The Seven Princesses of Jarryn
High up in the Chazack Mountains, a fire blazed at the mouth of a shallow cave, warming a man seated nearby. He was dressed in a travel-stained cloak, dark pants and sturdy boots. Yet an air of gentle authority revealed that this was no ordinary traveler.
At first glance, it seemed the man was alone. But two tiny creatures accompanied him, one perched on each of his shoulders. Their bodies glowed in the darkness, making small pools of light around them.
"How much farther is it to Kiara?" Jemi asked, wrapping her cloak more tightly against the chilly night air. Although it was mid-summer in Jarryn, here in the mountain pass it felt more like fall.
"We should arrive in Kiara by the end of the week," Doreen answered from her perch. "Isnít that right, King Arnon?"
"That is correct," King Arnon answered. He used a long stick to stir the fire, watching thoughtfully as the sparks flew upward.
"But, will we arrive in time?" Jemi asked.
King Arnon smiled. "I am never late, although some feel I ought to change my timetable to suit their wishes. The Emperorís plans are always best."
"Does King Darrian know you are coming to see him?" Doreen asked.
"No, he does not. Even if he did, he would not welcome me," King Arnon answered quietly. "He has always trusted in his own abilities to protect his country and his family. But his world has been shaken and he is nearing the end of his own resources. Soon he will see his need for help. You will help him learn to trust in a strength beyond his own."
"But you will be with us, wonít you?" Jemi asked.
"I am always with you," King Arnon said. "Even when you do not see me, I am there. However, tomorrow you will begin the final stage of your journey in the company of a young man named Rand. He will carry you all the way to the palace in Kiara."
Doreen and Jemi exchanged puzzled glances. Questions filled their minds that each longed to ask. What did King Arnon have planned for their visit to Kiara?
As if reading their minds, King Arnon said, "Donít worry, little ones. I will tell you what you need to know at the proper time. Will you trust me?"
"Yes, King Arnon," both fairies answered.
"Good," he said. "And now, to sleep. Tomorrow will be a very busy day."
It was mid-afternoon by the time King Arnon and the two Ursa fairies completed their climb down from the mountain pass into northern Jarryn. The ground now rose and fell more gently. The travelers stopped at a stream which gurgled and leaped down from the pass to form a pool of clear water.
"Here we wait," King Arnon said after taking a long drink.
"Who are we waiting for?" Doreen asked. "That fellow you mentioned last night?"
"Yes," King Arnon answered. "Rand of Lumere. He is traveling to Kiara to begin an apprenticeship with a blacksmith there. But I have another task for him."
"What do you want him to do?" Jemi asked.
King Arnon smiled. "Wait and see."
Just then, the three travelers heard the sound of boots on the rocky path. King Arnon nodded toward the bend in the road. "Here comes the great warrior now."
Both Doreen and Jemi watched eagerly as the footfalls came closer. Then a figure dressed in travel clothes came into view.
"Thatís a great warrior?" Doreen wondered aloud.
"In my hands, even a jellyfish can become as mighty as a mountain goat," King Arnon said quietly.
The young man walking toward them certainly did not look much like a warrior. He was of medium height and rather slim. His hair curled in whatever direction it chose. A scraggly beard covered his face, indicating he had been on the road for some time. He carried a rumpled pack but no staff or sword.
As the man drew near, King Arnon stood and raised his hand in greeting. "Good day, Rand of Lumere."
The young man stopped, a curious look on his face. "Do I know you, sir?" he asked, taking a step forward.
King Arnon smiled warmly. "I know you, but we have not met face to face before this." He pulled on the gold chain around his neck, revealing a golden medallion.
Rand recognized the symbol etched on the medallion. He gasped, then knelt with bowed head. "King Arnon Ė Your Majesty," he stammered.
King Arnon stepped forward, reaching out his hands. "Rise, my friend," he said as he pulled Rand to his feet. "For many years you have studied the book your aunt gave you. You have learned about me and have learned to hear my voice speaking to your spirit. Now it is time for you to help me break one of Kazabís spells."
Rand blinked nervously at this. "Kazab? The evil wizard? I donít know the first thing about breaking spells. His power is far too great. I could never defeat him."
"You are right," King Arnon said, placing a hand on the young manís shoulder. "In your own strength, it would be impossible. Kazab is a dangerous and powerful enemy. But, I have already defeated him. You will break the spell, not in your own strength, but with mine."
Rand seemed to consider this a moment. Then, he cleared his throat. "King Arnon Ė Your Majesty Ė "
"What is it, my friend?" the King asked quietly.
"Well, itís just that Ė you see, Iím supposed to go to Kiara. Iíll be working with Kaylen, heís a blacksmith there." Rand looked at King Arnon anxiously. "Heís expecting me."
"I have different plans for you than what you were expecting," King Arnon answered. "Will you serve me?"
"I really donít know what I can do against a wizard," Rand began.
"Will you trust me?"
The two men stood silently for several moments. Rand met the Kingís steady gaze. He felt as if King Arnon could see into the deepest parts of his spirit. Was he willing to do as the King asked, even if it meant changing the plans he had made? Even if it meant facing a powerful wizard?
Straightening his shoulders with sudden resolve, Rand answered firmly, "I will do as you ask, King Arnon."
A slight smile curved King Arnonís lips. He nodded, then said, "You will travel to Kiara. Once there, you will go to the palace and present yourself to the King Darrian."
"King Darrian?" Rand asked in surprise. "Is he under a spell?"
"For the past year, King Darrianís seven daughters have been victims of an enchantment," King Arnon explained. "Their father has done everything he possibly could to free them. He has consulted teachers, magicians and has even ventured into Aphela Forest seeking answers. But his daughters are still no closer to being free."
