Dermott chirped in her ear. She looked shocked at what he told her. "Is it possible?" She softly replied. "The prophecy is coming true." There was something she knew that the others didn't.
Softly stroking Dermott, Aria stared sadly out the window for a moment. Then she smiled brightly and left the room in a rush, Dermott flying by her side. Maeve and Sinbad followed her fleeing figure. "Doubar! Rongar! Firouz! You made it!" She was lifted off her feet in a huge bear hug by Doubar as the others surrounded her, talking all at once. They were thrilled to see Maeve but noticed the change in her. Prince Benrubi and the Regent Rajol watched the happy group on the palace steps below. The third one in the room wore a cloak the color of midnight and had his face shielded for the light, this was the wizard and he stood in the shadows behind them.
"She is lovely, your majesty. A pity she will have to be destroyed with her friends in order to assure that our deal will not be broken."
"Maeve will have to go as well, she knows a bit to much for our comfort. She is still so honorable, in her mind it would be murder and not political expediency."
"A shame really, Maeve is a rather interesting woman. A bit tiresome with her attitude towards us, but interesting."
"Sires, if I may?" The wizard's slow voice snaked through their conversation, they turned towards him, unable to resist. "The girl and her friends aren't the real threat. They have returned."
"No! First my daughter comes back from the lands beyond, now they return." Rajol glared at no one in particular. "Why now?"
The wizard smiled grimly, "The prophecy is being fulfilled, you knew it would happen sooner or later."
"Silence!" The Regent roared.
"What? You think to stop the truth?" He turned away and glanced at the Princess, sighing in sorrow. *What would happen when the truth were revealed to them all?
As if she felt his gaze, she glanced up at the window and saw them standing there, she met his look directly and something passed between them. Sinbad looked over at her and smiled, but she seemed to look right through him. He looked in the direction of her gaze, but saw nothing. He was puzzled, wondering what she could be seeing and filed it away for use later.
Doubar, Rongar, Firouz, Sinbad and Aria sat in the small parlor near the back of the castle. Maeve had returned to be with Benrubi.
"The one thing I don't understand in all this is Maeve. She was with Dim-Dim and he was still under that curse." Firouz observed.
Aria nodded her dark head, having taken off the crown. "That is what he said, but it was only partially true. Dim-Dim was set free when the goose egg destroyed Rumina's powers, he appeared here and decided that it would be best if no one knew yet of his release. We are in another place, no longer on earth."
"What?!?" Doubar yelled.
"Calm down, we were called here by the magic of Dim-Dim." Aria soothed. "He brought Maeve here, that is how she met Benrubi."
"Who is Benrubi?" Rongar signed.
Sinbad fielded this one. "He's a real jerk who once was engaged to Aria, but now he is going to marry Maeve."
She smiled. "We will try to stop that from happening. No woman deserves to be married to him, I think that there is something fishy about their engagement anyway."
"So basically, Dim-Dim was here. He brought Maeve to be with him, she met this Benrubi guy and they are engaged. We have left the earth because of his magic. You really are royalty and we have to stop Benrubi and Maeve's wedding without hurting her feelings." Firouz summed up.
"Exactly." Sinbad and Aria said.
"Oh, at least it's nothing too hard." Doubar muttered. They laughed, then went to wash up in the rooms that had been quickly prepared for them.
It was later, after dinner and the crew had been shown to their rooms that Aria went to meet the wizard. She looked carefully around her before pushing on the little diamond shaped wall decoration. A door opened silently to reveal an inner sanctum. This room was circular and book lined. In one corner was an array of containers and bottles, there was a tiny, box shaped window beside it was the wizard. The door shut behind her after she had passed through. "Is it true?"
He turned to face her, this dark man who knew so much yet revealed so little. He was a surprisingly handsome man, with long raven hair and deep black eyes that seemed to see into one's very soul. "That they have returned? Yes." He answered simply.
"What is going to happen?" Then she looked closely at him. "And why are you helping that slimy, two faced, son of a barracuda?"
He moved into the center of the room and she followed. "I don't know to the first and I have no choice to the second." She snorted, he shook his head. "Don't do that, it's very unbecoming in a lady."
"But we know the truth, don't we?" Aria said, ironically.
He moved so fast, she couldn't react. He warned her, knife at her throat. "You would be wise to forget that, princess."
She pushed the knife away. "I got the point." Aria moved away and stared out the window.
"I'm sorry you ever found out." He said, torn between his desire to further enlighten her and to protect her. *Why couldn't you have stayed away? All three of you, it would be so much better for everyone involved.
