Stage is Set

Sorry for being gone for so long. I was busy with my job and trying to update other fics. I had to scrap two more because they weren't forming. Don't worry. I won't let this one die. I'm having too much fun.

HOPE YOU ENJOY! And, remember, I own nothing but my characters and ideas.

By the way, there will not be much to this chapter as far as plot and action. It's mostly like a rising action-call to order chapter.


How inconceivable it must seem. A blur of a dream a small few recall. But by declaration of the calendar and reality, a FULL week has past since the duel between Lydia and Cedric, making it 12 days that she has lived with her new family in the palace. Weird, isn't it? Lydia though, for certain, at least a month flew by. No such luck. She found it hard to believe. Not that anyone could really blame her lapse in time. From the moment Lydia set foot into the palace, Eezeyal perched right on her shoulder, excitement and danger lunged at her. Colliding with Cedric. A brief rivalry with Amber which quickly subsided. An emotional bonding moment shared between her and Roland. Not to mention Hildegard and Hugo's parents taking pride in slandering Lydia relentlessly with each breath. And who could forget the duel between Cedric and Lydia. Not the people of Enchancia, that's for sure. Tales over the duel raved endlessly from one end of the kingdom to the other. The servants who worked in the castle told their friends who told theirs and it went on and on. The children attending Royal Prep talk about it nonstop as well. Hildegard and Hugo try to ignore it. But the bustle of friends is near impossible to deafen.

Miranda admitted she was overwhelmed by all the excitement as well. Letters congratulating them and Lydia arrived everyday. We wish you the best, you majesties. One said. Congratulations on a job well done, Princess Lydia. Wrote another. I hope Princess Amber and Prince James look after their new little sister. And the best one yet, Will there be a new royal joining the family in the future? That one was put away in the sock drawer for a...much later time. Yes. The shower of praise rained on for days without sign of letting up. Baileywick stated he enjoyed all the excitement. Enchancia is normally so quiet and mundane. It's nice to hear gleeful gabbing. But what really pleased Baileywick was the time and extra effort Constable Miles put into organizing a team to come in and fix the Courtyard and other places decimated by Cedric and Lydia. The main yard was expected to be completely repaired in a matter of days.

Meanwhile at Royal Prep, Hildegard desperately sought Amber's forgiveness. Hugo, on the other hand, couldn't care less. Sofia, Miranda, and Lydia had no right to be among royalty. There is no place for peasants in the royal court. Hildegard felt the same way, this is well known. However her friendship with Amber is too important to lose. What was said at the castle was out of ignorance and personal esteem towards tradition. Royalty must wed royalty. A tradition that has been carried on since the beginning of time. Hildegard's lack of objection was pressure weighed upon her by her parents. Her parents didn't mean what they said. Well they - but it's not like Amber didn't feel the same way when Sofia arrived. Hildegard, Hugo, and their parents were simply being vocal to what was felt by many. And still is. But-but Hildegard never meant anything she said. No way! She was only going along with her parents and Hugo. Hildegard never meant to allow it to continue. She wanted to stop them had she been able too. Not that she could have. A child is not supposed to reprimand their parents. Least of all royalty. Regardless of how rudely they respond to others. Hildegard begged Amber several more times for forgiveness. Amber of all people knows Hildegard says things without considering the consequences. Amber considered forgiving her. Only - AND ONLY - if she apologizes to Lydia and Sofia.

"APOLOGIZE!" Hildegard snarled to herself in Popoff's classroom. The fierce stomps of her feet quaked the mirrors. "SHE wants ME to APOLOGIZE! RIDICULOUS!" Her voice screeched in outrage. She can't apologize. Especially not for speaking the truth. "I mean...they are VILLAGE GIRLS playing DRESSUP in a world that I was born into! I can't apologize for simply speaking the truth!" Honestly Hildegard prayed Amber would take her back if she spouted all that nonsense about her parents and the pressure. "GRR! Amber always was a stickler for mooshy make-ups!" Hildegard paced from one end of the room to the other, wearing a hole into the floor as idea mulled over her mind. Then a thought came to her. "Amber said I had to apologize," She smirked disdainfully, "She never said I had to be sincere."

By the end of the school day, Amber handed Sofia and Lydia letters Hildegard addressed to them. Written apologies Hildegard worked tirelessly on to construct. Sofia and Lydia were a little bewildered by the gesture. Sofia knew Hildegard. Not as well as Amber but well enough to know Hildegard does not possess a filter. Words simply slip out of her mouth due to how much love she has for herself. Lydia, on the other hand, was over what Hildegard and Hugo's parents said. People voicing their disdain is not unknown to her. Kids in sorcery school were far worse. However, for Ambers sake, the two girls read their letters.

The sisters skimmed the contents of the letter, only to be disappointed in the end. Amber snuck a peek and gaped angrily. The two letters read, word for word,

I will not apologize for who and what I am. If my respect is your wish then you must earn it.


Princess Hildegard.