"I have never heard about this spell," Rand said. "There has been no news of it in any of the villages I have traveled through."
"King Darrian has taken great pains to protect his daughters since his wifeís death," King Arnon answered. "He carefully controls all that goes in to the palace and all that goes out as well. His pride and despair have caused him to keep their enchantment a secret from those in his kingdom."
"What type of enchantment is it?" Rand asked. "What does it do to the princesses?"
"Each month, on the night of the full moon, the eldest princess, Amelia, places a heart-shaped box on her window sill," King Arnon began. "The lid of this box has been carved from a moonstone, brought from a dark cavern in the heart of Aphela Forest. Amelia has been told that when moonlight touches the box, power is transferred through the moonstone to the seven necklaces inside. When the princesses wear these necklaces, they are transported to what they believe is a beautiful world where they dance and feast and play all night. But this is an evil lie.
"It is true that the necklaces take the princesses from their bedchamber each night, but not to a place of beauty. What they see is an illusion, one that grows more powerful each day. When they are awake, they long to sleep to see the wonders the spell has invented. Before they were enchanted, the princesses used to enjoy talking with their father at meals, but now they are silent. Several of them have begun to lose interest even in eating, so powerful are the illusions they see at night.
"Soon, Kazabís power over the seven princesses will be complete. He will offer each girl what seems to be a great gift Ė the fulfillment of her deepest desire. What he promises, however, is the cruelest illusion of all. He will convince each princess to give their very spirit into his keeping. Then Kazab will imprison each spirit in a crystal sphere, thinking to hold them as ransom in exchange for King Darrianís throne."
"Kazab wishes to rule Jarryn? Why?" Rand asked.
"Kazabís ultimate goal is to gain as much power as possible to become High Lord over the entire Continent," King Arnon explained. "But, he cannot succeed. My power is far greater than any of his schemes or spells."
Rand stood in thoughtful silence for several moments. Then he frowned. "The princesses have been enchanted for a year?"
"Their enchantment began one year ago this day," King Arnon answered.
"And King Darrian has been trying to find a way to break the spell all this time?"
"At first, King Darrian noticed that his daughters were quieter than usual, even distracted. He dismissed it as nothing. As time went by and the enchantment grew stronger, he began to notice his daughters seemed listless. The things they used to enjoy no longer interested them. Yet even then, he did not want to admit that anything was wrong. He was not willing to accept the fact that something harmful had penetrated his careful defenses.
"When it became clear that something was not right with his daughters, King Darrian tried to fix the problem himself. He studied long hours in the palace library, looking for answers. He tried changing their diet or bringing in new entertainers. He consulted teachers and officials within the palace, hoping they would be able to help. At last, he admitted to himself that his daughters were under some kind of enchantment. He began searching Kiara for anyone who might be able to break the spell. Even so, he has been very careful to limit information about his daughtersí condition so news of their enchantment would not spread throughout the kingdom."
"Has he never asked you for help?" Rand asked.
"No," King Arnon answered.
"But you knew about the enchantment," Rand insisted. "You could have come to help him right away, instead of allowing the spell to continue to hold the princesses under its power."
"The Emperorís timing is always perfect, although to some it may seem He delays. His plans are not always what we expect." When Rand looked puzzled, King Arnon put his hand on the young manís shoulder. "You will have to trust that all is as it should be. King Darrian would not have accepted my help before. Now that he has come to the end of his plans and ideas, he is finally ready to accept what I bring."
Saying this, King Arnon reached into a pocket of his cloak. He pulled out a small pouch and handed it to Rand. "Open it. Inside are the weapons you will use to free the princesses."
Rand obeyed, wondering as he did so what type of weapons could fit in such a small bag. To his surprise he found nothing but a small bottle filled with golden liquid and a blood-red stone hanging from a gold chain. "I donít understand," he murmured.
"The bottle contains anakrino," King Arnon said. "Place a drop on the eyes of each princess and one more drop on the moonstone necklace she wears. The liquid will enable them to see the truth behind the illusions Kazab has been feeding them."
"And the stone?" Rand asked.
"It is a haima stone," King Arnon answered. "It has the power to free the princesses from Kazabís spell, for it was created when evil was defeated by loveís sacrifice. When you wear the haima stone, you and your companions will become invisible to evil eyes. When you find Kazab in his cavern of darkness, take the haima stone from around your neck and place it on the ground in front of him. Then wait to see its power released."
Once again, King Arnon reached into his cloak. He pulled out a second pouch, opening it to show Rand seven haima stones on seven gold chains. "You must present each princess with one of these necklaces," King Arnon explained. "They must each choose to remove their moonstone necklaces and replace it with a haima stone. Only then will they be truly free and under my protection." Nodding thoughtfully, Rand took the second pouch and put it in his own pocket.
"And now, little ones," King Arnon said to the two Ursa fairies, "it is time for you to travel to Kiara with Rand. Help him in any way you can. Remind him to use the anakrino and the haima stone. Remind him that my power is greater than evil and that he must trust me. Keep your eyes and ears open for any news that may help you in your task. I will be with you, even though you may not always see me."
As he said this, King Arnon placed his hand on Randís forehead. Rand closed his eyes, feeling a warm tingling which traveled from the Kingís hand to fill his entire body. "Go in the Emperorís power," King Arnon said softly.
A few moments later, when Rand opened his eyes, he found that King Arnon was gone. "Well, I guess we should get going," he said to his traveling companions. Doreen and Jemi settled themselves on his shoulders. Then Rand set off toward the city of Kiara where King Darrianís daughters waited to be set free.