Aria nodded and left the room. She was walking along the hallway when she heard footsteps behind her. She quickly jumped behind one of the large pillars and grabbed the tiny dagger she always carried with her. The forms came slowly into view and she tightened her grip...
After the storm took our heroes away, another was affected by the disturbance. But let's go back a few months. A young woman named Rumina was searching through the wreckage in her home on Skull Mountain, trying to salvage whatever she could when she found a diary. She blew off the dust and opened it gently, the fragile paper made it hard to read the words within but she persevered and was rewarded when she deciphered the words within. She gasped when she read her mother's words.
*Diary, I met the man I plan to marry on this day. His name is Turok, He's so tall and handsome, mother has warned me away from him. She says that he is evil. That may be so, but I saw him playing with children today and they had such fun. He is also mindful of animals, treating them with a velvet hand. He can't be all bad if animals and children like to be around him.
*Diary, My father gave his blessing to mine and Turok's union. We are to be married in six months. I can hardly believe that this is the same man who came here a year ago, he seems to be so different. Maybe my mother is right, love has the power to change people, even bad ones. She still doesn't approve of him though. I wonder if she ever will?
*Diary, Our wedding today was so beautiful and Turok was so handsome, he took my breath away. Mother must have been reconciled to having him as a son-in-law because she cried the whole time, she said she felt like she was losing me! I reminded her that we would be within walking distance of her and that she was gaining a son. It was a great day, I am so tired though. Who would have thought that a wedding could take so much out of someone?
*Diary, It's been six months since our marriage and boy, does that one event change your whole outlook! Suddenly, I'm not taking care of just myself, it's the two of us. I am looking after the whole house, taking care of our servants, being an example to other young girls, it is all so wearying on one. They really should have a course on this kind of thing. I'm not complaining because I love my husband very much but I sometimes wish that I could have a bit more room to move around.
*Diary, I'm so very nervous. I just found out that I'm going to have a baby! Not only that but in a few months time, we are moving to Utgard. King Lute has offered Turok a position as an advisor, so we need to move North. He doesn't know about the baby and I don't know how to tell him. What if he gets upset? We wanted to wait before having children, yet here we are. What if he wants me to stay behind until the baby is born? Oh, I couldn't stand that. No matter what, I must be at his side.
*Diary, Turok was so happy, he just started to cry. Then he couldn't stop pampering me, like I might be hurt doing the things I've always done. He didn't even want me to answer the door! Are all expectant fathers this nervous? The best news is, I convinced him that it would be okay for me to travel with him to Utgard. I will not be separated from him.
*Diary, The journey was grueling, being six months pregnant and traveling on a boat really isn't a good idea. We arrived this morning to find that our house was little more than a mud hut with mice running around. The food wasn't properly stored and is now all moldy, thank goodness mother packed us some supplies. Bless her heart, she must have known. But I look around and want to cry. What kind of home have I brought my unborn child too? I will say nothing to my darling because I asked him to bring me here, but I sure hope we get a better house before the baby comes.
*Diary, We have a new home, for which I am truly thankful because my time is near. King Lute is a wonderful man. He's smaller than many of the Viking men who live here and very blonde, he has merry blue eyes and is very strong. His wife, Adrianna, is very different. She is tall, has auburn hair, and deep green eyes. They are so much in love, but she told me it took him four years to convince her to marry him! I asked her why she waited so long if she loved him. She wanted him to be sure this time, apparently they'd been engaged before and he called it off! I can't understand why she gave him anther chance, I guess there's more to this love thing than I thought. It sure seems to help one overcome any obstacles.
*Diary, Had the baby today. It is strange to have brought a new life into the new world we are now a part of. The land here in the North is so beautiful, but I hope that our daughter will be able to see the beauty of her own world. It was really hard work, they should tell that, then say that the pain becomes worth it when we hold that newborn in our arms. At least, that's what I found out. I'm tired, so I am going to turn in.
*Diary, We lost the baby today. She was such a beautiful child, with dark hair and perfect blue eyes. Turok and I were so happy, he doesn't know yet. Last night he was called away to do some work for King Lute. They rely on him for so much and everything seemed to be okay with our little Rumina. Then this morning she came down with a cough, I didn't think much until it worsened. She just kep tcoughing and struggling for breath, then she stopped breathing. There was nothing that I, with all my magic, could do. We lost her. I can't write anymore. Oh, how will I ever tell Turok?
*Diary, A most miraculous thing happened as I was out walking. I found a tiny child, almost exactly like my Rumina, on the coast beside our house. A note asked for someone to take her in, so I have and have named her Rumina, I think our daughter would be pleased. I will never tell Turok the truth, he would never understand. It will be easy for no one knows about our little girl's passing and my husband will never notice the difference. I hope that I'm doing the right thing.
