Jonathan furiously paced across Allison’s sitting room, his movements so fluid that she began to think of him as a tidal wave. But she didn’t blame him. It was mid-morning and they still hadn’t heard anything from Landick or Talone and hadn’t seen Daniel since supper.
“Would you stop fidgeting?” Arnold hissed in her ear, not for the first time.
Startled, Allison jumped up from where she sat on the plush sofa. A breeze blew in from the open windows above it, bringing in the heavy scent of the sea. From the sofa beside where she had been sitting, Arnold grumbled and pulled her back down, not for the first time.
“It’s bad enough he’s acting like a caged tiger,” Arnold said, jerking his head towards Jonathan. “Look, Landick said he would come talk to us as soon as they finished searching. This is a huge palace. It’s going to take some time.”
Allison bit her lip. “But why is it taking so long? Where could my sister have gone? And where did that brother of mine get off to?”
Arnold reached out and gripped her hand, drawing her eyes to him. “We all know Cass. Sometimes she needs to retreat. Maybe she talked to Landick and asked for some time.” He shrugged. “As for your brother, he’s probably getting himself into trouble.”
Allison gave him a look full of misgivings. Even Jonathan ceased pacing to stare at him.
“What?” Arnold burst out, throwing his hands up. “Someone around here has to keep their head. Jonathan’s restless and Allison is jumpy. Look, I trust Cass. I trust that she’ll be okay and know she can take care of herself.”
“You’re forgetting we’re on a completely different world!” Allison said, her eyes blazing.
“Cass is smart,” Arnold said cooly. “She won’t willing walk into danger.”
“That’s true,” Jonathan said, sighing, his shoulders slumping. “In P.E., she always ran away from balls.”
“See?” Arnold said, his voice softer as he rested a hand on Allison’s shoulder. “Wherever she is, she’s fine.”
A sudden knock startled them. Allison rose as they heard the door open and soft footsteps whisper across the carpet.
Landick and Talone entered, both bearing tired faces and slumped frames. Under the watchful eyes of Allison, Jonathan, Arnold, they lowered themselves on a sofa across from them.
“Did you find her?” Jonathan asked tensely.
“And have you seen Daniel?” Arnold put in, glancing up at Allison.
Landick sighed. “The young prince has been tagging along with the Captain of the Guard all night.”
Allison put her hands on her hips and glared at him. “How could you let Daniel join in the search and not us?” she demanded.
Anger flared in Landick’s eyes before it quickly died down. “I didn’t let him, Allison. He decided to attach himself to the Captain, who decided he didn’t mind the company, nor the opportunity to get to know the young man who will soon be his commander as he is the brother of the Star Queen. Trust me, we argued, but it was wasting too much time.” He held up a hand when Allison opened her mouth. “We did not find Cassidy.” He shook his head. “How she managed to leave without being seen worries me.”
“Could she have slipped past the guards?” Arnold asked as he pulled Allison down back beside him.
Talone shook her head. “At least one guard must keep his or her eyes on the doors at all times. No one is allowed to leave or enter unseen.”
“Then how did Cass do it?” Jonathan asked, crossing his arms.
“As I said, that is what worries me,” Landick said.
Arnold frowned. “You said that, as the Star Queen, she has great powers. Could that be why?”
Landick sighed heavily as his wife elbowed him and gave him a pointed look. He didn’t look at anyone as he rearranged his robes, carefully considering what to say next.
“I had hoped to have this conversation with all of you,” he began, “but the young queen has made that impossible.”
“We can’t keep magic a secret from you any longer,” Talone said, eyeing the open window as a strong breeze blew in, playing with the gauzy curtains and forcing Allison to swat at hair strands.
“I thought only Cass has magic,” Arnold said.
Landick grinned and his eyes gleamed. “Oh, no, young man. Every Saironian has magic.”
He paused to let that sink in. As it did, Allison straightened, Jonathan paled slightly, and Arnold frowned. The concept wasn’t new to any of them as they had enjoyed one or two fantasy novels while growing up, but they idea that they themselves might actually be able to wield it had a varying effect.
Landick chuckled. “That’s right. All of you have magic. And not just plain magic. Oh, no, you’re all highly rare mages. As a matter of fact, many mages like you don’t survive into adulthood. But the fact that you grew up on Earth, where magic is severely dampened, likely saved you.”