Somewhere in Amber's mind an explosion reduced her brain to jelly. This was no apology! It was a written method to save pride! Amber was at such a loss for words she forgot how to breathe. Sofia and Lydia massaged her back, pleading for her to calm down and take slow, deep breaths. Amber assured them she was fine. However the disappointment in her expression revealed itself clearly. Amber is aware of Hildegard's personality. She's known of it since the day they met. But, for a second, she thought Hildegard might rise up to the occasion, bury her pride, and sincerely apologize to her sisters. No such luck. Amber wasn't sure if she was surprised Hildegard wrote this disparaging letter, or if she was more surprised at herself for being surprised.

Lydia gently rested a hand to Amber's shoulder, "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth," She flapped the pretentious slip of paper, "In an ambiguous sense this is an apology. The best we're going to get."

"Lydia's right." Sofia smiled at her dismayed sister. "It's amazing in itself Hildegard wrote anything. So we'll accept these if you'll just be friends with Hildegard again."

Amber pouted in protest. This isn't what she wanted. How could Lydia and Sofia accept things so easily? "Please." Lydia took Amber's hand. The glossiness of her pleading blue eyes weakened Amber's resolve. "James and Zandar can't take much more of you two flashing glares."

"ALRIGHT FINE! I WILL!" Amber acquiesced irately. Sofia and Lydia cheered, high fiving each other. The daggers of Amber's glare shredded Hildegard's pitiful excuse for apologies. Though, oddly enough, a message between the lines revealed the ambiguous apology. Earn my respect.Hildegard wanted Sofia and Lydia to play her game her way. Do anything to earn Hildegard's approval. Not likely. Amber was confident Sofia and Lydia would sooner eat their shoes. Lydia at least. "This is going to be disastrous.

When all was said and done, Sofia and Lydia wrote back to Hildegard. Lydia stated that no apology was necessary. Half Hearted words do not affect her. Sofia kept her letter short and simple. She assured Hildegard, despite her current feelings, that they are still friends and shouldn't worry. Hildegard wasn't sure what either letter meant. Half Hearted words? Still friends? "What is wrong with these girls?"

As apologies were being exchanged between the children, King Abraham, Hildegard's father, and Hugo's father, King Alexander (names until real names are revealed) decided it best if they apologized to Roland. Their behavior in his home, upon his land, was highly improper and completely uncalled for. Queen Miranda and her children's roots are of no consequence. Fact of the matter is Miranda is Queen, and her daughters are princesses, and they must be treated as such. Personal feelings and sense of tradition aside.

Roland assured the two kings that he had forgotten about the whole incident. Heated words were exchanged. No real harm was done. However, as proper etiquette demands, Roland apologized for Lydia's behavior as well. Though provoked, and already agitated by the duel, a wiser course for Lydia would have been to walk away rather than add fuel to the already blazing fire. A princess should be calm and collected. Not argumentative. king Abraham agreed full heartedly with Roland. Princess Lydia entered royal life almost two weeks ago, and it is high time she started fitting into the mandatory role.

As an unwritten law passed down from one generation to the next, youths are decreed adults by the age of 18. By then their schooling is completed and they take the first step to entering the world beyond education. Acquiring a job, supporting themselves and their families, and, of course, broadening their horizons. This rule does - and always will - apply to royalty as well. By 18 those amongst nobility and royalty are LEGAL adults, thus must begin making plans for their future. Preparing themselves for the day they too take the place of their predecessors. Marriage, children - rulers of their country. Princess Lydia's 18th birthday was in a matter of months. November 28th, if one's not mistaken. It is now the third week of June. Time is of the essence. The days after she turns 18 will be the most crucial. A year is not as long as it used to be. King Abraham, with all sincerity and urgency, advised Roland to immediately start cultivating Lydia. Traditions, style of dress, manner of speech - Rules and etiquettes princesses before her have upheld, and lessons they have endured. Lydia must take up sword and wield it with pride.

The way king Abraham made it sound was as if the fate of the world depended on Lydia falling in line with her new obligations. An obligation forced upon her out of the blue. Nevertheless, Roland's options were minimal. And though Roland and Miranda are still in the eve of their prime, they will not live forever. James, Amber, and Sofia were far too young to vest responsibilities in. Lydia and so agreed with Abraham's wish. Not that Roland intended to protest in the first place. Lydia must assert her role as process and future queen. Important still, she must accept it without hesitation or delay. The only question is: can Roland truly demand Lydia take up this position without causing disarray between him and his eldest daughter? Or will he risk widening the apparent gap? And after he promised she'd be allowed to continue with her magic.

"Magic studies vs Royal studies. How can I make her choose between them?"

Roland's royal concerns aside, Lydia too faced personal issues which threatened the well-being of her and her family. Their names are Cedric and Wormwood. The Royal Sorcerer and his pet.

After the duel, the relationship between Lydia and Cedric grew hectic. More so than when they first met. Put them in the same room and it was obvious how tense things were. Streams of lightning cast from their hardened glares collided dangerously. The gardener has a bald spot to prove it. Baileywick was surprised Lydia and Cedric haven't tried to kill one another yet. The day was still young. It could happen.

