Over the course of the next days, a subtle change occurred in the life about the palace. It started the next morning, Harmony would come down to enjoy breakfast with everyone. She was wearing a pretty blue dress. A few minutes later, Aria came down the stairs in a golden walking dress and left through the side door. She came in with Eyolf a few moments later and introduced him around. In the afternoon, Aria walked into the library in a khaki jumper but they saw her out in the gardens with Doubar a moment later wearing a pair of black pants with a whiter shirt.
That evening, an intimate dinner was held with the Nomad crew. Eyolf and Harmony were there. The servants came down to carry the dinner into the dinning hall and nearly dropped the dishes when they saw Aria sitting between the wizard and Maeve. The staff was very confused, they couldn't figure out how she could move or change her clothes so fast.
It disturbed the Regent very much, he couldn't concentrate on anything. All the servants were in a frenzy, many couldn't get their jobs done because of this and continually disturbed him at work. He couldn't sleep or eat, being very disturbed by these changes. It got to the point where he couldn't tell which way was up or down.
And Benrubi didn't know whether he was coming or going. Every time he thought he'd got her cornered, she'd disappear and reappear on the other side of the room. It was like she was playing some kind of game with them, that secret smile she often wore on her face.
The wizard was disturbed, he couldn't figure out what Aria's game was and he knew she wasn't using magic. But how was she making this illusion work? He couldn't even talk to her, she kept disappearing or evading his questions. His visions showed him nothing, so he was unable to help the Prince and the Regent. Life was becoming very difficult for him.
Maeve was very confused. She knew she deeply loved Benrubi yet she still felt something was odd about their relationship. She was constantly giving and recieving nothing in return from him. Then there was all this fuss about Aria and her amazing ability to be in two places, dressed very differently, at once. Life around the palace was not very quiet anymore, someone would scream or drop something when this trick happened and her magic revealed nothing to her. She finally cornered Sinbad in the hallway by the front door and tried to get him to tell her what was going on. "How does she do it?"
He hated to lie to her, after all she was once a part of his crew, yet knew that her loyalty for Benrubi would make her reveal all to him. "I don't know. You'd have to ask her." He quickly escaped, spending much of the day working with his crew on the Nomad. Luckily, after that first night, they'd moved back to the ship and didn't know what was going on. But he dreaded what would happen if they caught on at the ball. Aria and Harmony were having the time of their lives, they'd spend many nights planning things out and laughing about the days events. After that first day, things got easier for them. And it was easy to keep this illusion going because they had found the secret tunnels and passageways that traversed the entire castle and outer grounds. These passages had no visible sliding doors so no one could see where they sliped in and out. Harmony and Eyolf remembered it all, there was no doubt in their minds that they were supposed to be here.
There was a big ball being planned to welcome Aria home and to officially announce the engagement of Maeve and Benrubi. This was the night that they hoped would bear the fruit of all their scheming and hard work. It was vital that nothing go wrong, Aria and Harmony both knew that they had to stay away from the Nomad crew. Only Sinbad and Eyolf knew the truth and they had an important role to play.
Out of necessity, Lissla had been brought into their plans. She made the girls identical blue, off the shoulder overslip. This was worn over a dress in a deeper shade of blue that sparkled like the stars in the night sky. She smiled mistily when she saw the girls. "You look so beautiful. You're going to knock them dead."
"Well, we hope to stun them more than anything." They looked at themselves in the mirror critically, examining each other for anything that might give them away. Their hair was pulled up with a few curls left framing their faces. Finally, they were satisfied that everything was perfect.
"Oh, I think this will be a night they'll never forget." Harmony promised gleefully, they exchanged wide grins. "Now, you remember what you're supposed to do?"
"Of course. And you?" Aria asked, patting down a loose curl.
"No problem." They quickly hugged, then Harmony turned and went to the bookshelf. She pulled a book off, after the shelf swung open, she went into the dimly lit room where Eyolf was patiently waiting for her.
There was a knock at the door and Aria waited for the shelf to close before calling for the person to come in.
"You should find out who it is before offering such an invitation, my lady. I could have been anyone." Sinbad said. Her breath caught in her throat when she saw him standing there. He looked good in formal dress. He was equally taken aback by how lovely she looked in that blue. "Shall we?"
