Summary: Two girls, born in Kaeleer in just before Jaenelle Purged the impure Bloods, were sent to live in our reality with their father, who turned out to be anything but what he seemed. Now that everything is safe, they are being summoned back to take their place as Queens. But did life under their father change them past even Jaenelle's power to heal?
Rating: R. Mature themes and violence.
Disclaimer: I am not Anne Bishop, so I in no way own the rights to the Dark Jewels Trilogy, The Invisible Ring, any short stories, or work she may accomplish in the future. Should you choose to sue me, you will receive my lunch money (a dollar fifty) and the court bill.

*Blabla * means thoughts sent to another

AN: Okay, this is my premiere story, so be gentle. I'll cherish compliments, appreciate constructive criticism, and ignore flames altogether. And if you catch me on a bad day, I'll probably flame back! ^.^

*************************** Chapter One *********************************

It was a picturesque day in the small, quiet town of Spidercreek. The sky was a bright, cloudless blue and the sun shone down on them brightly. Everyone was outside, enjoying one of the last warm fall days in the park, or by the pool, or something equally nice.

A young woman, around eighteen or so, with long, midnight black hair pulled back in a tight braid that fell to the middle of her back and brooding black eyes stood with her arms crossed, staring into the distance. Her slim body, hard and toned through years of pain and suffering, was stiff as she waited at attention, not taking a moment's rest. Her black, long-sleeved coat fluttered against the back of her calves as the wind blew gently.

In the park, children laughed and ran around, innocently oblivious to all of life's dangers. All but one blond girl, who was laughing and playing with the best of them. Her bright blue eyes carried a little bit of dark knowledge that was easily discarded in the warm fall day.

The little girl turned suddenly, feeling something strange and alien brush against her mind. The carefree happiness slowly drained from her eyes as she frowned, trying to feel where it had come from. Then her sister was there, placing a heavy, reassuring hand on her shoulder as she, too, extended her mind to find the psychic thread.

*I can't find it, * she said at last. *We should leave now, Talia, if you are finished playing. *

The little girl grinned up at the tough, somber-looking woman. *Yes, Tori. I'm finished. Can we stop for some ice cream, though? *

Tori looked down at her young sister and felt a little of her habitual scowl vanish. It was just too difficult to stay cold when she looked at her like that. *All right. But then we need to head to the house. I still have a lot of work to do. *

Talia cheered, ignoring the curious glances she got from the other kids. She raced off for the ice cream parlor, leaving the tall, dark-haired young woman to stare after her sister in harried amusement. Tori followed slowly, her amusement disappearing as she glanced back over her shoulder at the playground where she had sensed the light, expert touch against Talia's psychic walls. For a moment, before it had vanished, she thought it felt familiar. The dark, exotic brush had made her shiver with something not quite fear, not quite anticipation, but something in the middle.

Tori shook her head and went to find her charge, eager to finish the work she had to do on the house. Whatever it was could wait.

"Oh, do I have to?" Talia complained, looking at the books in distaste.

"Yes," Tori replied firmly, not even looking up from her hidebound workbook as she carefully measured out the right proportions. "This might save your life one day, Talia. Learn it. Master it."

With a sigh, Talia opened the book, knowing she wouldn't win this battle. "I don't see why I need to learn this. You'll be there for me when I need you. Besides, I like making healing potions better than learning power attacks."

"I noticed," Tori responded dryly. "I'll make you a deal, Li. Study the attacks for an hour, show me what you've learned, and you can use the rest of the day to play in your garden."

Talia smiled her victory. "Thank you, Tori!"

Tori smiled and let out a breath of relief as silence fell. She needed to concentrate on mixing the herbs together correctly, or else she could do some serious damage to their living room.

Practicing Craft was the only time Tori almost completely let down her guard and relaxed. Mostly because she needed to look calm and completely in control when she taught her darling sister and handled the great amounts of power within her own jewels. When the truth was, all she had to go by were a couple of old, worn Craft books and her intuition. There was a lot she didn't know, yet.

"Finished!" Talia announced precisely one hour later, the hourglass beside her vanishing.

Tori carefully crystallized the web she had just finished, shrunk it to fit in her palm, and vanished it. She turned to her sister expectantly, smiling slightly as she drew herself up, gathering a little bit of her power from the green jewel hanging from the simple silver chain around her neck.

Talia held out her right hand, palm up, and stared at it intently. Her Birthright jewel flashed once and began to pulsate, gradually growing stronger. A green swirl began to take shape in the center of her palm. As it grew larger, it gave off small sparks of lightening that never went further than an inch past her hand. More power was fed to the small whirlpool and it took the form of a globe, trapping the lightening inside.

"Good," Tori murmured, not wanting to distract her right then. "Now, concentrate it into a tiny, tiny dot.

Talia gulped and sweat popped out on her forehead, but slowly the globe shrank and the lightening became brighter, more powerful. Each inch it shrunk, the whiter the globe grew, until there was no green left whatsoever and all that she was holding was caged death.

Tori called in her own globe, although this one held no power, since it was made purely for containment. It was clear, laced with veins of dark gray from her Birthright jewel, the Ebon-Gray. Sending a silent command, the globe lifted from her hand and floated over to hover beside Talia's ball before seeming to absorb the ball into itself.

Talia relaxed, wiping the sweat from her brow, looking pleased despite her exhaustion. She had every right to be. Witch Lightening wasn't an easy thing to create. She looked at her sister's dark globe as it continued to hover in the air in front of her, and sincerely prayed that she would never have to use the Lightening she had created against another being. She had seen it in action before, only once but it was enough. The things it did to a person… Witch Lightening didn't just stop with electrocution. When it struck a person's body, it liquefied their internal organs in under a heartbeat. It destroyed all mental barriers and shattered their Chalice, leaving nothing, nothing, that could be used to make the transition to demon dead. When Witch Lightening hit you, you died instantly, but in so much pain, you were grateful to return to the Darkness.

Shaking away such thoughts, Talia reached up, touched the globe, and watched as the ebon-gray faded into her green. The containment globe was now hers, and she vanished it.

"Anything else?" Tori asked as Talia tried to slip away.

Talia turned back, grinning sheepishly. "Oh, yeah. Um…this."

Once more she held out her hands, only this time they were palm down. Talia, like Tori, kept her nails long, otherwise, the snake's tooth beneath her right ring finger would be exposed, raising many questions. Briefly concentrating, Talia pushed power into those nails, making them longer and as sharp and hard as steel blades. What looked like black-purple paint shined on the end of each finger.

"What'd you use?" Tori asked, gesturing to the polish.

"Well, at first, I tried using the same poison I drink for my venom sac, but it wouldn't keep. So then I waited until I had to milk it, mixed it with some herbs that prolonged potency of poisons, and voila!"

"How long does it last?" Tori asked.

"Since I don't actively use it until my nails sharpen, I don't really know. At least seven hours."

"A very nice way of mixing things you do like with the ones you don't," Tori praised. "Okay, I'm satisfied. Now, go. I want to finish up a few more webs before I start dinner."

Talia, blushing with pride at her sister's complement since she didn't give them easily, nodded and hurried off to the backyard. Her stomach rumbled eagerly. Tori usually abstained from cooking, but when she did… Again her stomach growled, and her mouth watered. There was no better cook than Tori anywhere.

*******Okay, here's chapter one. I've already gotten the second one halfway finished and it should explain more. I know I've left a lot of things out, but that's only because I'm waiting for the right time. You know the drill. You've read, now it's time for reviews! I'll reiterate what I've posted up top. Please don't flame. I don't like it, and when I find you, you won't like it either. ^,^ (kidding)*******