On the surface it was assumed to be a rivalry. A little healthy competition between master and student. In a matter of speaking. Unbeknownst to the ignorant spectators the wound runs much deeper than a simple, childish rivalry. Unfortunately Lydia cannot tell. The risk of bringing danger to her family was too great. Having him in the same castle was too risky. Past history agrees that a sorcerer should never be challenged or pushed too far. Lydia possesses magic of her own. The power to defend against Cedric. Yet Cedric defeated her twice in the same week. Imagine what he could do to Sofia and the rest of her family. Lydia remained convinced he wasn't even trying. Nevertheless troubles were just getting started. Worse for whom? Time will tell.

DING! Green oven mitts pulled a piping hot tray of thick, fresh cookies from the wood burning oven.

The alluring aroma of the peanut butter chocolate cookies filled the air as the tray was set on the countertop. "Cookies are ready!" Jade announced happily, kicking the oven door closed. Quickly she grabbed a spatula and moved the cookies to a cold plate so they wouldn't over cook.

"I've got the milk!" Ruby hollered. Her fingers grasped the rims of three empty glasses grasped. A heavy jug of milk cradled in her free arm unbalanced her stride.

Sofia pushed three chairs to a small round table, "And I've got the chairs!" She giggled.

Jade and Ruby brought the snacks to the table. Sofia offered to pour the milk for her friends. Ruby took this chance and snatched a cookie. The taste of the peanut butter and rich chocolate blanketed her tongue. Steam escaped the baked cookie. A soothing smell gathering in her nose. The large chocolate chunks melted into the soft inside of the cookie.

"Jade you make the best cookies!" Ruby swooned.

"Of course she does." Sofia agreed, passing out the glasses. "She's won the village's Junior Bake Off three years in a row."

"Yep and I plan on making it four." Jade boasted.

"In that case," Sofia raised her glass, "To year four!"

Ruby and Jade raised their glasses, "To year four!" The glasses clanked. All three girls giggled ecstatically.

To describe the joy the trio was feeling would be an impossibility. Whenever they were allowed to spend time together, the day immediately becomes a dream come true. Birthdays and holidays paled in comparison. Jade and Ruby, by far, are the best friends Sofia could ever ask for. No. Correction. Sofia could go to a wishing well and throw thousands of pennies into the hallowed water and still she'd never receive a better pair of friends. Her being a princess makes her appreciate them ten fold.

Amid the cheeks stuffed with cookies and milk, the three girls went on and on excitedly about their lives since they last saw each other. That was almost two weeks ago.

Ruby completed a model of the Eiffel Tower monument out of pine cone bits. She followed the diagram of a photo her mother had hanging in her room. Starting at the base and working up made it easier.

Jade gave her pet donkey a bath. He loves the water, but so much the soap. Jade barely touched the bar to his coat before he shook his body. He gave her a second shower.

Sofia literally rolled out of bed that morning. Good thing a nest of pillows broke her fall. She was having a dream where a mouse, duck, and dog were musketeers and they were saving her from a captain huge cat and his three minions.

The three girls threw their heads back in hearty laughter. Milk squirted out of Jade's nose. Ruby and Sofia choked on cookie crumbs. They had too much fun together. It was great. And a little dangerous.

"Thanks for coming Sofia." Jade hugged an arm around her shoulder. "I was worried princessing would hold you up."

"I always have time for my friends." Sofia pulled into the hug. "Besides things have been...sort of quiet today. I took advantage and came out to see you guys."

Quiet is an understatement. A graveyard was a party ground compared to the castle. Roland's busy with COnstable Miles, Miranda's coordinating with Baileywick in the restoration of the courtyard, James and Amber hanging out with Zandar and Clio, and the servants were sort of lazing about the castle.

"Speaking of which," Ruby leaned in, "How's Lydia doing? Her arm any better?" She cringed, worried for Lydia.

"A little." Sofia responded somberly. "She still has to rest it for a while. The fairies and Merr said no magic until her arm heals."

Some time during the sorcerers duel, Lydia injured her arm. The limit of her magical prowess broke. But in order to beat Cedric she summoned more magic than she had to spare. The strain of the magic eventually became to much for her body to take. Something was bound to give. The ending result was her arm kindling. At first blush it seemed minor. Dr. Merr diagnosed it wasn't severe. But the three fairies stated it could gradually worsen if not cared for properly.

"That's rough. Considering she's a sorceress and all."

Sofia shook her head, "She'll be fine. Remember when mom grounded her for putting that silence spell on you?" Jade and Ruby nodded. That was around the time Lydia first met them. She never appreciated silence so much. "She couldn't use magic so she occupied her time with other stuff. Puzzles, poetry. She even built a model of Bald Mountain out of clay including the gargoyle guy, and used an old night light for the ghosts.

"Wow. I wonder what Cedric does when he's bored." Jade muttered. Sofia shrugged. Cedric spent most of his time in his workshop. who knows what he does.

"Man I can't stop thinking about that duel!" Ruby gasped out of nowhere. "Lydia falling from the sky! Cedric and those nets! EEE!" She was about to burst.