She took his proffered arm. "Let's. Do you remember what you're supposed to do?"
"Yes." He said in an undertone.
They walked into the glittering ballroom and she stood at the receiving line, greeting the guests. After half an hour, they left the line and began to mingle with the company. That was when Aria took her position on the left side of the room, Harmony and Eyolf appeared on the right. Aria disappeared just as Benrubi walked up to her.
He looked around and saw her on the other side, talking with Eyolf and the Royal Family of Cordina. He made his way slowly towards her and saw Rajol doing the same. "Lovely party, don't you agree?"
"I would if my blasted daughter would stay in one place." They arrived and stood behind the youngest of the house of Cordina. "Excuse me? I'd like to see my daughter."
"Oh, you just missed her, she and that nice man are dancing." The boy offered cheerfully, turning back to his family.
"Thank you." Rajol murmured, turning around and scanning the line of dancers. In this dim light, it was hard to make out the men but her dress was unmistakable.
"There she is." They both said, pointing in opposite directions. They looked at each other, then to where the other was pointing. Benrubi said, "I don't see her."
"Neither do I ." Rajol said, then started for there she was again. "This is maddening!" This continued throughout the night, going this way and that, chasing her from one side to the other. Even the guests began to notice something peculiar was going on.
Aria and Harmony worked both sides, disappearing and reappearing, finally standing together. That when it happened. Rajol finally lost it. "I confess, I tired to kill the Princess! Then I had her captured! I just wanted to send her away to punish her! She didn't want to cut down the trees or take animals and put them to work! She isn't even mine, she's the wizard's kid!" He screamed, the party instantly came to a screeching halt as they looked at this once proud, but now cowering man. "That's why he works for us because we threatened her! Just make her stop being in so many places! Make her stop!"
Sinbad stood between Aria and Harmony. "Happy?" He asked, looking at the man on the floor.
"No." They said. "How can anyone be happy over something like that. I'm just relieved that his credit is destroyed with the people. It will make things a lot easier." Aria softly finished. Harmony and Eyolf nodded in agreement, then slowly faded into the crowd. The guests shook their heads, pitying the destroyed man.
Aria started to walk over to him, but he saw her coming. He could take the pity of the others, but to accept her help was something he couldn't do. Rajol ran from the room, screaming at her to stay away. He tripped over the carpet in the hall and broke his neck, he died instantly. Fortunately, none of the guests saw him fall and Aria was able to carry the rest of the ball off with grace and dignity. He was taken to his room and quietly buried the next morning before most people were awake. Sinbad, Harmony, Eyolf, Doubar, Rongar, and Firouz were there to help her.
Aria cried, tears wracked her entire body while Sinbad held her. "Even if he wasn't a very good man, he was still my father." Was the only thing she said before they went in. She didn't say much throughout the rest of the day and so Harmony took over for her. Of the wizard, there was no sign. He vanished without a trace, hopefully never to return.
Sinbad was worried about Aria, it had been a week since the funeral and she showed no signs of recovering. He went over to Harmony and talked to her for a while. She tried to help him see that her problem couldn't be fixed easily because she'd lost her father, both of them, in one night. But Aria would survive, they just had to give her time.
The next morning, she seemed to be in much better spirits and Sinbad was relieved. "You were right, Harmony. If we gave her time, she would recover. But I can't understand how she could mourn that man, he nearly killed her."
"He raised her, Sinbad. Good or bad, he was there for her and must have taught her somethings because she does love him, as I did my father." Harmony softly replied.
"True." Then he looked at her, ashamed. "I never did ask for your forgiveness about attacking you in the hall."
"It's in the past. Just forget it, I already have." She smiled. Then Eyolf came and all four went out for a picnic. "I guess now would be the time to reveal ourselves. Right?"
Aria nodded, slowly. "Tonight would be the best time." She lay back and looked up at the fluffy white clouds. Her eyelids began to drop and she yawned, rolling over and falling quickly to sleep. She slept deeply for the first time in a week.
Sinbad, Harmony, and Eyolf tried to think of the best way to reveal the truth to everyone. Harmony thought it best that they just stick to the facts the people would accept. "But how do we tell them that I'm the true princess without causing problems for Aira? She's as much royalty as I am."