There was only one other entry, Rumina paused before reading it.
*Diary, Our little Rumina is now five and we have moved back home to Baghdad, She has brought such a joy into our lives, I am now at peace. When I die, she will receive my powers, that way her father will never realize that she has none. This will work until the goose egg is used because that will nullify our power. Oh, I pray that it never does and that my husband will continue to do good. I love you both, so very much. Please, Allah, keep them both safe in your loving arms and guide them to do right.
Rumina closed the book and held it close to her heart, "So that is why I can't do anymore magic. Father must have known about this, why did he hide it from me?"The silence stretched on in the room, she stood up and looked out the mouth of the cave. *Will my life ever make sense? She knew she needed some answers and this place, Utgard, seemed to be the best place to find them. She finished her work and packed a small bag, looking regretfully around the place that had once been her home. Then she turned her back on the past and boldly went to find the truth about herself.
Arriving in Utgard a few weeks later, she remembered her life here and smiled. Many people recognized her immediately and came to greet her. Rumina was shown to her old house, where she collapsed onto the bed and went right to sleep. *Mother wasn't kidding. The journey here is grueling, it was so much easier going down than up. The village of Utgard lay between a range of mountains and the open sea. A difficult journey in normal circumstances but was more difficult in the time between winter and spring, when the thaw had begun.
The next morning dawned bright and clear, she stretched and looked around before getting up. Her muscles protested but she got up anyway and toured the house. Her memories flooded her and she smiled. Then she took some time to reacquaint herself with the village and met many of the new residents. She marveled at how different the world appeared to be covered in a layer of white snow, it made everything seem brighter and cleaner. *But I had forgotten how hard it is to walk in this stuff and how cold it can be. She thankfully pulled her thick coat around her and smiled at some children who were having a snowball fight.
After a few days, she decided to find the spot where her mother had found her. Using the diary, she retraced her mother's steps on that fateful day. It seemed no different from any other place, though there was more snow here than anywhere else. Yet something about this place triggered a memory long forgotten, something about a crack opening and leading to another place. She tried to capture it and hold it when her musings were interrupted by a man's voice. "Hello, Rumina. Are you looking for something?"
Rumina sighed and looked up at him, he was a gentle giant with light brown hair and chocolate brown eyes. His open face had a warm smile on his face and she smiled back. "No, Eyolf. I was just retracing my mother's footsteps. She wrote something in her diary that intrigued me, so I came back here to figure out this puzzle."
He was about to ask what it was when the wind ripped around them causing the snow to fly up into their faces. She screamed as the wind beat her and tried to knock her down, Eyolf wrapped his giant arms about her and marveled at how well they seemed to fit. He held on as the storm's fury continued to whip around them, pulling on their clothes. It seemed to be blowing them both over to a certain place on the beach. "Hang on!" Then all was still around them, they looked cautiously around them. "Where are we?"
They saw a large open field, kind of like the one they just left but without the snow and the sea, or the mountains. "I have no idea." Rumina answered shakily, not noticing the hawk flying above them. They looked around and saw what appeared to be a village in the distance. Together they walked towards it, but as soon as people saw Rumina, they hid away. Disappearing as completely as if they'd never been there in the first place.
"What was that all about?" Eyolf asked, looking down at her.
"I have no idea. I'm sure I've never been here before, yet they all act like I've done something to them." Rumina's pretty face clouded in confusion.
"Well, let's press on. Maybe we'll find some answers further on." Eyolf pressed her hand comfortingly. They soon left the village behind and walked towards the forest, Rumina paused for a moment, struck by a feeling of intense recognition. "What is it?"
"I don't know, something happened here. Something big, I just don't know what it was." They walked forward, marveling at the huge pines. They towered over them and had an almost alive feeling to them. If they had been listening, they'd heard the trees talking amongst themselves. The brook trickled to their right, blue and refreshingly clear. The sense of peace and love surrounded them like a thick blanket. It was like coming home. There were all kinds of animals that ran around, talking and chattering, showing no fear of these humans. They marveled at the wonders found in this magical place.
"Does it involve you?" He asked, trying to help her think.
"I'm not sure, but I don't think so." She shook her head sadly. "I sure could use a little magic right now!" She yelled in frustration.
"You're magic?" Eyolf's eyes widened in surprise, or fear, she couldn't decide which.
"Not really. My mom sort of adopted me and gave me her magic when she died so dad would never know the truth."
"Yet you lost it."