"Don't forget Wormwood and Eezeyal!" Jade joined in gleefully. "Those two transforming into all those animals."

"That was my favorite part!" Sofia cheered. "Those two were A-Mazing!

Jade shuddered, "I almost thought those four were going to kill each other."

"No kidding." Ruby let out a sigh of relief. She remembers how close she was to collapsing from all the excitement.

"Nah!" Sofia waved a hand. "Mr. Ceedric and Lydia are friends. They'd never kill each other.

"I AM GOING TO KILL CEDRIC!" A dart hit the board's bullseye. The needle punctured a nose. A photo of Cedric the victim of many heated dart tosses. Lydia grasped the remaining darts and slammed them beside her on the patient's bed. Her other arm was being tended to by the castle physician. "I'M GOING TO STRING HIM UP BY HIS TOES!" Another dart flew, piercing the forehead. "DANGLE HIM OVER A LAVA PIT!" Two more darts in the eyes. "THEN I'LL DROP HIM INTO THE PIT, DRAG HIM OUT AND DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN!" Dozens of darts eviscerated Cedric's photo. Baileywick admired the accuracy and gave it a ten. Lydia was fuming out the ears. Steam puffed with each dry, raspy breath. "GRR! IF ONLY THAT WAS HIS FACE! OW-WOW!" Her arm throbbed, cringing in the physician's grasp. The physician flinched, worried she'd hurt her. Lydia shook her head, assuring the physician she did nothing. The middle aged woman nodded. She squirted an ointment into the center of her palm and massaged it into Lydia's wounded arm. The tips of her fingers pressed soothing. The pulsating pain faded as the gentle hands ran up and down the hurt arm. "That hurt."

"Take that as a sign." Roland remarked playfully. He and Constable Miles entered the wing. "Calm down before you hurt yourself further."

"With Cedric on her mind that may be a little difficult." Constable Miles sniggered.

"Yes," Baileywick joined in, "He does seem to be her main topic of thought."

"Meaning what?" Lydia snapped.

"Nothing at all, your highness." Constable Miles suppressed the laughter.

Baileywick interjected, "Constable Miles is just saying you seem to have Cedric on the mind lately. You did bring a cutout of him to your hospital room."

"For target practice!" She pulled out a stack of Cedric photos from under her bed. "I have plenty more where that came from."

"Oh my!" Baileywick gasped teasingly, "She has SO many, Constable." Lydia raised a brow. What did he mean by that?

"A personal collection." Constable Miles stroked his chin tauntingly. "For someone who declares disdain with a passion, she does seem to keep the source close by."

"Perhaps the disdain she speaks of is bred from a…" Baileywick hugged his hands to his heart, "Different sort of passion."

"WHAT?" Lydia's face exploded cherry red. She jumped off the table. "A-ARE YOU CRAZY? THERE'S NO WAY IN HELL-HALL I'D EVER-UGH!" Did Baileywick and Constable Miles truly suggest that she was in love with...CEDRIC? "EWW! YOU TWO ARE SICK!" Baileywick and Constable Miles threw their heads back in laughter. Lydia's reaction was priceless. Roland laughed under a hand. Normally he'd protest at accusations like this. But this one was so ridiculous it was hard not to laugh. Lydia would have yelled at him for laughing too. Were it not for the throbbing pain in her arm beating. "You know what," The physician gently guided her back to the table, "Why don't I try the calm thing and see where that gets me?" Hopefully out of the doctor's office.

This was Lydia's fourth mandatory visit to the physician's wing that day. Collectively...too many visits to keep track. The bone in her arm remained untouched. The only good news. The bad news was the muscle was damaged. Medicinal ointment, clinically proven to be absorbed by the skin, was applied to soothe and mend the muscles. Sort of like a cream cast.

Baileywick was standing by in case doctor was in danger. Lydia can be volatile. Not that she would attack the physician. No! But her anger towards Cedric impaired her discernment between dart boards and people. The calm demeanor she's displayed has chipped away since the duel. More so since she became comfortable with her new life. Roland encourages Lydia to open up. Keeping strong emotions bottled up for too long had disastrous consequences. But it is best to unleash the beast in the privacy of family.

Constable Miles was taken aback by her outbursts. Lydia has worked vehemently to maintain a calm demeanor. Unless you peer beyond the smile you'd never guess she possessed a temperament so hot. Not that he hadn't anticipated this sort of behavior. Wounded pride is nothing to sneeze at. On the day King Abraham, King Alexander, and their families assaulted her - verbally and physically - Lydia's obscured anger steadily rose. It was during the final stage of the duel the true anger came forth.

Unbeknownst to everyone in the castle, the source of Lydia's rage regresses farther back than the duel.

"So how does one calm down when Royal?" Lydia growled.

Roland shrugged his hands, "Count to ten? Take a deep breath?" He tapped one of the darts, "Throw a few more darts?" Roland winced at the state Cedric's photo was in. "I-I find reading stress relieving."

"I read every book in the library in the last three days. I just finished this one today." She held up a novel depicting a young boy and his fairy flying to a star on the right.

