered some pigs from him to be slaughtered for guests from Scanra. (The Scanra king had a fetish for pigs, particularly when they were stuffed with apples.)

The couple had only one child, a daughter called Buxyina. Buxyina had a unique education compared to the other village girls in the region. She was the only child, hence, was expected to continue on the family tradition of rearing pigs. She was taught of feminine responsibilities - which encompassed the domestic realm of darning, stitching, washing, cooking; As well as what is deemed as masculine territory such as how to do simple accounts as well as how to read.

She traipsed around in breeches, her parents, willing to indulge her and saw the practicality of her outfit. (It was unimaginably messy if you climbed into a pigpen in a dress to muck the pens and feed the sows, not to mention when you had to wrestle down an unfortunate pig for the butcher's knife.) Another reason why her parents indulged her in this fashion was that they stayed the furthest from the village (The pigs being smelly and all, and had to be placed downwind, away from the water supply). Hence, away from the quivering noses of gossipmongers (who are too turned off by the smell to come close) and the biting tongues of housewives as well as the critical eyes of the Elders.

Now, every year in March, there was fair held in Cria. The village of Neptu sent a yearly expedition to that fair to sell their wares. This gave them a tidy source of income. Whenever the privileged group (only a select, responsible bunch were allowed to go) came back from the fair, they would come with their coffers full and regale the village of tales of fair and news from afar. Buxyina was entranced by tales of a lady knight in the alien land of Tortall, The Lioness, six feet tall, with piercing amethyst eyes that brought men to their knees, begging for mercy. However, what really captivated Buxyina's attention were the stories of the Queen's Riders, regular women who were warriors! The quaint concept of ladies, no, females, (as the elders said, "as no decent lady would want to soil her hands", quite conveniently forgetting that the village were made up of females who all worked for a living through planting crops, etc) following a fighting career was simply quite incomprehensible to the Gallans. However, Buxyina saw it as a possibility not an impossibility. After all, she was brought up differently and having exposure to a myriad of reading materials from passing traders (uncensored by the Elders of the village), she had read on various women warriors in the past. Deep in her heart, Buxyina always wanted to be a fighter-someone who could change the destinies of others. This deep-seated desire could be due to the fact that she and her family were very much looked down upon by everyone. Buxyina longed and, when she grew older to a world weary age of 13, begged her parents to let her go on this all important trip.

Father always went with the herd of pigs south. He adamantly refused to allow Buxyina to make the trip as he did not want her to run into trouble. He recognized that by raising her up in such a unique way, he has also in fact, effectively alienated her from the rest of society with their narrow- minded norms. He knew that she would have a difficulty reconciling reality with the values she was inculcated with.

As Buxyina grew older, she misunderstood, and perhaps, did not even comprehend her father's misapprehensions. All it mattered to her was that boys, younger than her, had the opportunity to go to the fair, procuring bragging rights for the rest of that year.

However, this year, Father fell ill and was unable to make the journey. Mother could not make the trip due to her bad knees, due to an energetic sow that kicked her knees when she was a youngling. He knew that they would need the money, there were rumours circulating about an imminent war with Catharak. War always spelt a disastrous end to beneficial trade of goods and services. Under his wife's nagging and Buxyina's begging, he relented. Father and Mother wrenched a promise from excited Buxyina to be careful and to wear her dresses (Mother had explained to Buxyina that it was the norm to wear dresses, so she had to wear dresses no matter how itchy or inconvenient it might be). Under the watchful eye of the village elder, Buxyina embarked on a more eventful trip than she bargained for.

They reached the fair in good time and set up their stores at the borders of the fair. They had no coin to pay the exorbitant bribes to the officials to get a good location. Thus, Buxyina's store was near the minor roads coming in from the valleys and mountains, like Snowsdale.

On the third day of the fair, Buxyina had successfully sold off her pigs. A group of young male villagers from her camp decided to take time off from their duties and go have a tour of the fair. Buxyina asked permission from the elder to go, but he said no.