"Yes. When the goose egg exploded in my home, it nullified my powers." She shrugged her graceful shoulders eloquently. "So, now I'm just normal."
He nudged her shoulder lightly, teasingly. "That's not such a bad thing, is it?"
She smiled, then her expression fell. "I suppose not, it sure makes it easier to walk the good path."
He just nodded in understanding. When he sailed with Sven, he'd come into contact with Rumina's reputation. Yet looking at her now, he could tell that there was a core of goodness in her that was shinning forth. "I can't believe that you actually did evil." He said, inviting her to share her story with him, he had a feeling she'd never shared it with anyone.
"Neither can I." Rumina sighed. "It was just that when daddy lost mommy, he lost himself in the dark arts, I just went with him, then after I lost him, it was just easier to hurt others. I know better now but back then...I was just burying myself because I thought it'd make the pain go away. It didn't." She smiled, somewhat bitterly.
"What changed you?" Eyolf asked after a moment. He held out a hand and helped her climb over a fallen log. She slipped and landed in his arms, the electric shock that passed between them startled them both. They just stared into each others eyes, lost for a time before pulling away in embarrassment. *I haven't been this attracted to a woman since Maeve. Even now, the thought of Maeve caused him pain but he recognized that they were not to be. They moved forward, picking their way slowly through the rocky path.
*What is wrong with me? I've never felt this way about anyone before, not even Sinbad. She shrugged the problem aside. "When I lost my powers, I felt so lost, like I didn't know who I was anymore. I wandered around for a while until a little girl's crying pulled me from my own thoughts. She was lost and wanted her mommy, so I tried to help her. It was an incredible feeling when she returned home, I've never felt that way before. It was then that I decided to change my life, I've spent the rest of my time making up for my past deeds."
They came to the crest of the hill in the forest and looked out. In the distance, they could see a castle bathed in the glow of the setting sun. Again a feeling of recognition happened, but this time, they both felt it. She and Eyolf headed down the hill, walking towards the castle. "Let's go quietly, I don't like the looks of those archers up there." Eyolf gestured towards the turrets. Rumina nodded, silently they went forward.
He seemed to know his way around the courtyard and walked to the back of the castle, feeling along the ivy colored wall for something. Rumina was surprised to see a door open under the ivy after he pushed a small rose petal and they started to go through the dusty corridor. "How did you know that was there?"
"I'm not sure, I seem to recognize this place. Very strange"
"No kidding." She replied, following closely with her hand in his. They came out into a long corridor with huge pillars on both sides of the walk way. They went quietly down, passing each very slowly. "Wait! Someone's coming." She hissed and they froze before splitting up, one behind each pillar. The footsteps came closer...
Sinbad passed the pillar where Aria stood, she sighed when he went past. He seemed to sense that someone was there. There was a sharp gasp to his right, he glanced over to the pillar. "Come out! I know your there!"
Rumina stepped into the light and stood before him. Eyolf came out from behind the other, Sinbad saw Rumina standing there and could only think about what she had done to him and his family. He saw red and leapt at her, hands on her throat. Eyolf growled in rage, "Get your hands off my wife!" He yanked Sinbad away and threw him across the room.
Advancing upon him, Aria tightened her grip, ready to throw it if he so much as laid one hand upon Sinbad. But luckily, he stopped when Rumina called out to him. "Eyolf! I'm all right."
He came right over to her and gently cradled her in his arms. "Are you sure, sweetheart?"
"Yes." She smiled and then looked at him in surprise recalling what he'd said a moment ago. "Did you say I was your wife?"
"Did I?" He was confused. "I don't know, I was just so mad to see him trying to hurt you. I don't know what I said."
Sinbad got up painfully, rubbing his shoulder. "You said wife." He agreed, very puzzled to see the Viking holding Rumina lovingly in his arms. "Come to think of it, what are you doing here?"
Rumina stood up. "Well, I returned to Utgard after finding out that I was a foundling child. We were caught up in a terrible storm and brought here.""To be beset by memories of a place you remembered but did not recognize?" A new voice entered their conversation. They turned to see Princess Aria standing in the hallway. The guys looked at the two women and were surprised to see that they were like two peas in a pod. "Come to my chambers, quickly. I will explain all."
They followed her up the staircase and entered a large room at the end of the hall. It was blue, with a large fireplace in one corner and a bookshelf along the far wall. There was a large door and two bay windows on the opposite side from the door they entered. A comfortable room, though very stark. She gestured for them to sit down on the two couches in front of the fireplace and warm themselves.