Jonathan looked at him in alarm. “Our magic is dangerous? It might kill us?”
Landick held up a hand to stall any further questions. “Your magic is rare and can easily get out of control in the untrained hands of the young. The problem with it is that it’s difficult to find capable teachers, so many are stuck learning on their own to control their powers, but, because it’s closely tied to nature, control can be very difficult. Those who manage to find someone to teach them, even if it’s just control, survive, otherwise their magic becomes destructive.”
“I don’t think I like this,” Jonathan muttered.
“The danger has passed for you five,” Landick said. “You were able to reach maturity on a world where magic is difficult, so you likely experienced a connection with particular parts of nature, but it wasn’t strong enough to overwhelm you.”
Talone rested a hand on her husband’s shoulder and smiled softly. “Before my husband scares you further, let’s start back at the beginning. Everyone born with Saironian blood is born with magic, but to varying degrees. Some can only do simple spells, others are talented in things like visions or potions, and fewer are gifted with stronger powers. The rarest are elemental mages, who have control over fire, earth, air, water, and spirit. As they grow up and their powers become evident, the appropriate magical lessons are incorporated into their schooling. Elementals, though, are commonly misplaced and it’s not until it overwhelms them that it becomes evident. Often, because it can be as subtle as coaxing a flower to bloom or getting a breeze going, they present very similarly to those of a lower magic level. We do try our best to not guess, but, because they’re rare, it’s difficult.”
Landick leaned forward, a gleam in his eyes. “What my wife is dancing around is the fact that all five of you are elemental mages. Through your parents we were able to keep track of any glimmers of magic in you and were able to figure out you each have control over one of the elements. What’s even more remarkable is that is a different one. For the first time ever we have found a group that can literally control the world together.”
“But that’s also why Cassidy worries us,” Talone said, her eyes serious. “As the Star Queen, she is the most powerful being in the world and, as the earth elemental, she’s even more formidable. We suspect that, in addition to whatever powers come with being Star Queen, she also has hints of the other four elements.”
“Then we must find her,” Jonathan said.
Landick inclined his head. “Yes. Finding her is of utmost importance.” He traded a look with Talone. “But we also have a problem.”
“We haven’t made it known publicly that the Star Queen is coming,” Talone said, “but we have invited the lords and ladies of the other islands to a meeting so we can officially present her.”
“It’s in a week’s time,” Landick said softly, his eyes lighting on Allison.
Allison’s heart beat as understanding dawned on her. Even though her hair was stick straight to Cass’s waves, they had often switched roles as children, especially when Cass became nauseous at the thought of having to stand before a crowd. Even though Cass had somehow found herself cast in a school play, she had instead hid in a bathroom while Allison played her part.
“Is that enough time to find her?” Arnold asked, oblivious to the shift in Allison.
“We will continue to search for her, of course,” Landick said, “but we also need an alternate plan. Allison, we will need your help.”
“You want me to pretend to be Cass, to be the Star Queen,” Allison stated.
“You’re twins,” Landick said simply. “We just have to hide your hair and no one will be the wiser.”
“Well,” Talone put in, “as long as your fire magic doesn’t get away from you. I imagine we would have some very upset lords and ladies on our hands if they learn we tricked them.”
Allison nodded gravely. “I’ve always been the public face for the two of us. I know my sister, can easily pretend to be her.”
“It would only be until we find her,” Landick warned.
Allison laughed. “Don’t worry. From what you’ve told us about the Star Queen, I don’t want to be her anymore than Cass does.” She sobered. “If I have to take my sister’s place, I will.”
“And I want to be out looking for her,” Jonathan said as Arnold nodded in agreement.
Landick sighed. “Young men, I don’t know if that will be possible. We must ensure you have sufficient control over your powers before we can release you into the wild. It’s bad enough that Cassidy is out there with abilities we don’t even know.”
Jonathan narrowed his eyes. “That sounds like a no.”
Arnold nodded. “It does.”
“It’s not a no,” Landick said. “It’s a not yet. We have enough personnel that we can send out. What we really need right now is for the four of you to remain together, to give the illusion of a strong group that can and will face the other queen. We need the other islands to put their faith in you and the Star Queen. Once interest in you wanes, we can send you out.”
Jonathan and Arnold traded looks and nodded. It wasn’t ideal, but Allison would also need their support. One sister had already run off; they didn’t need the other to collapse.