Eyolf tenderly kissed her hand and agreed that it wouldn't do to cause Aira more problems. "Here's what I think we should do. We say that the wizard had a vision about a great danger striking the kingdom but didn't know what it was. He wanted to protect this land and so he took drastic measures to ensure that he would succeed."
Sinbad watched them walk away and smiled, they looked so happy and so much in love. Then he looked down at Aria. *Well, sweetheart, it looks like we will have that happy ending after all, though you doubted we would. He didn't know how long they were on that hillside, just that they were together. No crazy schemes, no disappearing acts, no duties with the ship or the kingdom, it was just the two of them. Sinbad felt like he could stay this way forever, but knew that he had to wake her up so that they could prepare for this night.
He sighed, then softly touched her cheek. She smacked his hand away, thinking it was a bug. He softly kissed her lips, she awoke slowly, kissing him back. She smiled contentedly when she saw him, he couldn't resist kissing her once more. And delighted in her swift response. Then he sighed deeply and pulled away, caressing her cheek. "Come on, sleeping beauty. We have work to do."
"Don't wanna. I was having the most wonderful dream." She stretched like a cat, her eyes still sleepy and full of love.
"What about?" He asked curiously as he helped her up and then shook out the blanket. They folded it and headed down the hill by the stream towards the castle.
"Oh, you and me." Aria blushed vividly as she suddenly remembered what happened.
"Yes?" He asked, looking at her curiously.
"Ask me if we ever go on a honeymoon." She replied, not looking at him.
"You're kidding." Sinbad held her hand, "You mean, you would?"
"If you asked and if you caught me!" She said playfully, then took off towards the palace at a run.
He waited for a heartbeat before going after her. He caught her by the waist and pulled her into a tight embrace, laughing with her. "Caught you." Then he kissed her, lovingly and deeply. "I love you. Will you be mine?"
"Forever. I love you, my Captain." This happy embrace lasted until they heard a sound from behind them. They parted reluctantly and saw Maeve, with her bag. "Are you all right?"
"Never better." Her face had traces of dried tears on them and was smudged in places. "Benrubi and I broke up."
"I'm so sorry." Aria went over and embrace the other girl. Maeve stood stiffly in this embrace for a moment before reluctantly returning it. "Why?"
"He hit Dermott, nearly killed him." Her voice was shaking with supressed hate and anger. "You won't have any more problems with him, I can promise you that."
Aria and Sinbad thought it best not to ask what happened. They both knew that he would trouble them all further. "Why don't you stay here?" Sinbad asked, concerned for his friend and wanting to help her. "Or go with us when we set sail once more?"
"Thank you, but no. I have some thinking to do. Dermott will be staying with you. He seems to have become more independent since I left and doesn't need me as much as I once thought he did." With that, Maeve disappeared into the night.
That night, Eyolf and Harmony were presented and Dim-Dim arrived to straighten out any remaining problems. This helped to ease the minds of the crew who had grown close to many of the residents in Duria and worried that Rumina might not be right for the job as ruler. He also told Sinbad that the crew could leave at any time.
Harmony was presented as Queen later that week. Then she and Eyolf were married in a quiet ceremony on the Nomad by Sinbad, though they knew they would have to have a large state wedding later. They did this because they knew he was anxious to get back home and they wanted him and Aria to be there.
The day before they were to leave, Sinbad found Aria at Rajol's grave. She just knelt there on the ground, staring at his headstone. Then she rose gracefully, wiping away her tears. "I love you, daddy." She dropped a yellow rose on the ground and turned towards Sinbad. They looked at each other for a moment, then he just opened his arms and she ran into them.
After a while her tears dried and they walked slowly towards the Nomad. She never saw Rajol appear and pick up the flower. "I love you, my daughter."
The wizard stood in the shadows and watched them walk away. "I love you, too." He saw his daughter disappear and knew that he'd done the right thing, she was happy and that was all he'd ever wanted for her.
They departed on the morning tide, Dermott resting in Aria's room. He was badly wounded but would survive. Harmony had told Aria how to reverse the spell and she promised that as soon as they were home, she'd change him back.