"Oh! That one was my favorite as a boy!" Baileywick exclaimed, a twinkle in his eye. Lydia shrugged and tossed him the book. Baileywick hugged it, squeaking gleefully. "Thank you!" He opened it to the middle of the story, "The pirate fight is my favorite."

"At least you're happy." Lydia slumped, leaning an elbow on her knee. The physician dunk a strip of cloth into hot water then into icy blue blue and pink powder. Cryptically she bandaged the wounded arm. A cold and hot numbing agent massaged the skin. The muscle's reflexes twitched rhythmically. A tingling sensation prickled the whole forearm. "Not only does Cedric break my arm-"

"Technically, Princess," Constable Miles interjected humbly, "It's muscle damage. Not broken bones." He takes a minute to show her a rough sketch of her arm the Physician drew up. Arrows directed attention to where the most and least damage was located.

"Nuance, but point heeded." The physician slipped her arm into a sling and stretched the strap around her neck. Lydia bowed her head gratefully. "As I was saying," Lydia slid off the patience's table, "Not only does Cedric cripple my arm," She grabbed a dart, "BUT THAT POMPOUS GIT HAS DONE NOTHING BUT MOCK ME ALL WEEK!" The dart flew from her hand. It missed the board entirely, piercing the wall. Baileywick and Miles winced.

Roland pinched the dart from the wall. Lydia had a decent throw. He was impressed. But her temper needed to be managed. I have my work cut out for me. "Calm yourself, Lydia." Roland meandered beside her. Swinging his arched arm he aimed. "I'm sure it's just harmless teasing." A flick of the arm and a release of the fingers. A dead center bullseye for the king of enchancia.

Lydia shuffled a hand in her blazer, pulling out of bronze medal. "He's been gift wrapping these and leaving them at my door. AND he's left portraits of himself wearing a gold medal!" Miles guessed that was where the demolished cut out picture came from.

Roland held a hand to his chest, laughing. "Bragging rights. Afforded to all, even Cedric. Just ignore him." He guided her into the hallway by the small of her back. Baileywick and Constable Miles trailed after them, "It'll blow over in a day or two."

"Oh I'll ignore him," Lydia forcefully swept her left arm. The wand slid from the sleeve and into her palm, "WHEN I SHOOT HIM TO THE MOON!"

"NO!" A hand swiped Lydia's wand right from out of her fingers. The sudden gap startled the fingers curled and uncurled, confirming the loss of the wand. Lydia glared at the one who dared steal her wand. Constable Miles tucked the wand behind the folds of his uniform. "Dr. Merr's orders! Until your arm heals you are not even allowed to think Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo!"

Constable Miles' position transcends Head of the King's Guard. King Roland and those within the castle - noble and servant - are his closest friends. As such he is personally obligated to ensure their wellbeing. The welfare of the Royal Family is his top priority, giving him warrant to put his foot down should their actions contradict his goal.

Lydia ground her teeth, growling venomously. The throbbing pain returned to her arm. Perhaps Roland spoke wisely about putting a cap on her flaring anger. Bruised pride is difficult to mask. But the random rage fits weren't going to heal her arm any faster. Once her arm heals, Cedric, in every possible way, was going to pay for this outrage.

Constable Miles and Baileywick opened the doors to Lydia's room. Lydia stormed into her room, groaning impatiently. "How much longer am I going to stay like this?"

Baileywick hummed pensively. He skimmed a finger across the dates on Lydia's calendar, then consulted his pocket watch. "According to the fairies…" Mentally he calculated the duration, "They estimate - given the strain your training put on your body, and the stress of the duel," Lydia grunted bashfully, "Another week. Maybe two. Possibly 10 days if you follow medical suit."

Lydia's jaw hit the floor. The trunk at the foot of her bed found its way under her. "TEN MORE DAYS?! What am I supposed to do for ten days?! Crochet?! Stamp collecting?! Help Amber decide between lime lemon and lemon lime?" It rankled her to the brink of implosion. No magic? Cedric will tear her apart. Not to mention he'll use this setback as a welcome matt to go after Sofia's amulet. What makes it worse is she couldn't tell a soul about it.

"I never pegged you as one for the dramatics, Lydia." Roland teased. He sat beside her, wrapping his strong arm around her shoulders, "Surely others have endured similar injuries. And I'm sure they adjusted and adapted."

Lydia nodded with a considerate shrug. A few of her friends at school must have crippled their arms dozens of times. One kept her arm submerged between vibrating rocks for six hours at a time.

"Remember," Roland's voice hummed soothingly. Words of wisdom imminent on his tongue, "Magic will not always be available. You must learn to adapt and analyze, and you will find obstacles removing themselves as you progress."

Lydia giggled, "Get that off one of Weiling's fortune cookies."