She sat on a chair facing them and sighed. "This is not an easy thing to explain because it makes no sense in the normal way. Our country was founded by High King Vincent and High Queen Harmony. They were wise, fair rulers. In fact, all rulers are measured by the precedent they set. When they died, they promised to come back if ever things got off course here."
"But what does this have to do with us?" Rumina asked, half dreading her response but half accepting it all ready.
"You and this man," she nodded towards Eyolf, "are our High King and Queen reborn."
"Impossible!" Eyolf involuntarily exclaimed. They looked at each other, surprised but not unpleasantly so.
"Not really. You two were in the right location, at the right time. You both recognized this place and the secret passage into that particular hallway, and you even said, in your desire to protect her, that she was your wife." She reasonably pointed out to them.
"Even if what you say is true, what does it mean?" Sinbad asked. "And why do you look so much like her?" He pointed to Rumina.
"Can I first finish explaining this?" He nodded. "Thank you. The regent of this country, Rajol, married a young woman named June. She had a twin sister named May, who married the wizard. He's the man who works for Benrubi, I'll explain about him later. They both gave birth to little girls, May died in childbirth. The wizard pulled June aside and told her that both were lost. June went to see her sister and the wizard switched the babies. He then took the princess, Harmony, and sent her away."
"So, what you're saying is that you are the wizard's daughter and I'm the lost princess."
"Yes." Aria agreed with Rumina, Harmony. "That is why we have a strong family resemblance. I did not find any of this stuff out until a few years ago, then I found out about Benrubi's betrayal of me. He was marrying me for two reasons, he wanted this kingdom and he wanted to see if he could melt the 'ice maiden'." She bitterly said.
"You? An ice maiden?" Sinbad asked in disbelief. "I seem to recall a couple of times that you and I..."
She interrupted him, blushing hotly. "Yes, well, I would not respond to any of the suitors who came to ask for my hand. I didn't like any of them, they were self serving, care for nothings. I never met Benrubi officially, he was never introduced to me. The marriage was arranged by the Regent before Queen June died. Until that time, I could still be controlled by my father in matters of marriage because I was not crowned head of state."
"But you broke the engagement." She nodded at Eyolf. "Why?"
"Six months after mother died, he came here to meet with me officially and I overheard his conversation with some of his advisors. Then he did something I found absolutely unforgivable. He beat an innocent animal just for the fun of it. I saw red and refused to marry him, I could do that now. Unfortunately, only those in the palace were aware of my sudden change of plans, I was still supposed to meet him. I didn't mind, I wanted to tell him to his face how I felt about him and his rotten ways. That was when all these weird 'accidents' began to happen and I got kidnapped, sent into Sinbad's world."
"Wait just a minute. You told us that you were the princess." She nodded in agreement. "But you just said that the children were switched, Rumina is the princess."
"Because she was born before me. Our mothers were the rulers of Duria. June was the elder, that is why Rajol is Regent and not king. Her name is Harmony."
"I seem to recall hearing a soft voice call me that." Harmony murmured softly, remembering. "But why are you called Aria if the princess's name was Harmony?"
"You were here for a time, long enough to bond with your birth mother." Aria answered softly. "As for the other, I think June knew the truth so I was named Aria. I know this is hard for you to take, but it must be even harder for your friend..."
"Eyolf." He answered and held out his hand, she shook it firmly. "I think I can understand but I was not adopted, so how can I be this High King?"
"Wondered when you'd get to that." She smiled. "High King Vincent was not born here. He came from what we call the lands beyond, you know it as your own world. It goes back to the saying, 'Two worlds, one family'."
"This is all interesting but what are going to do about Benrubi?" Sinbad asked.
"I don't know. There is something fishy about their bargain, especially Maeve's part in it."
"Maeve's here?" Harmony asked, somewhat fearfully.
"There's a bit of bad blood between us." Harmony hedged. "I turned her brother into a hawk."
"Dermott knows you're here. In fact, he's the one who told me of your arrival. He is pretty concerned about his...did you say you turned him into a hawk?" Harmony nodded, Aria was puzzled. "How is that possible? You don't have any magic within."
"My adopted mother gave me hers after she died." Harmony explained. "I lost it after the goose egg exploded.
"Oh." Aria thought for a moment. "We can't let anyone know that you are here, just yet. Have you ever impersonated someone? I mean, do you think you pretend to be me?"
"I guess so." But there wasn't any doubt in her voice. Harmony knew that she could easily pretend to be Aria.
"Good, here's what we're going to do." They went into the next room, Aria paused just long enough to wish the boys good-night. They looked after the girls and shrugged, Eyolf bunked with Sinbad.