A/N-First off, Patricia C. Wrede rocks!
Second, I've tried to stay true to the style of the Enchanted Forest series and the characters' personalities; my wish is that if Wrede were to read this, she'd have no cause to eat me alive.
Lastly, I'd appreciate it if you would act in persona Wrede and eat me alive if anything is wrong. Thanks.
New note: I have been going through and making small changes, mostly in little things like grammar, but occasionally something larger to either facilitate the later parts of the story or comply with a suggested improvement on the part of my reviewers.
1. In Which the Plot Begins
It wasn't my fault I started to talk. It was Telemain's, the dratted magician! What was he thinking, I'd like to know, setting out a tuna-scented concoction and expecting nine cats to stay away from it? Here I was, minding my own business, sleeping on the windowsill, when what should I smell but tuna. And quality tuna, too, by the scent of it. Normally it's Fiddlesticks who goes crazy over fish, but even I can't pass up good tuna.
So I glanced quickly around, just to make sure no one was watching, and I leapt onto the table, where the delicious odor was coming from.
Well, there it was. It didn't look much, to be sure—a little gooey and, well, blue. But my nose had never led me wrong yet. Maybe it was a Northern Blue Belly. A little taste couldn't hurt...
Next thing I knew I was on the floor hacking. Only it wasn't a hair ball that came up. It was a word. A human word.
Well, you can imagine the way the other cats laughed. Aunt Ophelia speaks human! That went all around the forest twice. No respectable cat would get herself into such a mess.
Of course Morwen and Telemain tried to help, but they didn't get very far. It appeared the experiment sitting on the kitchen table was a new one of Telemain's, so he didn't know exactly how it worked, much less how to reverse it.
So here I was stuck with as detestable a curse as any that have befallen creatures in the forest.
That was my situation; here's the story.
I was lounging out on the wide porch soaking in the sun and keeping my mouth shut when two people appeared in front of me. I don't mean they walked up to the door and seemed to appear only because of the thick foliage of the Forest. I mean they appeared. It seemed Daystar was finally getting the hang of that transportation spell the Kings of the Enchanted Forest could use.
Of course that means one of the people was Daystar, the eighteen-year-old prince, but I had never seen the other guy before. He was young, too, but he had fair hair and was quite a bit shorter than Daystar. Then I noticed the thin circlet around his head. Oh no, a prince.
A typical prince, that is. Daystar's a prince, of course, but he's not typical, just like his mother wasn't a typical princess. Typical princes are the silliest, most bird-brained fools you will ever see. Besides heroes. If there's anything worse than a prince it's a hero.
Daystar looked unusually worried. His forehead was creased and his voice had an uneasy edge to it.
"Good morning, Ophelia. I really need to speak with Telemain; do you know where he is?" That's one reason I like Daystar; he always notices us cats, unlike most people, who either forget we're there or think we can't understand them.
"In his tower, as usual. Probably concocting another cat-threatening mess. You can go in," I replied.
"The cat can talk?" the prince asked incredulously.
"Yes, well, there was a bit of an accident, and now Aunt Ophelia can speak human. All cats can talk, but we just can't understand them." Thank you Daystar, I thought, for skipping over the eating part. But judging from the look on the stranger's face he was still very puzzled.
The pair walked into the house and I casually followed, pretending I wasn't the least bit interested in the proceedings. Daystar knocked on one of the two doors exiting from the main room and we heard Telemain's preoccupied voice shouting at us to come in. We entered a round room, bare except for two iron staircases spiraling up to the top of the tower and a wooden table on the far side where Telemain sat, apparently studying some oddity found in the Forest.
The fair-haired prince looked around and whispered to Daystar, "I don't get it; I didn't see this from outside."
"It's a magic door. It can lead to several rooms without taking up any extra space, though this tower's substantial enough that it occupies a whole door. The other one you saw leads to eight different rooms and the backyard," I informed him.
Telemain finally looked up from his work. "Daystar, what brings you here? How are you doing on the transportation spell? If there's one thing I wish I could do, it's that."
"I'm getting better, thanks, though it still occasionally takes a couple tries. But that's not why I'm here. You remember I told you about how the Forest is acting strangely up north? The trees were doing odd things like moving in plain sight and growing younger instead of older."
"Yes, I recall you mentioning that a couple months ago. In fact, this leaf I was examining came from one of the trees subject to reversal growth. But I'm afraid I can't detect any enchantment that could produce such a reaction."
"The...strangeness has spread further south since then. I couldn't figure out why either until I met Prince Olemer," Daystar gestured to the prince, who hesitantly came forward. "After hearing his story I think I know who's causing the trouble. Again."
"Again?....you mean wizards?"