Roland pinched her cheek, "Hey now! I am a fountain of knowledge, young lady." The two laughed merrily. Baileywick and Constable Miles felt their hearts warm at the scene. Roland and Lydia truly appeared as father and daughter. "But in all seriousness you should consider this setback as an advantage." Roland urged his now appeased daughter. "Not to sound callous or like a broken record, but this is a good opportunity for you to take up the reigns as Princess Lydia. Get a feel for your new life." And the happiness fades into melancholy. This is a situation Lydia tired her hardest to avoid. Regardless of the positive spins Roland tries to attach, the idea of being princess frightens Lydia. Worse than the boogie man she believed occupied her closet as a child.

Miranda fell neatly into her role as Queen. Roland is right beside her 24/7. Her job is to be supportive of the king. Not a trophy wife, but a silent adviser. Sofia's only seven years old. Gradually she'll shape neatly into her role as princess. James and Amber were born royalty, so their worries were null and void. But Lydia. Not even two weeks and already the burden of future queen weighed heavily on her shoulders. After the scene with king Abraham, Lydia worries she won't be right for the position. The calmness she displayed is facade. Cedric figured that out. If she ever lashed out like she did could reflect badly on Roland. On Enchancia. And Roland relentlessly dropping hints of his desire for her to become queen wasn't helping.

This circumstance was not any easier on Roland either. Before this morning's brouhaha, Roland had already guaranteed Lydia that she'd be able to proceed with her magic studies. Seven years of hard work was not going to take a back seat or be tossed to the trash heap simply because fate brought Miranda and Roland together. Unfortunately - so to speak - fate did unite them. Lydia is the eldest and therefore is in immediate line for the throne. Royal responsibilities cannot be shunned because of inconvenience. Whether Lydia approved or not is innocuous. But still it begs the question: Can I really ask Lydia to choose one over the other?

No. He couldn't. He wouldn't. Roland's daughter's happiness came first and foremost. Rome wasn't built in a day. Lydia can't be expected to fall in place so casually. Princess Rapunzel was absent from royal life for 18 years. And Princess Merida resisted being a princess. Last he checked both were doing fine. One's married, and the other's refusing to marry. Roland assured himself his worries were for naught. Together, he and Lydia will work through this. Surely there is some sort of compromise he could come up with. A means to allow Lydia to study magic while learning to be a princess. For now Roland was weasel Lydia into accepting the princess title. Well if she isn't going to at least wrap her mind around it, what's the point in compromising? For now, he was going to keep his conversation with King Abraham a secret.

Roland massaged the length of her arm. The tension ground against his palm. "I understand your reluctance. A temper is a difficult thing to manage." Sincerity poured from his tone, easing the obvious apprehension stiffening Lydia's shoulders. "I too had a temper myself when I was your age. I hid that part of me well behind a smile." Lydia was startled by the admission. He described the mask she wears in so little detail. Was he speaking true? Or was he simply using parental psychology to establish a connection? "I understand the reservations you have. You were not born into this life. It was dropped into your lap and those around are forcing it upon you. But like me you will have to work through it. And just like my father and mother with me, Miranda and I will be there to guide you. "

"And you'll have the rest of us here to support you." Baileywick guaranteed. Constable Miles nodded agreeably. Lydia smiled but remained unsure. A part of her is willing to give princessing a try. Not that she was granted the luxury of declining. Roland's insistence all but confirmed that. She's just...worried about disappointing him.

Unfortunately disappointing dad is the least of her worries. For the next ten days she is magicless. Cedric would surely take advantage. She could only hope Cedric hasn't heard the horrible news.

Green lights, red lights, blue, and orange - one after the other, hollow pops huffed. A rainbow of colors lit up the workshop windows. Hearty, exuberant laughter echoed. "HA-HA-HA-HAAA! " A bubbling concoction swirled gracefully. The rim of the black cauldron highlighted by the cosmic aurora of colors. "OHH...This-is-TOO-PERFECT!" Cedric hooted victoriously. Locust shells, sea slug slime, and mint powder splashed into the cauldron. Fireworks roared, exploding auspiciously. "HOO-HOO-HA-HA-HA! TOO, TOO PERFECT!" Wormwood yawned then shifted away from the light in his little bed. Somehow the raven managed to sleep through noise. Cedric snickered uncontrollably. He stirred the concoction again, adding different, augmenting, ingredients. "Two days shy of a fort night and already the Queen-to-be is in Hades!" Smoke arose from potion. Part horns tooted. The smoke changed to confetti.

"CAW!" Wormwood jerked awake. The overhead shelf cracking his head. "Ooh…" A growing lump throbbing painfully, showing beneath the smooth, black feathers. If Wormwood wasn't awake before he was now. "Grr…" He growled at his celebrating caretaker. The sorcerer's inane cheering has continued on from victory day to the present. Wormwood can't remember the last time he'd been allowed to sleep. Not at night or during the day. It was growing tiresome.

"KARMA HOW I LOVE YOU SO!" Cedric blew a kiss. An impartial phenomena favoring him. "The li'l brat challenges me and loses an arm! WORMY life is grand!" He twirled, giggled childishly. Wormwood bobbed his head, groaning yeah-yeah. He's heard it all before and hours more.