"Why?" Buxyina asked.

The elder looked at Buxyina in surprise. How dare this slip of girl question his judgment?

"Josh is only eight, but he could go off. I am much older than him by eight years," Buxyina continued reasonably.

"Hush! You impertinent girl!" the elder barked. "You must stay here and take care of the goods!"

"But I finished my work!" Buxyina exclaimed.

"You still cannot go. Do you see Indra complaining? Do you see any of the girls asking to go? No! They know it is their duty to stay here!" he scolded.

Buxyina blinked, she hadn't noticed that. "But, but, we can take turns, surely the males aren't going to be out all day?"

"When they want to return, it is up to them!" He said firmly. "It is not in your position to tell them to stay and work while women go out to revel! Who knows what evils you will pick up at the fair? You, you are a girl and you cannot go."

"You mean you won't let me go, any of the girls to go, because we are girls? That is ridiculous!" Buxyina exclaimed in shock.

He slapped her.

"You dare question me! The elder of the village!" he roared. "Now SILENCE! You go and look after Josh's goods! You better sell half of them before today or no supper!"

Shocked, and shaken to the core, Buxyina slunk away, when her hand on her cheek. Her parents had never laid a hand on her and for some stranger to do so now, was a tremendous shock.

The other villagers surreptitiously avoided her as she sat, on the make shift fence of Josh's herd of sheep. After a while, her spirit returned to her and she fumed.

How dare he lay a hand on her! Her father would. It is so unfair the way they treat the males and females! Josh did not sell even a fifth of his herd and now I am expected to sell half of his herd by today or else!! Why do I have to do all the work!! If there were evils are the fair, wouldn't an 8 year old be more susceptible to them than her? She was a grown woman and is able to make decisions! She was not a half-wit!

In the middle of her fuming, she missed seeing a slender girl with tumbling brown hair tamed in a scarf, soulful blue-gray eyes and a gray pony trailing after her coming up the slope to where she sat.

"Excuse me," the girl interrupted Buxyina's fuming.

"Yes?" Buxyina asked, not unkindly though. She was a trained trader such that she was not impolite even at her angriest, to avoid chasing away potential customers?

"Do you know of any body looking for help with horses? Or with animals and like," the girl said in Gallan.

It was not unusual for travelers to ask her and other villagers on prospective jobs in the fair. In fact, it was a common practice, especially at stalls that are at the borders of the fair. When traders or merchants, or anyone looked for help, they often spread word by visiting campsites like hers, as more often than not, there would be a willing person who took advantage of the opportunity. If the trader or merchant or anyone didn't come to their camp, word often spread like wildfire.

In fact, just yesterday, there was this woman, Ouna something, who was looking for a helper with horses to take to the land Buxyina much wanted to visit - Tortall.

Buxyina looked at the newcomer. She felt a surge of anger. She was resentful of being interrupted. Secondly, she was jealous that here was a girl, younger than she was, able to walk about as she wished, not chained to a job because of stupid males. To offer this unknown girl an opportunity to do something which she always wanted to do was too much for Buxyina who was seething with anger and jealousy. She had looked forward to exploring the fair for weeks and the disappointment was crushing.

Buxyina was normally a placid, kind and gentle person. However, that day, her being was shaken by the realization of her lesser role in life. In her sheltered life with her parents, she was never taught that males were the supposed superior beings in the village. Her strong sense of fair play was strongly disturbed by the elder's unfair treatment of her.

If it was another day, another century, another land or another world, her answer might be different.

But it wasn't a different day, century, land or world.

Buxyina replied immediately, letting her resentment win, "No."

It was then, with the one word from a swine keeper's daughter, in the tenth year of the reign of their royal majesties, King Jonathan the third and Queen Thayet, did the history of Tortall - land of the renown Lady Knight and King's Champion, Alanna of Pirate's Swoop and Olau (otherwise known as the Lioness) and new home of one of the six powerful black mages in the world, Numair Salmalin - change irrevocably.

Forever.