"Must you boast so vehemently?" Cedric cringed. "T'is poor form, my boy." He groaned at Wormwood, praying that his raven developed the ability to speak. Wormwood shook his head. Cedric sank dreadfully. His fingers wriggled heatedly. This meant the voice came from only one place. Cedric stiffly twisted, bringing his attention to the portrait of his mother and father. "It goes without saying, son," The photo started to ripple, "Karma does strike twice." Cedric groaned. The rippling photo sent a ball of light at Cedric's feet. A cloud of dust exploded. Cedric coughed, fanning the suffocating dust. A portly, elder wizard emerged from the cloud. His tan fingers dusted the red silk of his wizard's gard. He flicked the tip of his hat. The crescent moon and stars ignited gold. Lingering dust washed off in a breath.

Cedric folded his arms, scoffing venomously. He faced his back to the wizard, refusing to meet the elder man's gaze. "If I recall correctly, FATHER," The parental title spat off his tongue with such disgust the elder man's heart splintered in pain, "You compared karma to lightning. How it is A-STRO-NOM-I-CAL that it will strike twice!" He finally faced the man, boring his hateful glare into his father. "Or has the GREAT GOODWIN gotten so old he forgets his own proverbs?"

Goodwin the Great. Renowned practitioner of sorcery and father to Cedric. Previous sorcerer of Enchancia. Royal Sorcerer to King Roland the First. Now retired and living in parts unknown. To say long was the shadow he cast over his son would be an understatement. Cedric is constantly compared to his father. Reminded - mainly by Baileywick, Roland, and his own father - of how short he falls to Goodwin's legacy. The accomplishments, the success, the admiration. Not a day goes by that Cedric is reminded that he has none of that. From anyone.

Goodwin stroked his curled beard pensively. Disappointment exhaled with his breath. "Astronomical is not in the same field as impossible." He elucidated gruffly. "Improbable. But not impossible."

Cedric slammed a fist onto a spellbook. Two potted plants exploded in a spout of fire. The plants reduced to ash. Goodwin's brow narrowed. "Must you ALWAYS spoil my joy! For once in your life, just allow me to be happy!"

"I DO want happiness for you, son." Goodwin assured him, resting a hand to the perturbed Cedric. "What I cannot and will not condone is happiness borne from pain."

"Pain? What pain? I know nothing of pain."

"Do not speak pretenses with me. You were never any good at it." A mix of conveyed messages it may be, Goodwin saw through the front Cedric cloaked himself in. The humiliation he passed unto Lydia is a facsimile of his own. A sorcerer falling short of what is expected of them. A true blow to their pride. And, like Cedric with his father, Lydia will be the victim of merciless comparisons. Regardless of minor triumphs she acquires. The loss during the duel is only the beginning. How short she falls to Roland and Cedric will forever follow her. Even in far off lands, Goodwin hears all. The great sorcerer only prays those contemptuous words did not consume her in rage and sorrow like it has his son. Perhaps, should the air clear, Lydia may ween Cedric of his foolish fantasies of becoming king. Cedric may even be able to aid Lydia.

"And yet I'm fooling an entire kingdom and it's king!" Cedric boasted heatedly. That, in itself, is a minor accomplishment. The whole royal family is under the impression he's a devoted servant.

"For how long?" Goodwin challenged. "Princess Lydia, in only a day or so, became wise to your facade!" An oversight. Cedric is not so proud he can't admit that. "How much longer, do you think, until the royal family learns of this?"

"OH GOODWIN! Let the boy be!" The portrait rippled again. Another ball of light fell and exploded into a sickening familiar cloud of smoke. A stout, tan skinned woman in a lavender dress appeared. She propped her tightly curled hair, making herself presentable in front of the boys. "Ahem…" She sauntered over to Cedric with a smile, "The Royal Family will not know because my wittle baby boy," She pinched his cheeks lovingly, "Will not allow them to know. The young Queen-to-be is a mere oversight. Like you were to me. The only difference is she's nowhere near your level. And, clearly, she's no match for Cedric." His mother's praise was a crown atop his head.

"I am aware. Just as I'm sure she is." Goodwin grumbled grudgingly. "However, Winifred, you must have realized by now that she simply will not stand aside and allow Cedric to do as he pleases. I certainly didn't with you!"

Winifred poked her finger to his nose, "PRECISELY, my moralistic love muffin! Rivalry is healthy for sorcerers. Helps both parties grow and accomplish new feats." She hugged the love of her life close, earning his favor instantly, "Is that not how you and I became so close?" She twirled a finger in his beard. Goodwin chuckled embarrassingly, scratching the back of his head. Cedric shuddered. Parents expressing love for one another. Gross. "Besides, Goodwin, this obsession with the new Princess is love blossoming on the vine."

Cedric gagged, dry heaving as if a pendulum sliced through his stomach. "MOTHER!" His voice cracked. "Do not say such vile things!" Suggesting such a disgusting impossibility. Merr insinuated the same notion. "The little wretch has to be decades younger than me!"

"OH what's a few years, sweetie? Your father is 23 years older than me."

Goodwin shrugged his hands and nodded. "It's true."

"But I'm NOT father! And Lydia, most certainly, isn't you!"

"Hmm…" Goodwin chuckled menacingly, "The emphasis he puts on 'most certainly.' Sounds defensive." He winked impishly at Winifred. Cedric arched a confused brow. Wormwood grunted just as confused.

"Yes…" Winifred nudged Goodwin gently, "And he says her name with such...passion. It's heartwarming." She swooned. Cedric growled, clenching tight fists. His cheeks were rosy red. Wormwood stifled a snigger under his wing.

Goodwin gasped sardonically, holding his wife by the shoulders, "He did not even call her princess."

"Oh you're right! You're absolutely right!"

Steam whistled out Cedric's ears, "WILL-YOU-TWO-SHUT-IT?" Winifred and Goodwin's chortles died on their breath. Wormwood dove under the stool. "I'm going to make this as abundantly clear as possible! There is no passion, there is no blossoming love, there's no defense, and there is nothing between myself and Ly-PRINCESS...LYDIA! Do you want to know why there is nothing?"

"Do tell." Goodwin invited, secretly worried he and Winifred might have pushed their son too far.

"Because we are not - Repeat, NOT - you or you!" Cedric declared his aversion so adamantly. When he said 'you' he sounded disgusted with both Goodwin and Winifred.

"True." Winifred agreed soundly. Why deny what is clear for all to see? "But that does not mean I will give up hope!" She declared, a note of anger in her tone. "You and Princess Lydia may be different from us," She grasped Goodwin's hands, caressing them with undeniable love, "But the similarities are evident." Winifred raised her arms. The portrait sucked in itself. Winfired levitated, returning to her form as a ball of light, and was swallowed by the photo. Cedric ogled his mother, taken aback by the devotion she rested in that claim.

"Darkness to light. Light to darkness." Cedric's train of thought was interrupted by a hand on his shoulder. "Push and pull. Yin and Yang." Goodwin turned his son, bringing him to face his predecessor and father. "The path you walk is the same. Your fates are intertwined. Destiny will decide your futures." Cedric swallowed a large lump. Every muscle in his body tensed. He prayed the rattling in his body was not felt by his father. "The question that remains," Goodwin sauntered to the portrait, and then took one last glance at Cedric, "How long will you pretend to wander separately?" Cedric stared blankly, unable to respond. With a heavy sigh Goodwin regressed into a ball of light and returned to the portrait.

Cedric's mind came to a staggering halt. No. It was more like a disastrous crash. What just happened? He continuously asked himself. A few seconds ago he was howling at both his parents to silence their inane claims, and practically begging them to leave. Now, here he was, dumbstruck by how serious his parents became in the moment it took him to blink. Childish teasing transformed into an ominous premonition.

"A premonition that shan't come true!" Cedric drew his wand and swiped it through the air. A red cloth draped over the portrait, casting Cedric's parents from the light. "Pretend? Pretending is for children! I am no child! And I certainly care not for THAT CHILD!" Wormwood nodded his head with a firm CAW! "That Princess, and her younger sister, are all that's standing between me and my tri-kingdom conquest. And with her arm wounded like it is, she will be powerless to intervene." Wormwood cawed curiously. "I'm not sure how I plan to take advantage. But I have another ten days to think about it." He'd need to act sooner than time allowed him. The pieces were in place. Albeit accidentally. But who was he to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Lydia's place as opposition is, temporarily, suspended. Recently Cedric discovered Sofia's Amulet is protected by a failsafe. The magic contained can only be passed on if the amulet is willingly passed from owner to owner. Meaning Cedric can't just take it. Sofia needed to put it in his hands of her own free will. A feat even more difficult than actually finding the blasted necklace. A pitiful promise she made with Roland forbids Sofia from removing it. Under any circumstances.

A sinister smile stretched ear to ear. "Hmm. Any circumstance?" Cedric may have an idea. "OH, WORMY, IT'S TERRIBLE!" He threw himself to his knees at Wormwood, sobbing sardonically. "PRINCESS LYDIA-SNIFFLE- IT'S JUST HORRIBLE!" He draped an arm over his eyes, "She's going to lose her arm if immediately aid is not given! If only I possessed the power necessary to save her!"

"Huh?" Wormwood replied dumbly, unable to believe what he was hearing. Surely Cedric jested.

Cedric poked a mischievous grin out from under the arm. "At least that's what I'll tell Princess Sofia. If she's anything like Princess Lydia, she'll do just about anything to help her precious big sister. Even hand over the Amulet." Wormwood chortled with relief. Lydia lost her mind when Amber became sick. Wormwood wondered if Sofia possessed the same weakness. "Unfortunately those blasted fairies gave their seal of approval that Lydia will heal. No doubt Sofia will run to them with any questions or doubts. So," Cedric reached into a cabinet and took out a jar of freshly plucked rose thorns, "Let's eliminate those doubts."

Stopping there! Why? Because 1: I have more for another chapter, 2: This is just a recap-get back into the story chapter, and 3: I'm tired.

Sorry if the end sucked. I'll revise and fix tomorrow. I just needed to get this chapter up so you guys don't think I'm leaving you hanging.